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Thursday, 2 August 2012

A Great British cock up?



Let’s not dress this up or play it down but the reason why the British sailing team made such a sluggish start to their Olympic campaigns was an overriding fear of cocking up, so the sailors have said.

There is no question Stephen ‘Sparky’ Park, the RYA Olympic Manager was fretting at the end of the first day’s racing on Sunday when the results, which seemed more like lottery numbers started coming through. 

He fretted even more on Monday when he was decidedly snappy with us over Paul Goodison’s injury and proved quite tense on Tuesday when sailing progress heaped more gloom on Team GB’s gong-less pile of woe.

The Ben Ainslie headlines didn’t help. With so much focus on our national sailing hero, there was a tendency to think he was the ONLY British athlete in action at Weymouth and the six straight defeats at the hands of Jonas Hoegh-Christensen suggested a squad in crisis.

But as the skies clouded over and the breeze settled, so the tide started to turn and on Wednesday night the picture looks altogether rosier with every British contender in action during the opening week sitting comfortably in the top ten and looking strong.

The heroic Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson are medal certainties in the Star class as is Ainslie in the Finns. Alison Young is on track for a medal in the Laser Radials and Nick Dempsey  is looking forward to a few more bullets when the windsurfers move into the harbour on Thursday.

It was Dempsey who shed some light on what had been going on, though Sparky later refuted most of what he said.

“The first couple of days are so difficult because you are so scared of cocking up,” admitted Dempsey who is campaigning his fourth Olympics. 

“Most of the Brits are favourites to medal within their classes. They are all wise enough and good enough to understand what it takes to win a regatta which includes a steady start so we were all conservative on that first day.

“Hopefully we will be turning it on in the second part of the regatta and it will be good in the end.”
We were quite surprised that sailors were coming off the water baffled by the shifts and the tides. Weymouth is well known for the challenges presented by the conditions. 

The sailors love the venue for that very reason and many British sailors have taken up residence there so they could get intimate with the trickeries of the winds and waves. So why then could they not pick the shifts?  

They insisted it wasn’t a matter of luck so we reckoned they must have been trying too hard and cocking up.

Now they have settled down, Sparky said, and the flow, at long last, of medals into the British booty combined with a return of Ainslie with ‘all guns blazing’ would mean the London 2012 medal target should be easily met.

 “We are fairly confident that we will deliver four medals which is our target and we still have plenty of options to win more than that so things are looking pretty good,” Sparky said.


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