by Ryan Bangs
TRIAL: Charlotte Dobson is looking to secure her Olympic place with a strong showing in the women’s Laser Radial at the ISAF World Championships in Perth.
The Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships are set to get underway on December 3. Seven Team GB crews have already been named for next summer’s Olympics though selectors have yet to make the call for the Women’s Laser Radial as well as the Men’s 470 and 49er.
Charlotte Dobson, ranked 24th in the world, is considered the frontrunner for the Laser selection having represented Great Britain at the Olympic test event earlier this year but both Alison Young and Andrea Brewster are looking to state their credentials.
The Men's 49er is wide open with Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes competing in the test event, although John Pink and Rick Peacock were world silver medallists in 2009 and won this year's ISAF World Cup event in Miami. In addition Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign are in Perth to state their case while rising stars Dave Evans and Ed Powys are looking to underline their credentials.
The men's 470 is also causing plenty of head scratching from selectors, with Royal Yachting Association Olympic manager Stephen Park watching the fleet closely.
Nick Rogers, a silver medallist with Joe Glanfield in Beijing, and new crew Chris Grube won the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta to qualify for the test event, where they finished fifth. But Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell are Britain's top ranked partnership, placing seventh in the overall World Cup standings, while Nic Asher and Elliot Willis won the season opener in Miami and were fourth at last year's class World Championships in Holland.
'I think we can expect some really tough domestic competition in there,' admitted Park. I’m sure that each one of the teams representing Skandia Team GBR will be desperate to come out, not only as top British boat but also in the medals at this event to really put down a strong marker for selection running into the spring regattas – should of course they be part of the selection process.'
Park acknowledges the decision to name seven crews for next year's Games early will inevitably change focus for many, with their sights already firmly set on next summer. However, he still expects British sailors to still be competitive in the port city of Fremantle - both those already assured of their Olympic places and those overlooked or looking to secure spots.
'Our game has got to be focussed on Weymouth at the moment as we go into the final calendar year of the 2012 Games, and with many of our sailors having already gained Olympic selection prior to this event, clearly this event isn’t a key priority for them,' added Park.
'However, it is a World Championships and at every World Championship every sailor will be doing their best to try and medal so we’ll look forward to seeing some of our sailors on the podium hopefully at the end of the regatta.
'I think like many of the multi-class events, if we can come away with four or five medals then we should be very happy at this stage.'
Ed Wright is one of three defending British champions, although three-time Olympic champion Ben Ainslie, selected in front of him for London 2012, will be Britain's star name in the always competitive Finn fleet.
Olympic champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson will seek to defend their Star class title while Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor, winners in Rhode Island last year, are first Brits in action in the early rounds of the women's match racing.
'The Australians have clearly spent a lot of time here in Perth getting to know the conditions and they are known for being strong wind specialists, but at the end of the day there are going to be a lot of players from a lot of different countries who are going to be competing at the top end of the fleet,' added Park.
'We can’t just concentrate on the one country, we’ve got to do what we can do, concentrate on our own game, make sure that we take each race as it comes and if we can do that we should be there or thereabouts at the end of the regatta.'
Skandia Team GBR website