THIS WAS MEANT TO GO UP ON TELEGRAPH SAILING WEBSITE BUT.....FUNNILY ENOUGH THEY DIDN'T USE IT!!
Two blondes in a boat Sarah Ayton and Pippa Wilson who raced together to win a gold medal for Britain at the Olympics in 2008 will be aiming to knock each other out of contention when the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series starts in Singapore on Thursday.
There will be little room for sentiment when Wilson, making her debut in Extreme 40 racing as a member of Sir Ben Ainslie’s JP Morgan BAR crew comes up against Ayton, who is also making her debut with the defending champions The Wave Muscat in the first round of what promises to be the most exciting Extreme Sailing Series to take place since it started in 2006.
Ayton, Sarah Webb and Shirley Robertson were dubbed ‘three blondes in a boat’ after winning a gold medal in the Yngling class at the Athens 2004 Olympics and when Robertson was replaced by Wilson four years later in Beijing, the ‘blonde’ badge stuck and they swept to a second gold.
Ayton has been out of racing since 2010 when she gave up her Olympic 470 campaign to look after her young son and allow her husband Nick Dempsey, the British windsurfer to concentrate on his bid for a medal at London 2012. The couple have since split and this Extreme 40 campaign marks a welcome return to the race course for one of Britain’s most talented woman sailors.
Wilson also took a break from racing after the Beijing Olympics but has now turned her attentions to the new Nacra 17 catamaran class and is in the RYA’s Podium squad for Rio de Janeiro 2016. Success in the Extreme 40s would give her an edge in the Nacra 17s and represent a major boost to her campaign.
The two Brits have always raced as members of the same team rather than as opponents and they insist the stepped up battle for honours in the Extreme Sailing Series 2014 will not become personal.
“I have never sailed against Pippa. Obviously there are 12 boats in the fleet and all of us are very competitive but it won’t be personal,” said Ayton.
“It has been a few years since we have been on the same race course but I am really looking forward to it – it should be fun.”
Both girls are fiercely competitive with a lot to prove, especially in a fleet populated by the world’s best male sailors. In 2014, there are five top level female sailors with Anna Tunnicliffe from America joining Alinghi and France’s Sophie de Turckheim, another Nacra 17 contender for Rio, part of Franck Cammas’s Groupama Team France crew.
Skiff world champion Alexandra South,21, from Australia will compete on GAC Pindar which in 2014 has joined forces with Team Australia, the Challenger of Record for the 35th America’s Cup.