As the sun set over the Saronic Gulf this evening competitors made final preparations for the pre-Olympics which starts tomorrow morning

As the sun set over the Saronic Gulf this evening competitors made final preparations for the pre-Olympics which starts tomorrow morning. The impressive Olympic sailing base at Agios Kosmas – half an hour by car from Athens International Airport – is vast with acres of room for the 43 nations competing at this year’s event.

From the Olympic village main entrance there’s over a quarter of a mile of dinghy pounds, all with water frontage and gently sloping concrete slipways. While the completion of the sailing base is well on schedule compared to many of the other Olympic sports venues around Athens, it’s surprising to see, at this ‘late stage’, lack of shelter from the intense sun in the dinghy pounds. While I’m sure the problem will be addressed before next year’s big event, it does mean some competitors are forced to rig their own makeshift canopies!

While this event is, with just one year to go until the Games, one of the most important on the Olympic sailing calendar, Team GBR sailors including Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy and Shirley Robertson, like many other competitors here this week, will be using it as a warm-up for the ISAF World Sailing Championships in Cadiz next month, which forms part of the 2004 Olympic selection process.

Ainslie, who swapped his Laser for the Finn after Sydney, recently defended his European title and will be looking to repeat his gold medal success from the Athens Test Event last year.

Fellow Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy, who also swapped classes after Sydney – teaming up with Steve Mitchell, has taken the Star class by storm, winning the world championship within six months of sailing the boat and since then a host of other international titles.

Sydney team mate Shirley Robertson followed suit and cashed in her singlehanded Europe dinghy for the three-person Yngling that will debut in Athens. Last year Robertson won bronze at the Athens Test Event, and along with her team of Sarah Ayton and new team mate Sarah Webb, will be looking to go one better by the time the week’s out.

The event continues until 28 August, with 11 races scheduled for all the classes, with the exception of the 49er class which will have 16.

Team GBR

Finn – Ben Ainslie

Star – Iain Percy/Steve Mitchell

Yngling – Shirley Robertson/Sarah Webb/Sarah Ayton

49er – Paul Brotherton/Mark Asquith

Laser – Paul Goodison

Europe – Andrea Brewster

Tornado – Leigh McMillan/Mark Bulkeley

470 Men – Nick Rogers/Joe Glanfield

470 Women – Christina Bassadone/Katherine Hopson

Mistral Men – Nick Dempsey

Mistral Women – Natasha Sturges