2nd August 2011
Weymouth, 2nd August 2011 - Sixteen of Great Britain's 2012 sailing hopefuls, including TSMs Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, are set to face tough international opposition on the Olympics waters for the second time in two months, as they prepare to do battle at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta - the official LOCOG test event for the 2012 sailing competition (2-13 August).
The top British crews in each of the ten Olympic classes at June's Skandia Sail for Gold World Cup regatta were selected to represent Skandia Team GBR at this 2012 dress rehearsal, where just one crew per country is permitted to compete, in keeping with the Games format.
The Weymouth and Portland International Regatta - part of LOCOG's 'London Prepares' series - will see some 440 sailors from 66 nations competing at the venue they will hope to return to in a year's time.
"This really is a true trial of what it's going to be like in the summer of 2012, and to that end it will be very exciting from a competitive perspective," explained RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park.
"Here will be a lot of learning opportunities from both Skandia Team GBR's perspective and from the organisational side. But it also means that the fleet sizes are smaller, and the total number of sailors is smaller.
"We've got just over 400 sailors here at this event by comparison to the 1,000 plus who were here for Skandia Sail for Gold, but still the same number of nations, still the same number of classes. We're in for a different but more intense competition I think."
The women's match racers kick off the staggered competition schedule with the first of their round robin matches on Tuesday 2 August, with Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor considered among the front-runners of the 12 competing teams.
"We're looking forward to it a lot - we've been training quite hard for this and it's going to be really good," said helm Lucy Macgregor after the second of the team's two official training sessions in the brand new LOCOG-supplied Elliot 6m boats.
"It's a bit of a milestone, sailing in the Olympic boats for the first time and it makes you realise how quickly it's all coming around. It's a little bit scary, but the boats are in good condition - there's a few things that need changing, but we could have guessed that a few months ago. I think it might take a few days to get into it but they'll be good to go in a few days' time."
"It's a year to go, it's the test event, it's all pretty exciting and it's all starting to come together and starting to feel very real," continued the 24-year-old Macgregor.
"It's scary to think there's a year to go definitely - or under a year now - but it's also really exciting and it does motivate you that bit more to get out of bed and make a difference each day to your campaign."
The women's match racing teams will face two days of round robin competition before the RS:X men's and women's windsurfing events start their regatta on Thursday 4 August, with the addition of the 470 men, 470 women, Laser and Laser Radial events on Friday 5 August, and the Finn, Star and 49er classes getting underway on Saturday 6 August. The medal races will run from 11-13 August inclusive.
The organisers' emphasis at the regatta is to test the venue, systems, equipment, workforce and procedures ahead of the main event next year. With Weymouth's Nothe Gardens having been rubber-stamped this week as the official ticketed spectator area for th
e Games - a first for Olympic sailing - part of that process is set to include a shake-up of the race areas which classes may have become used to racing on at previous regattas in the venue.
"There's a real big emphasis at this event to looking at where they're going to race for London 2012," Park explained.
"There's quite a lot of pressure on the sport to provide a show for all the spectators to see every day come 2012 and the result of that is there's going to be far more racing close to the shore than traditionally we would see here in Weymouth or indeed at any other previous Olympic Games.
"That changes the nature of the racing, so it's going to be quite interesting to see how that goes. It certain wind directions, that may end up risking or compromising the racing and that's going to be part of the learning process for the race management team. I suspect that for the majority of the time, they'll get it right, but maybe once or twice through the process of allowing it
things won't turn out quite the way they want, and hopefully that will have a minimal effect on the outcome.
"We just have to accept that that's all part of the learning process - it is going to be different, it's going to be the same for everyone and hopefully that will all make us better prepared both from a team, sailor and a race management perspective in 2012.
"We're quite excited by those opportunities and it should make for great racing."
With just this event and the 2012 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta the only opportunities for major competition in the Games venue before the Olympic regatta itself kicks off, Park is keen that his Skandia Team GBR charges put on a positive show on their home waters, but also that lessons are learned for 12 months' time.
"It would certainly be great for confidence if we were able to be in the medal zone in all of our events, at either this event or at next year's Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta. We had a great Sail for Gold Regatta earlier on this year, the team did well and we were certainly in th
e medal zone in most classes. If we can come away from this event with ideally maybe four medals then we'll be pleased that we're on track, and hopefully in the other six events we should be fighting in and around the medal zone with top six or top seven results in those other classes as well.
"Then at least we'll know we're going to be in the right part of the fleet in 12 months' time."
Park continued: "Other than that, it's just another step on the ladder as we get closer and closer to the Games. We do still have 12 months to go, so it's a great opportunity to make good ground. Whatever the outcome here, it won't be a time for celebration or a time for panic.
"It will be a case of taking on board the lessons and continuing to build where we need to, consolidate where we need to, and ensure that we try and make sure that we keep ticking all the boxes and leave no stone unturned as we move through the next 360 days."
Skandia Team GBR squad for the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta:
Laser - Paul Goodison
Laser Radial - Charlotte Dobson
Finn - Ben Ainslie
RS:X Men - Nick Dempsey
RS:X Women - Bryony Shaw
470 Men - Nick Rogers & Chris Grube
470 Women - Hannah Mills & Saskia Clark
49er - Stevie Morrison & Ben Rhodes
Star - Iain Percy & Andrew Simpson
Women's Match Racing - Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush & Kate Macgregor