Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy on the tension that builds at the Olympic sailing venue as the days count down
With just four days to go until the practice race on Saturday the tension is clearly building here in Weymouth. A venue that has been so familiar over the last few years and indeed home to virtually all of the British sailing team, the sailing venue feels like a very different place at the sailing centre. From high security fences, more security cameras than a prison and armed guards at every check point, the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy feels alien to all.
But even without the high security the atmosphere has changed. Purple pink and blue banners now adorn the venue and the maze of fences and walkways require different levels of authorisation to enter.
No matter how well you know this venue, everyone seems to be feeling their way as they come to terms that the big gig is actually about to start. The tension and excitement is everywhere.
But if the hardened media circus has noticed the change and feels the buzz, what must it feel like for the sailors, many of who have seen their home patch change its appearance and feel beyond recognition.
On the weekend I bumped into one of the local sailors who shrugged off the massive upheaval.
“Same venue, different banners,” he said, clearly keen to underplay the changes.
For those that have been to a Games before, it is certainly easier to understand and deal with the extra pressure that the event places on competitors.
“It’s a funny week really,” said Star sailor Iain Percy this morning. “If you’ve done your job right and you’re reasonably well prepared then it becomes a pretty quiet week because you don’t want to tire your body by doing massive amounts of training. At the same time you should have done all your technical work so it gives you quite a lot of time to take in what’s going on around you.
“You have nerves for sure, but you have confident moments as well. One of the things that experience gives you is that it reminds you of moments from previous events. I can take myself back at times to moments over the previous twelve years where I’ve felt the same. So it’s a funny old week. It’s probably the easiest and nicest week of the last two tears but at the same time you’ve got a fairly big event coming up.”
As any keen racer will know, it is the moments leading up to a race that are the most anxious. Standing on the shore with the sails flogging will always raise the tension and yet the minute you sheet in, sit out and get on the case, the mood changes instantly.
Of those under pressure in the British team, Ainslie has without doubt endured the brightest of the media spotlights. How much was he looking forward to getting afloat?
“It’s certainly a relief to get out on the water,” he said. “You need to have your pre-race routines like you would in any other sport and that helps you settle you in and help take your mind off what is at stake. Hopefully by then when the start gun goes you’re into your race and you’re off.”
But while the start of the greatest show on earth races up, the hours that fill the days in the build up for the competitors must be slipping by agonisingly slowly.
A rare period of calm before their world rips past at a blistering pace.
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