No let-up for Britain’s best

Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

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There’s no let-up for Britain’s Olympic sailing stars as the pace of competition increases as the Games approach.

Sailors in three of the 10 classes are in action this week, with Ben Ainslie (Finn), Ali Young (Laser Radial) and Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (Women’s 470) all looking to put down a marker ahead of the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta early next month at the Olympic sailing venue in Weymouth.

Meanwhile, reigning Olympic champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson said they were keeping their eyes on the main event after narrowly missing out on the Star World Championship title at Hyeres in France last week.

The British duo missed out on their second world title to take silver – finishing just two points behind their perennial Brazilian rivals Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada after heading into the final day’s racing as leaders.

The finale turned out to be instructive in highlighting some of the more unique – some might say dubious – aspects of fleet racing.

The South American pair secured the better start, before a 40-degree wind shift on the first leg left the Skandia Team GBR duo and their medal competition fighting it out in the middle of the 72-boat fleet.

Competitors are allowed to discard their worst result in a regatta to iron out the effect of such dramatic wind shifts or other vagaries.

In this case, Scheidt and Prada knew the British duo’s current discard was a 17th spot, compared to their own worst finish – 10th.

So they forced Percy and Simpson out of contention by sailing just in front of them and disrupting their wind.

This match racing tactic – sailing the opposition down the fleet – is entirely within the rules and widely used, even as any concept of sportsmanship goes overboard.

It’s the equivalent of keeping the ball in the corner for the last 10 minutes of a football match.

The British ended up in 38th place, which became their discard, forcing them to add the 17th to their overall score.

The Brazilians, discarding a 39th, gained seven points allowing them to take the win.

‘It’s frustrating that we weren’t able to finish it off, but this is just a battle, not the war,’ said double Olympic gold medallist Percy.

‘It provides great motivation for the weeks ahead,’ he added.

There was disappointment, too, for fellow Skandia Team GBR racer Paul Goodison.

He concluded the Laser World Championships in Germany in 20th place after being on the receiving end of three yellow flag penalties from the jury for adjudged illegal kinetics of the boat – otherwise known as pumping.

‘It’s been a pretty frustrating regatta for me in terms of the yellow flags early on, which I have to say I’ve been a bit surprised at,’ he said.

‘I don’t feel that I’ve been doing anything differently in my sailing to justify them, but obviously the jury at these World Championships has seen that differently.

‘In spite of those issues, there were some positives to come out of the week, so I will have to take what lessons I can from this event forward into Skandia Sail for Gold and the Olympics.’