With 150 days to go until the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the British Olympic Sailing line-up looks almost complete with the addition of five more sailors to the team.
The British Olympic Association (BOA) announced today that five additional sailors from three classes have been selected to compete for Team GB this summer. Nick Dempsey, Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth, plus Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves will join the team. However, sadly the BOA, in conjunction with the Royal Yachting Association, has made the difficult decision to deselect the 470 Men’s pairing of Luke Patience and Elliot Willis (previously selected back in September 2015) due to Elliot’s ongoing treatment for bowel cancer. Selection trials in the 470 Men’s event will therefore continue, with the trials in the 49er class also ongoing.
Nick Dempsey (RSX: Men)
Nick Dempsey is the second-oldest member of the team at the age of 35. He is set to become a five-time Olympian in Rio after winning silver in the London 2012 Games and bronze in Athens in 2004. If the double World Champion wins gold in Rio, he will become the most successful men’s Olympic windsurfer in history.
He said: “It’s pretty special. I have been doing this for a long time and I just feel incredibly proud and very lucky to represent my country again at my fifth Olympic Games. I never thought I would make it this far and so am very honoured. I do this because I want to win an Olympic gold medal for myself and I want to achieve what I know I can achieve and that is to win so I’m going to give it a go, stick at it and hopefully do what I know I can do.”
Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth (49erFX)
Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth, who finished fifth at the 2015 49erFX World Championships, will make their Olympic debuts in the 49erFX – a new event for Rio.
Glasgow-born Charlotte Dobson, 29, had previously campaigned in the singlehanded Laser Radial class. She said: “It’s absolutely incredible, it has been a long time coming. I have done two cycles as the bridesmaid in a boat on my own, and this time it’s so amazing to be the bride eventually. It’s just really cool to have done it with Soph in a team, it almost makes it feel a little bit more special being able to share it with somebody."
She added: "You see how once people are selected they slightly change almost and I think when I woke up this morning it didn’t feel so much of a personal challenge any more. It’s a personal ambition to win a gold medal but it is more of an honour, a lot of people are behind you in the British Team and it’s for Queen and country. It feels like a lot of responsibility, for all the people that haven’t been selected and people have got selected in the past, to make them proud.”
Sophie Ainsworth, 26, born in Ashford, Kent, said: “I was absolutely ecstatic when we got the phone call to say we were going to the Olympic Games. There is a lot of work to do between now and the Games, we have a lot of goals that we need to work on so that we are really confident going into the Games. The Olympics only happen once every four years so it’s really special to us and we just want to go in as confident as we can so we can perform on that day.”
Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves (Nacra 17)
Nacra 17 2015 European Champions Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves will represent Great Britain in the Nacra 17 mixed multihull event, which also sees its first Olympic Games outing this year (read more about all the classes and the Olympic Games history in our special guide).
Cambridge-born Ben Saxton, 25, said: “I’m pretty excited to do two things towards the Games, one is get a medal for Nicola and I, and the other is to support the rest of the sailing team as much as possible. A lot of our foreign competitors are envious of what we have got but I think we’ve a good mix, with the likes of Nick Dempsey and all of his Olympics experience, as well as some youth and enthusiasm. We bring our own skills so I think as a team we will be able to do something quite special in Rio.”
Nicola Groves, 26, born in Surbiton, said: “I was unbelievably excited to get the call saying we’d been selected. We were in Alexandra Palace at the time and I was jumping around the atrium so unbelievably excited, over the moon. I’m now slightly daunted at what we have got to do, but I am looking forward to the challenge. The team is so strong, there are some amazing people in it and some absolutely lovely characters. I’m really looking forward to them helping me, drawing on their support and encouragement throughout the Games and hopefully I can keep cheering and supporting them in their Games preparations as we go on as well.”
Team GB’s sailing squad for Rio 2016:
Giles Scott: Finn
Nick Thompson: Laser
Alison Young: Laser Radial
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark: 470 Women
Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth: 49erFX
Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves: Nacra 17
Bryony Shaw: RS:X Women
Nick Dempsey: RS:X Men
TBC: 49er, 470 Men
Hopes are high that Team GB can deliver a number of sailing medals, even improve on its performance in 2012. While we are still a long way away from the 2016 Olympic regatta, Giles Scott looks like a very strong hope for Gold as he remains unbeaten since early 2013. Other team members have shown strong form, including Bryony Shaw, who recently won a silver medal at the the RS:X Women's world championships. Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark will be looking to better their silver medal from 2012, while Nick Thompson, who so narrowly missed out on selection in 2012, has always been a strong talent and must be hungrier than ever for an Olympic medal.
British sailors have established a proud tradition of excellence in Olympic competition, having won 55 medals – including 26 golds – since sailing made its debut at Paris 1900 with Team GB topping the overall Olympic sailing medal table.
Today’s selection takes Team GB total athlete delegation to 21 from three sports; sailing (11 athletes), shooting (six) and canoe slalom (four). Team GB Chef de Mission Mark England said: “It’s great to welcome five new athletes to Team GB and see our number of selected sailors grow further. Rio 2016 will be a special occasion for each of these sailors, with four experiencing an Olympic Games for the very first time while Nick Dempsey will be joining a select group of athletes who have achieved the accolade of competing for Team GB at five consecutive Olympic Games. While it’s a great day for them, it’s hugely disappointing for both Luke and Elliot, and everyone at the BOA wishes Elliot the very best in his recovery.”
Stephen 'Sparky' Park OBE, RYA Olympic Manager and Team GB Sailing Team Leader said: “It’s fantastic to be naming some new first time Olympians to be joining the team already selected, and fantastic that Nick Dempsey will have the opportunity to try and complete his medal set at his fifth Olympic Games."
Sparky added: “The circumstances surrounding the deselection of Luke and Elliot are obviously disappointing for everyone. However, as a team we knew we would be set a number of challenges in this journey to Rio 2016 and this is just one we have to deal with along the road. Hopefully this doesn’t mark the end of Elliot’s Olympic journey and we look forward to seeing him back in the boat soon.”