British sailors ready for battle at Olympic Test Event
Great Britain’s Olympic sailing hopefuls this week get their final chance to compete in China’s Olympic waters ahead of the 2008 Olympic sailing event, as the Olympic Sailing Centre in Qingdao plays host to the 2007 Qingdao International Regatta.
Some 400 sailors from 47 countries start racing on Wednesday 15 August at this second Olympic Test Event for the sport, with Skandia Team GBR fielding its full complement of 18 sailors, including World and Olympic Champions, at this all-important test of the 2008 Olympic facilities.
With his America’s Cup obligations with Emirates Team New Zealand now behind him, double Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie will be starting his campaign for Beijing 2008 at this event.  The 2006 Olympic Test Event was the only regatta Ainslie competed at in his Finn last year, and after storming to victory with a scorecard featuring only first and second places across the race series, he certainly seemed at home in Fushan Bay.  But after two years of minimal racing in the heavyweight Olympic dinghy, Ainslie is looking forward to getting started.
“I came here last year having not had the greatest of preparation for the event, but managed to do well,” said Ainslie.  “Things may well have moved on since then in terms of the competition – we’ll have to see – but it’s exciting for me to be competing in the Finn again and I hope to be back up to pace as quickly as possible.”
Yngling trio Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson, and 49er pairing Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes will start the event buoyant mood after clinching their world titles in Cascais (POR) last month, while Nick Dempsey (RS:X Men) , Christina Bassadone-Saskia Clark (470 Women) and Iain Percy-Andrew Simpson (Star) will also be hoping to follow up their World Championship bronze medals earned in the Cascais breeze with promising performances in the expected light wind conditions across Fushan Bay over the next nine days.
Athens silver medallists Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield, and European Champion Paul Goodison will race in the 470 men’s and Laser fleets respectively, with both having claimed gold in the 2008 Olympic waters at last year’s Test Event.  Bryony Shaw will feature for Skandia Team GBR in the women’s RS:X windsurfing event, with Leigh McMillan and Will Howden competing in the Tornado class.
The 21-year-old Laser Radial sailor Charlotte Dobson is Britain’s youngest competitor in Qingdao and was the nation’s flag-bearer at the event’s lavish opening ceremony.
Olympic Manager Stephen Park commented: “Really this event for us is about gaining experience and learning as much as we can for 2008,  but I would expect and hope to come away from this regatta with three medals.
“With the expected light winds here and strong tides, it’s hard to predict which classes those medals might come from,” Park continued.  “But certainly it will be interesting to see Ben Ainslie back in action again, and of course Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson in the Yngling, and Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes in the 49er will start the event with their confidence high after winning the World Championships last month.”
Racing at the 2007 Qingdao International Regatta is scheduled through until Thursday 23 August.
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