Golden quest in Skandia Regatta
Skandia Sail for Gold, the final pre-event at the London 2012 venue, will feature the entire British Sailing team selected to compete at this summer’s home Games.
The annual event, which starts on Monday and runs until Saturday, June 9 at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, will also feature almost all of the international medal contenders for the upcoming Games.
A total of 723 athletes from 59 nations will feature at the regatta, which is twice the size of the Olympic Games regatta although numbers are down on last year – when many nations used the event to select their Olympic teams.
Britain’s Ben Ainslie, the silver medallist and three-time Olympic champion, will be competing in the Finn heavyweight dinghy class, which he recently won his sixth World title in.
Ainslie is campaigning for a fourth gold medal at the upcoming Games, an achievement that would make him the most successful Olympic sailor of all time.
Following close behind in the medal-count stakes, is Brazilian Robert Scheidt, the only man to have beaten Ainslie at an Olympics, back in 1996 in the Laser.
Since then, Scheidt has won silver behind Ainslie in 2000, gold in Athens - after Ainslie moved to the Finn, and silver in Qingdao after Scheidt moved on to the Star keelboat class.
Another couple of Brits also prevented Scheidt from taking gold on that occasion – Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson.
Percy and Sherborne’s Simpson are another pair to watch; Percy won gold in the Finn in 2000 in Sydney, then gold again with Simpson in the Star in Qingdao.
The defending Olympic Star champions have a long rivalry with Scheidt, who triumphed at the recent Star World’s and last year’s Sail for Gold.
Other big names include Weymouth’s Olympic gold medallist Laser sailor Paul Goodison, Poole’s Match Race Girls led by helm Lucy Macgregor, the recently crowned women’s 470 world champions Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark of Weymouth, Portland’s 470 contenders Katrina Hughes and Penny Clark, Weymouth Olympic windsurfers Nick Dempsey and Bryony Shaw, Portland’s 470 men Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell, Laser Radial sailor Ali Young and Charlotte Dobson, 49er sailors Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes and Weymouth’s Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign.
In the Paralympic classes, Portland’s current Skud-18 keelboat world champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell will be looking to put their marker down on home waters, while 2011 Sail for Gold winners John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas will be defending their title in the Sonar class.
Portland’s Helena Lucas and Megan Pascoe will be going for gold in the 2.4mR keelboat.