Since the spectator friendly Perth 2011 ISAF World Championship, the pressure has been rising on the British sailing team, who should dominate in Weymouth, with the best funding, great team depth and a home town advantage.
Ben Ainslie (Finn)
However it is interesting that there is not a single British world ranking leader on the nine Olympic classes, across the 2012 World Cup season, if anything reflecting that the winners of the last three Olympic regattas (Sydney, Athens and Beijing) have had some up and down results and seem to be focused more on sailing in Weymouth rather than on the world circuit.
At the Sail for Gold Regatta, looking at the results of the selected 2012 Olympians only, Team GB would have won Gold in Finns and Laser Radial and silver in 470 Men’s and Lasers, bronze in 49ers, 470 Women’s, RS:X Women’s and Star. They also won two of the three Paralympic Gold medals.
The biggest British Olympic story will no doubt be if ‘Big Ben’ Ainslie does not win his fourth Olympic Gold Medal.
Early season preparation for Britain’s most successful Olympic sailor was not as expected. The Rule 69 cost him the 2011 Finn World Championship, the veteran’s persistent back injury has been an issue all year. He did win the Finn 2012 World title, his sixth, but a capsize in the medal race in the Sail for Gold regatta meant he finished second behind fellow Briton Giles Scott.
‘It's a bit embarrassing going for a swim,’ said Ainslie, ‘But sometimes these things happen. Thankfully it wasn't the Olympic Games. I made a mistake, we're all human.’
The USA’s Zach Railey and the ‘Postman’, Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) will be amongst the large group of Finn sailors happy to hear that admission.
Perhaps the pressure is already telling on another British sailor Paul Goodison, GBR’s Laser medal hope, the 2008 Laser Gold Medallist who has not beaten his nemesis, Australia’s Tom Slingsby in a regatta all year.
When Slingsby dominated the 2011 World titles in Perth, Goodison was fifth. When he won the 2012 Laser Worlds in Boltenhagen in Germany recently, Goodison struggled to a 20th place.
Paul Goodison - Laser
In a move no doubt designed to put pressure on his rival, after winning bronze behind Slingsby, at the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta, Goodison told the British tabloids that he’d been ‘done over’ by Slingsby and fellow Australian Tom Burton in the Medal Race. His version was that the Australians had team sailed to beat him.
In the Laser Radial class, Alison Young (GBR) was the surprise winner at Weymouth. Looking at form across the last year, China’s Lijia Xu, the 2008 Olympic Bronze medallist, should start favourite in Weymouth. But it’s been a curious preparation for Xu who has spent comparatively little time in Weymouth, and this might bring her undone. Come August one expects Alison Young, Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and Sari Multala (FIN) will also be in the mix.
Alison Young, Laser Radial. The Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, 3rd-9th June 2012.??Skandia Team GBR image.??For further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. ??© Copyright Skandia Team GBR. Image copyright free for editorial use. This image may not be used for any other purpose without the express prior written permission of the RYA. For full copyright and contact information please see http://media.skandiateamgbr.com/fotoweb/conditions.fwx???
While Britain’s Lucy McGregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor are the second ranked team on the Women’s Match Racing circuit, this event is wide open. A few months ago the USA camp had ‘gold medal’ plastered across Anna Tunnicliffe prospects. The 2011 World Champion, Tunnicliffe (USA) has held the top spot in the Women's Match Racing Rankings since September 2011.
The American defeated Lucy Macgregor (GBR) 4-0 in the final in Perth, Australia and has since gone on to notch up three regatta victories. She finished with a bronze at Sail for Gold behind Australia’s Olivia Price and French star Claire Leroy. In the Women’s World Match Racing finals Tunnicliffe was beaten 0-3 by Silja Lehtinen (FIN). Macgregor finish seventh.
Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush, Kate Macgregor, Women’s Match Racing - Semaine Olympique Francaise 2012
Interesting times ahead.