Olympic Finn gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie may have moved on to the America’s Cup but the British sailing team remain dominant in the heavyweight dinghy class.
Giles Scott reinforced his claim to take over Ainslie’s spot at the Rio Games in 2016 with a crushing win at the Finn Europeans in La Rochelle.
The 26-year-old maintained his unbeaten regatta run since returning to full-time Olympic Classes sailing in September, winning the event with a day to spare.
Portland-based Scott took an unassailable 34-point lead into Saturday’s 10-boat medal race finale.
And he finished his regatta off in style with another race win – his seventh from 11 races – to extend his final winning margin to a whopping 50 points over second-placed Vasilij Zbogar from Slovenia.
Scott said: ‘The Europeans is a major event and I’m most happy about this from all the events I’ve won since I’ve come back.
‘Last time I sailed in the Europeans was in 2011 when I won it, so it’s nice to come back and still be able to do it in the big fleets and at the big events.’
‘I think I’ve had the right sort of approach to the big fleets,’ added Scott of the racing challenges in La Rochelle this week.
‘It’s actually a bit of a change racing with 100 boats as oppose to the 40-boat fleet that you might normally race at World Cup events.’
Scott, who also won the World Championship in 2011, dismissed talk of being a marked man after his five-regatta, seventh-month winning streak and said he was just focused on improving his own game.
He added: ‘I don’t try to think about that – whether that’s the case or not I don’t know. I’m just happy with the way I’m sailing at the moment.
‘I think there’s still stuff to work on but I suppose that’s a good thing.’
Despite his impressive form, however, Scott will have to earn his place at Rio, with strong competition for the single slot coming from a number of other British Sailing Team members.
Chief among them is Ed Wright who claimed the bronze medal in a windy La Rochelle.
The Bournemouth racer had to settle for sixth place in the medal race to Zbogar’s ninth to finish just one point behind the Slovenian.
‘I was probably more sailing for the security of the bronze,’ the 36-year-old admitted.
‘I didn’t want to snap a mast out there. I didn’t want to push it.’
Andrew Mills was also in the medal race and he consolidated his overall sixth place, with fellow squad sailor Mark Andrews ending his regatta in 11th.
In the Junior European Championships – which ran concurrently for under-22-year-old sailors – Emsworth’s Peter McCoy finished as the fourth-placed junior sailor (second European junior) behind Australia’s Jake Lilley, reigning world champion Jorge Zarif of Brazil, and Norway’s Anders Pedersen.