Three-time Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie believes there are plenty of strong contenders at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta
The 35-year-old headed to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy as the man to beat, having wrapped up a record sixth world title last month in Falmouth.
The weather looked set to curtail Ainslie’s plans on day one, a lack of wind delaying the start and allowing for just one race instead of the scheduled two.
But Ainslie didn’t let this affect him, finishing fifth with fellow Brit Mark Andrews taking third behind American Caleb Paine in first and Russia’s Aleksey Selivanov in second.
However, despite a good opener Ainslie, who is in the hunt for a fourth gold medal on the same waters at London 2012 later this summer, insists the leader board as he gets another chance to test the Olympic waters ahead of the Greatest Show on Earth.
“It was difficult conditions out there for day one,” he said. “There wasn’t much wind out there so it was difficult for the sailors, difficult for the race committee, the race organisers, but we got one race in.
“It was okay, it wasn’t the greatest race ever but we all got around and we look forward to some more wind over the next few days.
“The key thing is it’s more time on the water at the Olympic venue so any chance to race here is important.
“I don’t think for those looking at the Olympics the results are really that important, it is more just trying to get the preparation right.
“There have been a number of big milestones ahead of London 2012 but this is the last big event for us before the Olympics so the last chance to test things.”
After a slow start to proceedings due to a lack of wind the Brits sprung into action in the afternoon, Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills winning their second race in the 470 women’s event to take an early overall lead.
Dave Evans and Ed Powys are also sitting pretty in the 49er after three races, with two victories and a third to outshine London 2012 duo Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes who sit fifth after day one.
Nic Asher and Elliot Willis are also doing their best to prove Olympic selectors wrong as they sit second in the 470 men’s, while London 2012 windsurfing pair Bryony Shaw and Nick Dempsey are second and third respectively.
There was more joy in the Paralympic classes with Megan Pascoe, who was not selected for the Games, second in the 2.4mR, while Niki Birrell and Alexandra Rickham are third in the Skud 18.
Great Britain’s match racing team of Lucy and Kate Macgregor and Annie Lush were also in action, winning three of their four matches on day one.
However Lucy isn’t about to get ahead of herself with the regatta only just getting going.
“It was a tricky day out there really with the breeze not playing ball for the first half of the day but were a pleased to come away with the three wins and the one loss because of that really,” she said.
“It is a good start and there are a couple of areas that we can still work on going forward because we didn’t perform that well in the first race.
“All the Games teams are here so it is going to be tough but something we are looking forward to with the Olympics fast approaching.”
Investment specialist Skandia is the principal sponsor of the British sailing team. For more information go to www.skandiateamgbr.com.