Ainslie chases gold as Yngling girls face duel with the Dutch
BRITAIN are certain of at least two silver medals from the Olympic Sailing Regatta in Qingdao after Ben Ainslie ensured he will leave China as Britain's greatest ever Olympic sailor when he collects either silver or gold today, while the Yngling girls Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson also clinched either silver or gold by finishing fifth in their last series race yesterday.
Ainslie needs only to beat the American Zach Railey in today's medal race to secure his third successive Olympic gold, while the Yngling girls are also heading for a boat for boat duel, due to slug it out with the Dutch team in a winner-takes-all match for gold.
After winning silver in 1996 in Savannah, as a 19-year-old in the Laser, Ainslie avenged his defeat by Robert Scheidt when he despatched the Brazilian in a thrilling last race match race in Sydney to win gold, before swapping to the heavyweight Finn and collecting his second gold in Athens.
His fourth Olympic medal moves him clear ahead of the Olympic record of Scot Rodney Pattison who won back-to-back golds in 1968 and 1972 and silver in 1976 in the Flying Dutchman class.
Ainslie admitted yesterday that he had not considered the honour of surpassing the Campbeltown-born helm, and that he is too focused on winning gold today. "It is something I really have not thought about at all," he said. "Obviously Rodney's feats were amazing in his era and now sailing is very different from what it was in the 1970s but I don't think it takes anything away from Rodney Pattison. He was the best sailor of his generation by a long way."
Ainslie at just 31 is already widely expected to be bidding for a fifth medal in Weymouth in 2012. "I think it is a good position to be in so that it is just between myself and the American, so you don't have to worry about anyone else. So really it is just a case of trying to stick close to him and not let him get places between me and him. I still have to do everything though, I have to sail a good race, to look at the breeze and see what is the favoured side of the course and to get in front of him and just try and stay between him and the next mark. The key thing will be to keep a cool head and wait for him to make mistakes."
For Yngling girls Ayton and Webb, who won as crew with Shirley Robertson in Athens, it would be their second gold medal, but the Dutch have been fast all the way through the regatta.
The British trio have relied heavily on Scottish built, superlight spinnakers to develop extra speed in the light winds which have prevailed here. Designed and built in Oban by Owen Sails, the spinnakers have special light outer support tapes which allows the sail to retain its flying shape better in the light airs.
Today will be the first time ever that the new Medal Race format will be run in Olympic sailing, designed to bring a single, simple understandable focus to a sport which has been criticised in the past for being complex.
But racing will take place very close to the 500 metre long breakwater where the winds may be unsettled and fickle. Architects of this Olympic innovation could have wished for no greater a set of matches than should be seen today.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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