Olympians take to Swan 70

Robert Condon's Serano, to be renamed Volvo for life for Cowes Week

Wednesday July 31st 2002, Author: Sasha Oswald, Location: United Kingdom
Ben Ainslie MBE will be swapping his 14ft Finn dinghy to helm a Swan 70 for Volvo Car UK, with twenty-four crew at Skandia Life Cowes Week this summer. The double Olympic medallist and World Champion is hoping to add victory in the big boat class steering Volvo for life (Robert Condon's Serano of London) for the regatta to his growing list of achievements in yacht racing.

2002 will be Ainslie's fifth Skandia Life Cowes Week, but his first as a skipper. "It will be a lot of fun sailing on Volvo for life with a group of different people, but its serious racing as well. Cowes Week is a fun event but when you are out racing everyone takes it pretty seriously," said the Lymington based yachtsman.

Ben's crew is now considerably strengthened with the addition of Volvo Ocean Race skippers - Neal and Lisa McDonald. Neal replaced Roy Heiner as skipper on Assa Abloy after a disappointing first leg performance. He went on to drive the team to a great performance finishing second overall. His wife Lisa
steered the all female crew of Amer Sports Too in the most challenging professional ocean sailing regatta.

Ben and his crew will face fierce competition for class zero honours. Peter Ogden's Swan 60 Spirit of Jethou will be out on the Solent to defend her title, while the two Farr 52s, Team Tonic and Bear of Britain have shared honours at every big boat event on the south coast so far this year.

Volvo for life will also fulfil long time ambitions of two young sailors who won a place each in the crew for the regatta. Helen Rice, 18 from Swanick won the competition featured on BBC South Today, proving to the judging panel that her sailing career and ambitions would benefit from such a unique experience. Helen will be joined by Ali Hall, 20 from Hamble, who won a similar competition in Yachts and Yachting magazine. Both sailors have also won a year's free membership to the RYA.

Fellow Sydney gold medallists and RYA team GBR sailors Iain Percy and Shirley Robertson will join Ben on Wednesday 7th August for the Britannia Cup event, the most prestigious race in the Cowes Week series.

"It's always great to sail with Shirley and Iain and it will also improve our chances of doing well in the Britannia Cup," continued Ben. Shirley will also sail on the opening day on Volvo for life, before both she and Iain Percy will leave Cowes on Wednesday evening to compete in the Olympic Test Event in Athens and the Star World Championships in California respectively.

Ben, Shirley and Iain are sailing in Skandia Cowes Week as part of their commitment to Volvo Car UK, who support their Athens 2004 campaigns by supplying each of them with a Volvo V70.

"Skandia Life Cowes Week is an exciting new direction for Volvo Sailing." said John Lefley, Director of Public Relations for Volvo Car UK. "We are delighted to have Ben, Shirley and Iain racing together for the Britannia Cup and Volvo for life should be a strong contender for line honours - we are also looking forward to rewarding our Volvo dealers and staff with a very unique racing experience"

Not all the action on the water from the 3-10 August will be on the Solent at Skandia Life Cowes Week - up to 275 young Optimist sailors aged 8-14 years are also expected to compete at the Volvo Musto Optimist National Championships in Pwhelli, Wales. This event is very familiar to both Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy, who both won it in the very early stages of their sailing careers.

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