Over 300 top international sailors hit the water in Weymouth for the start of the 2008 ISAF Grade 2 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta on Tuesday, with the young British 2012 hopefuls shining on day one of racing.
Skandia Sail for Gold is the first multi-class Olympic sailing regatta since the 2008 Beijing Games and appropriately enough is taking place at the state of the art 2012 Olympic sailing venue, the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. Weymouth-based sailors were attracted to compete on their home turf including Laser Olympic gold medallist Paul GOODISON
(GBR), the women's windsurfing Olympic bronze medallist Bryony SHAW
(GBR). The first day of racing saw some of the Skandia Team GBR performance squad, those young sailors seen as 2012 hopefuls, excel in the shifty, light conditions.
The event is also a chance for many of the top foreign sailors to gain experience and knowledge of the next Olympic sailing venue. This has seen entrants from Bulgaria, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. This is the third year of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta and the event has already established itself as a firm fixture on the Olympic sailing circuit and has exciting plans to continue its development and expansion over the next few years as part of the ISAF Sailing World Cup
Weymouth is home to Britain's Olympic bronze windsurfing medallist SHAW who was please to be racing on home waters, "It's nice to be racing in British waters with lots of people you know and at such a good high standard because it means you are constantly challenged, even if it is a little colder. It's good because it gets you back into racing and it keeps you sharp and often when you're more relaxed you actually race better. After the Olympics it can be quite easy to sit back so this event gets you going again for the next four years,"
In the Finn Class, an absent Ben AINSLIE
(GBR) meant current Finn Junior World Champion and 2012 hopeful Giles SCOTT
(GBR), had a chance to shine and finished first overall in the class.
In the Women's 470, the 2012 contenders Hannah MILLS
and Katrina HUGHES
(GBR) who train out of Weymouth, are currently winning their class. The Men's 470 World and European Champions Nic ASHER
and Elliot WILLIS
(GBR) are in second place behind French rivals Bertrand NUN
and Nicolas ANDREW (FRA).
The Laser is the largest fleet competing at the regatta, with a total of 57 boats. GOODISON's Beijing training partner, Nick THOMPSON
(GBR) is currently leading the Laser class with Mark POWELL
(GBR) a close second.
The Chinese Olympic bronze medallist Lijia XU
(CHN) is currently winning the Laser Radial class and Skandia Team GBR performance squad sailor Charlotte DOBSON
(GBR) is the first British sailor and is currently fourth.
With the development of the Weymouth as the state of the art Olympic 2012 venue many of the sailors are excited about what the future will bring.
"It's incredible to see the work they've done on the venue just in the time that we've been away and it's quite exciting to think what it will be like in four years time. It's great to be racing against some of the Brits and people like Izzy HAMILTON who is only 16 years, and she is naturally really quick. It is people like that keep you on your toes,"
Unable to compete due to an injury, Athens and Beijing silver medallist Joe GLANFIELD
(GBR) is working with some of the younger GBR squad members to assist with their development.
"I've done lots of work with the Olympic transition squads in the past and because I'm missing this event I decided to come along and see if I could help a hand. It's great to watch them out there and I'm sure it's great for them because they are sailing at the site of the next Olympics against some really tough competition. The site is going to be fantastic and it changes every time I'm here. I now know what it means to have the Olympics here, it is going to be so special and lots of youngsters have been given a little taste of that today,"
All the Olympic events are sailing except the Yngling, the Tornado and the Star. Next year the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta will become part of the ISAF Sailing World Cup series, and is expecting in excess of 600 entrants from around the world.
Results - click here