The 2008 iShares Cup has attracted some of the very best sailors in the world, but the finale of this year's European circuit is set to welcome a whole host of Olympic medalists onboard the Extreme 40s. Gold medalists Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson join current joint series leaders Team Origin in Amsterdam.
Team Origin with Sir Keith Mills as 5th man, at Hyeres
Topping the bill are no fewer than three British sailing gold medalists on board the current joint series leaders Team Origin. The legendary three-times gold medalist Ben Ainslie (Finn), and the Star gold medal-winning duo Iain Percy and Andrew 'Bart' Simpson will be in Amsterdam for day one of racing on Friday 19 September.
The trio will be joining the Extreme 40 race crew on the Team Origin cat in the morning - and may join in as 'fifth men' in the guest spots during the afternoon's races.
Ben Ainslie is skipper and helmsman for the Team Origin British America's Cup Challengers, and will be supporting his team mates in their battle for the iShares Cup overall title:
'I'm really looking forward to experiencing first-hand one of the iShares Cup Extreme 40 events, it sounds like they provide the perfect combination of hot racing, thrilling rides for sponsors and media and great spectating all rolled into one!' Ainslie commented.
'After such a whirlwind time since our return from Beijing, it will be nice to go to an event and be able to relax whilst watching our Team Origin sailing team mates battle it out on the race course. Here's hoping they can win the series ahead of Alinghi,' he added.
Iain Percy sails with Ben as tactician on board the America's Cup boats.
'My feet have not really touched the ground since coming back from Beijing,' said the double Olympic gold medalist.
Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. Percy and Simpson (GBR) come ashore after claiming gold in the medal race.
'I'm looking forward to catching up with my AC team mates as well as the wide number of people that are going to attend this exciting event. Sailing in such a tiny space with these large and fast cats will be interesting to say the least!'
Olympic Star crew Andrew Simpson is a grinder and strategist for Team Origin. He added: 'It should be great fun watching a great series - although it's strange for us to watch racing, it should prove a great spectacle!'
Team Origin will also welcome Team Director Mike Sanderson, who was the winning skipper of the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean race on ABN AMRO One, to the iShares finale for the media preview day on Thursday 18 September 18.
There's more Olympic medal winners joining the fleet elsewhere, as Dutch 470 silver medalist Marcelien de Koning will be onboard the iShares catamaran for Thursday's practice day before Round 5. Marcelien is sure to have plenty of fans at Amsterdam - she learnt to sail at Hoorn, around 25 miles north of the Dutch capital.
'It's going to be so cool!' enthused Marcelien, who was looking forward to swopping her Olympic 470 dinghy for some high-speed catamaran sailing. 'I've recently been sailing in the Dutch F18 nationals, which are a bit smaller but I thought I'd better get some catamaran practice.
It'll be great after sailing in China where it was quite slow and light winds - hopefully we'll get some good breeze for the iShares Cup because I love to go fast and sail fast boats! I've told all my friends in Amsterdam to come and watch!'
Meanwhile Beijing Tornado silver medal-winner Darren Bundock takes over the helm of BT for this final event. The top Australian cat sailor has valuable experience sailing in the ultra-tight waterways of the Amsterdam IJ-Haven canal, having also competed in last year's final. 'I love sailing these boats,' said Bundock, 'With high speed 40ft multihulls spearing around the canals this year's iShares Cup Extreme 40 sailing is where it is all happening!'
The final event of the 2008 iShares Cup Extreme 40 Sailing Series begins with a preview and media day on Thursday 18 September, then racing takes place from Friday 19 August to Sunday 21 August on the IJ-Haven between Java Island and the Tosaristraat Bridge. Following a parade of sail, racing starts at 1.00pm each afternoon with the fleet of 10 Extreme 40s racing in 'rounds' of eight boats at a time.
Follow all the action at http://www.iSharesCup.com