Brits in good shape for Olympics

Members of Team GBR    Picture: Skandia Team GBR
Members of Team GBR Picture: Skandia Team GBR
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The British sailing team head into the Olympic Regatta next weekend in buoyant form and with the belief that, for the first time ever, they have a medal prospect in each of the 10 classes.

Skandia Team GBR have strength in depth and a robust mix of proven winners and rising stars who are showing every sign of peaking at just the right time.

That said, the squad won’t have it all their own way, with Australia challenging them all the way for the best team title.

If Ben Ainslie is widely regarded as a nailed-on cert for a fourth successive Olympic gold medal, the same claim can be made for the Aussies in no less than three classes.

Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page have won the past three 470 men’s worlds – with Page taking gold in Beijing with a different helm and three worlds before that.

Meanwhile, Tom Slingsby has won five worlds in the laser, and in the 49er, Nathan Outteridge has triumphed in four of the past five World Championships and every Weymouth international regatta.

As the guide – and medal predictions – for five of the classes on this page (the other five follow next Friday) indicate, competition will also come from a variety of other countries – Spain, the USA, France and Denmark among them. And while sailing is at heart an inherently unpredictable sport, the biggest variable at Weymouth is going to be the weather, this year, particularly.

Predictions for the opening week of the Olympics suggests conditions may have improved compared to recent days, but forecasters cannot yet be certain the jet stream will have moved north far enough to allow the Azores high to exert its usual influence on the British summer.

Rod Carr, the sailing events field of play manager, said forecaster were keeping a close eye on developments.

‘As far ahead as they can see, we are going to have ‘‘weather’’ – so a typical British summer with occasional fine days and occasional rainy days,’ he said.

‘From my point of view, I want wind and I don’t want high pressure and waiting around as a feeble sea breeze and the land breeze fight each other.

‘The land is quite cold at the moment, so it will take quite a time to warm up to generate classic sea breezes.

‘I definitely wouldn’t want the first week of the Games to be the first period of settled weather, with the Azores high coming over the country.’

Home waters may then offer some advantage to British sailors as they get down to business among 380 competitors from a total of 63 nations.