Sunday, 3 June 2012

Gloves are OFF for Sail for Gold

And so we are on the eve of a humdinger of a sporting not that stupid football thingy that our sports editors are obsessed with but 2012 Skandia Sail for Gold which whatever way you look at it (unless you are a sports editor) is likely to throw up a zillion stories ranging from titillating to deeply compelling.

There are three in particular that excite me. No...wait on make that four because the story of how Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark have come to be SO dominant in the 470 Womens class after such a short time together is fascinating. They have something completely different......but we'll come onto that.

Giles Scott, who is arguably a better Finn sailor currently than Ben Ainslie, is one of the most gracious patient and nicest young men I have ever met. He will get his chance to represent GBR of course, most likely at Rio 2016 but  to have one of the finest sailors in the world sidelined on home waters should provoke, one would have thought, an edgy even bitter tone to his conversations.

But not a bit of it. He seems happy to bide his time in the lee of Ainslie....unless he is on the same race track when he lets his talent and ambition do the talking. Twice now in the past six months, he has beaten our Olympic hero, the only man on the planet to do that and if we get 'dogs-off-chains' winds in Weymouth this week, he is likely to beat him again. What a shock that would be....but we'll analyse that changing of the guard further if it happens. It makes no difference since Ainslie and Scott are the best in the world so GBR will still get a gold medal, come what may.

The other head to head I'm looking forward to is Paul Goodison v Nick Thompson in the Laser class. I was surprised that the selectors chose Goodison so early on...when Thompson was clearly a contender though his performance at Sail for Gold this time last year was disappointing and that seemed to decide the matter for the selectors who don't seem to have much in the way of b*** or imagination. Since then Thompson won silver at the ISAF World Championships in Perth in December to Goody's fifth while Goody took silver in Palma to Thompson's seventh.

Goody is a stickler for detail and knowing exactly what it takes to win a gold medal, as he did at Beijing in 2008, will have put preparations for London 2012 quite definitely above meaningless results. If he needed to tweak a manoeuvre in new equipment in different conditions, he would have been assiduous in making sure his boxes were all ticked, irrespective of where he ended up in the fleet. This will continue until the Games so the SFG result may not be significant....but the tussle between him and the more instinctive Thompson will be a cracker.

The 49er class will almost certainly be won by the Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen but the battle of the Brits will, as ever be as engaging as it will be exasperating. If all goes to form, the four main British teams will do incredibly well in the early rounds then nicely poised going into the medal race, will flunk it leaving GBR without a medal of any hue.

Hopefully the surprise but perfectly understandable selection of Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, probably the best bet of the four contenders will force them to get their act together at SFG and do something amazing to justify the selectors decision. How they do at Weymouth will, in my view, give a close indication of how they will do at the Olympics. Watch this space.

Same goes for Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell in the 470 mens class. Word is the wind will blow this week and that should see them at their best but don't hold your breath for gold. That will go to Matthew Belcher and Malcom Page, the formidable Aussies.

Oh my god. I can't wait to see how all this pans out...and then we have to scrutinise Team Manager Stephen Park to see if the rumours of him jacking it in after London 2012 are true. I saw Jez Fanstone today and said I hear you are taking over Team GBR. He almost wet himself...but said nowt. Ha ha!  There is SO much to watch and observe. 

Notice how most of the tantalising contests discussed here have been between the Brits rather then between the Internationals. Simple fact is that the Brits are still dominating world sailing in the Olympic classes but this won't last long so lets work ourselves into a right royal British lather while we can!!