First it was Ben Rhodes, now Iain Percy is forced to withdraw from the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Perth

The 49er crew Morrison and Rhodes have had to retire from the Olympic classes event in Perth after Rhodes suffered a back injury, now Star helmsman Ian Percy has had to do the same, also as a result of back injury.

With Ainslie’s early exit from the Finn worlds and a missed chance at another championship title along with some disappointing results from the windsurfing classes, the Perth event has proved a difficult and frustrating one for the British team.

The competition for the UK team place at the Olympics in the 49er class is fierce, such is the level of competition among the top domestic contenders. With the countdown to Weymouth 2012 well underway, time is running out for teams and selectors to decide on who will take the British place. The Olympic classes event in Perth is one of the crucial events for this and several other classes including the Laser Radial & 470 men where the competition is equally tight.

Having been to the last Olympics, Stevie Morrison’s and Ben Rhodes’ experience helps to make them serious contenders for the slot while this season’s performance has frequently provided further evidence that their bid is a serious one.

During the first of their three opening day races, Rhodes suffered a rib strain but in spite of being in considerable pain, he managed to complete Monday’s racing schedule.

With the injury restricting Rhodes’ ability to breathe and move freely, the concern lies in his safety to race and so the decision was taken on those grounds to withdraw from the event. Rhodes will return home where he will undergo intensive rehabilitation through the RYA, English Institute of Sport and British Olympic Association facilities so that he can get back into training and sailing with minimal delay, and continue with his planned events next year.

Today (Wed 14 Dec) it was announced that Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson were also retiring from the event after Percy suffered a back injury.

“We’re really disappointed to have to pull out,” said the 35-year-old Percy, who has already been selected to compete the London 2012 Games with Simpson.

“We were having a great regatta, were sailing well and were really enjoying the racing. We haven’t done a lot of racing recently so it was great to be racing together with Bart again, and to be racing as well as we were.

“It’s certainly frustrating, but it’s more important for me to concentrate on getting fixed and fit again so that this doesn’t happen when it really matters at the Games next summer.”

While the pair have already been selected for the British team their early exit will be a blow to their campaign which is on one of the most competitive of the Olympic classes. The additional logistical problems involved in moving these keel boats around places even greater emphasis on any serous fleet racing.