British sailors hope for a strong start at the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta which starts today 22/1/07

Great Britain’s sailors will be looking to see 2007 off to a strong start at the first major event of the year – the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta – which gets underway at Biscayne Bay today.

Olympic, World and European medallists provide the backbone of the Skandia Team GBR challenge at this Grade 1 regatta, which boasts a record entry of over 850 sailors from 48 countries, and which will be the first major test of the newly-formed British Star crew of Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson.

Simpson, a two-time World and European medallist in the Finn class, joins Sydney gold medallist Percy in the ‘Skandia Star’ campaigning for Beijing 2008, with the duo showing early promise in their first competitive outing together. They scored a second and a first on day one of the Biscayne Bay Trophy – a three race warm-up event for the Star class ahead of the Rolex Miami OCR – with Swedish world number six crew Fredrik Loof and Anders Ekstrom on equal points thanks to a race win and a second.

Christina Bassadone and Saskia Clark – Skandia Team GBR’s sole representatives in the 470 women’s class – will also be buoyed heading into the Rolex Miami OCR, thanks to their win at last week’s 470 North American Championships. Sidelined from competition in recent months due to a back injury to Clark, the world number ones will be looking to turn their silver at the 2006 Grade 1 event in Miami into gold this time round.

Athens silver medallists Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield, World Champions Nic Asher and Elliot Willis, and European Junior Champions Luke Patience and Chris Grube will fly the British flag in the 470 men’s event, while European Champion and world number one Paul Goodison will be gunning for his fifth Rolex Miami OCR title in the men’s single-handed Laser class.

Britain’s windsurfers will be hoping to emulate their success at the 2006 event, which saw Nick Dempsey clinch gold in the RS:X men’s class, and Bryony Shaw and Lucy Horwood both on the podium with a gold and a bronze in the women’s fleet.

Three British 49ers have made trip across the Atlantic – World Champions Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks and European Champions Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes are joined by fellow performance squad sailors Paul Campbell James and Mark Asquith, while in the Yngling class, Athens gold medallists Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb along with Pippa Wilson will be looking for their first podium finish at a major Olympic classes regatta.

After bumper seasons in 2006, Finn European Champion Ed Wright and Laser Radial sailor Penny Clark will look to start the new year on an equally strong footing, while the top British Tornado teams of Leigh McMillan-Will Howden and Rob Wilson-Mark Bulkeley will look to put their disappointing results at last month’s World Championship behind them with a strong showing in Biscayne Bay this week.

All three Paralympic classes form part of the Rolex Miami OCR, with Skandia Team GBR represented in Sonar class by John Robertson’s two-time World Championship winning team of Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas, by world silver medallist Helena Lucas and Megan Pascoe in the 2.4mR single-handed class, and by Allan Smith and Jackie Gay in the new double-handed SKUD-18, in which they finished second at the inaugural SKUD-18 European Championship last October.

Racing at the Rolex Miami OCR 2007 will run from 22-27 January.