Having been the top sailing nation at the last three Olympics, Britain is in a strong position to continue this record as host nation in London for the 2012 games. Most of the British Olympic sailing team live in the Weymouth area, and even before London won its bid to host the games, they were training out of the Olympic venue at the Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy. Skandia Team GBR, as it is known, also benefits from having a mature squad that includes a number of individuals who are already living legends in Olympic sailing.
The stand-out sailor is certainly Ben Ainslie, whose one silver and three gold medals equal that of Olympic greats Jochen Schuemann and Valentyn Mankin. Ainslie continues to dominate the Finn class and a fourth gold would put the 35-year-old on par with four-time gold medalist Paul Elvstrom, while having that additional silver would make him the greatest Olympic sailor ever.
Other proven winners on the British team include 2008 Beijing gold medallists Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, who are looking to repeat in the Star class. (This will actually be Percy’s fourth Olympics—he won Finn gold in Sydney in 2000.) London 2012 will also be Paul Goodison’s third Olympics in the Laser, having won gold in 2008; the fourth outing for RS:X sailor Nick Dempsey, who won bronze in Athens and was a place away from the podium in Beijing; and the second for fellow RS:X sailor Bryony Shaw, the Beijing bronze medallist.
Other strong contenders include Skandia Team GBR’s women’s match racing team, comprised of the Macgregor sisters, Lucy and Katie, and Annie Lush, and the women’s 470 crew, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark. Men’s 470 sailors Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell have twice taken silver at World Championships.
The keys to the British team’s success have been the training and development programs that were put in place in the 1990s with the help of a significant funding boost through the National Lottery. Effective management has also played a role in helping the team maximize its potential, allowing Britannia to once again rule the waves.
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Photo courtesy of Ocean Images/Perth 2011