Consistently one of the world's top performing boats in the oldest Olympic sailing class, Team Percy-Mitchell's 'Skandia Star' became the first ever British boat to win the Star World Championships in 2002 and subsequently medalled at the next three World Championships. However, Olympic glory eluded them at Athens in 2004, where they finished sixth overall.
MITCHELL is now moving on to concentrate on further boats and coaching in the Olympic classes as one of the most highly respected British sailors, while PERCY will continue on the Olympic campaign trail with Skandia Team GBR in the Star, where he will be joined by two-time World and European Finn medallist and America's Cup strategist SIMPSON in a bid for Olympic gold at Qingdao in 2008.
'After five great years with Steve we have decided to follow separate paths,' PERCY explained. 'Having sailed with many people in my career I can safely say Steve is one of Britain's best ever sailors. He has worked tirelessly not just on the water but on the shore to manage a campaign that shames all but the best America's Cup and Olympic teams.'
He continued, 'During this time I have learnt a great deal from Steve and he has become a lifelong friend in a way only other sporting pairs will understand. We are planning to sail together soon in other big boat projects and he continues to support the Skandia Star Team.
'I am pleased that Andrew SIMPSON will be joining myself and long term coach David HOWLETT in the Skandia Star team sailing for gold in China. Going to a light wind venue like Qingdao with the best light wind tactician I have ever met gives me a great deal of confidence. I am looking forward to the Games and many regattas along the way with a real expectation of performance.'
RYA Olympic Manager Stephen PARK commented, 'Iain and Steve have shown that they are one of the world's best Star teams over the last five years and have been great ambassadors for not only the team but also their sponsors.
'However, winning Olympic medals is a ruthless business, and one where you need to be crystal clear how you are going to make the small differences between winning a medal or not. Reviewing the programme, Iain has decided he needs some new skills in the boat and from my perspective as Team Manager, having Andrew SIMPSON back in the World Class Programme is an exciting opportunity that I am confident will deliver the performance gains the Star team are looking for.'
SIMPSON enthused, 'I have been friends with Iain for 20 years and have trained with him in the Finn for Sydney and currently at +39 Challenge. It is only when you sail with someone you can appreciate their skills and hopefully I can help Iain win many events, with the key one being China 2008.
'I have enjoyed both racing against Iain and sailing with him and this is a great opportunity for both of us. I am looking forward to returning to Skandia Team GBR after taking a two year break for the America's Cup, and particularly resuming working with Finn/Star coach David HOWLETT.'