British sailors are a different class

Ali Young celebrates her gold medal in the laser radial at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta  Picture: Skandia Team GBR
Ali Young celebrates her gold medal in the laser radial at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta Picture: Skandia Team GBR
Leigh McMillan announced as Helmsman onboard Land Rover BAR Academy. Picture: Alex Palmer

Leading sailor back at Land Rover BAR

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Not perfect but in the last major international regatta before the Olympics, British sailors proved once again they will be the team to beat when they return to Weymouth and Portland for the Games this summer.

Members of the Olympic squad medalled in no less than six of the 10 classes at the six-day Sail for Gold regatta in Dorset.

Meanwhile, two other Brits finished in fourth, one of them behind team-mates who won’t be at the Games.

GB Paralympic sailors did even better, with two golds and a silver medal in the three classes.

Britain has always had a strong sailing pedigree, but improvements across the board now mean there is a realistic chance of winning a medal in every single class.

‘It’s really confirmed our thinking that we are certainly medal competitive in all 13 of the Olympic and Paralympic classes, and that if you make any mistakes then you will be punished,’ said RYA Olympic manager Stephen Park.

‘Sailors who have made mistakes generally didn’t medal this week and those who didn’t got on to the podium which is what we expected.’

‘It sets us up well to home in on the performances in the final build up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games and go in confident that we can hit our targets.

The only disappointments of the week were in the RSX women’s class – where Beijing bronze medallist Bryony Shaw was unable to recover from a broken mast and false start penalties that dropped her to eighth – and the women’s match racing – which saw former world champion Lucy Macgregor and her crew go out in the quarter-finals.

On the other side of the balance sheet, Radial racer Ali Young took gold in a class where Team GBR has not previously excelled.

Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell won silver in the men’s 470 and look likely to give the traditionally-dominant Aussies a run for their money.

And Luke Morrison and Ben Rhodes are showing form in the ferociously-competitive 49er fleet.

Add that to the already-proven potential of sailors like Ben Ainslie – we might as well get used to calling him Sir Ben with another gold medal surely on the cards – and the Star duo of Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson among others, and the omens are good.

Star of the week, though, was Young, who earned an ovation from her team-mates after the medal race where second place was enough to win her gold.

The 24-year-old earned her Olympic call-up only four weeks ago and was delighted with her first major win.

‘It’s a great result for me. You always aim to do your best and if your best means that you win then it’s pretty cool,’ she said.  

Young has made steady progress over the past six months, finishing seventh at the Perth World Championships last December and taking fourth places at ISAF World Cup events in Miami and Hyeres, and then the 2012 World Championship last month.

‘I would certainly like to think I can produce the same performance and result at the Games,’ added Young.

‘The fleet is very competitive with it being extremely close between a few of the top girls, so no doubt the racing in August will be very tight all week.’