Its been seven years and 11 days in the making, but on Friday July 27, 2012, the London 2012 Olympic Games will begin. For the last couple of months anticipation has been building as the Olympic flame has been making a spectacular journey around the country, due to reach the Olympic Stadium in time for what promises to be an amazing Opening Ceremony (see Olympic fever mounts as 2012 Olympic Torch Relay progresses).

Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills

Hannah Mills (right) and Saskia Clark (left) among the bright hopes for the home team in the 2012 Olympic Games - photo Richard Langdon/Skandia Team GBR



 

Team GB will undoubtedly be hoping to dominate the medal tables in many sports cheered on by the home crowd. Sailing is no exception and expectation for a spectacular medal haul is high. In fact, we’d go as far as saying that Britain is fielding its strongest sailing team ever, with realistic medal hopes in all 10 classes. The team is an ideal blend of experienced hands and new kids on the block, managed by Stephen ‘Sparky’ Park – the man behind the amazingly successful team in 2008 that won an amazing six medals. So dusting off our crystal ball…what do we predict for our sailing team?

 

We say ‘gold’ for…


Ben Ainslie in the Finn class
Leading the charge is none other than Ben Ainslie, who has to be favourite for a gold medal in the Finn class. Ben is undoubtedly the sport’s highest profile sailor, and his campaign has already been full of drama and colour, with a disqualification from the worlds at the end of 2011, and then a serious operation for a back injury, followed by a dramatic return to take the world title in dominant form in Falmouth in May (see Ben Ainslie wins record sixth world Finn title). There’s a fun campaign to support him on Twitter and Facebook as well #bendandrita – so named as Ben’s boat is called Rita! Watch out for the special edition #benandrita port and starboard socks and pin badges (see Show your support for Ben Ainslie).

In qualifying for the Games, Ben’s hottest competition came from within the British sailing squad, so we’re all super excited in the hope of seeing him on top of the podium in August! It would be Ben’s fifth consecutive Olympic medal, and his fourth gold, making him the best Olympic sailor the world has ever seen!

Hannah Mills & Saskia Clark in the 470 Women's class
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clarke in the Women’s 470 class’ recent World Championships (see First British 470 worlds win for Mills and Clark) and they also finished third at Sail for Gold. There’s no shortage of support for the fabulous duo, who really will be having more fun in Weymouth, especially if they hit the podium! The pair only teamed up in early 2011, but they have proved the perfect partnership – with the young enthusiasm and raw talent of Hannah Mills combined with the knowledge and experience of Saskia Clark who competed in the class in Beijing.

Iain Percy & Andrew Simpson in the Star class
Iain Percy and Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson are up for their second Games together; they got gold in Beijing, while it will be Iain’s fourth Games – he also won gold in the Finn class in 2000. However, they will have to sail their socks off to take top spot against Brazillians Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada. We have every faith in this determined pair.

 

Stuart Bithell and Luke Patience

'New kids on the block' Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell - photo Richard Langdon/Skandia Team GBR


We say ‘silver’ for…


Pauls Goodison in the Laser class
Paul Goodison won gold in Beijing, and in the year after the last Games he dominated the class, so much so that he opted to take some time off sailing other boats to ensure he stayed fresh and could work on peaking for the 2012 Games. When the winds are lighter he has half a hand on a gold medal, but in stronger breezes he has a tough task to beat world number one Aussie sailor.

Nick Dempsey in the RS:X Men's class
Nick Dempsey was gutted to miss out on a medal in Beijing, finishing a painful fourth – he’d hoped to better his bronze medal of 2004. Husband to gold-medal winning sailor Sarah Ayton, he will be keen to add his own gold to the family’s medal cabinet.

Luke Patience & Stuart Bithell in the 470 Men's class
Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell were only selected in January after a long drawn out battle with the medal-winning helmsman from the 2008 Games, Nick Rogers. However, with Rogers' previous crew retiring after Beijing, it was the youngsters who won through (see Olympic selection: British 470 sailors confirmed). They were fourth at Sail for Gold in June, but were beaten by their team mates who won't be at the Games, so they are definitely on track for a medal.

Kate & Lucy Macgregor & Annie Lush in the Elliot 6m class
Sisters Kate and Lucy Macgregor, sailing with Annie Lush, have proved themselves a force to be reckoned with on the International Match Racing circuit and will be one of the contenders in the women's match racing keelboat. They have some tough competition, including the American team, but we are certain they will medal at the Games… the question is the colour? Of course with match racing, there’s always the possibility of one of the favourites going out early… they could scoop gold, but they could miss out completely… we’re plonking for silver, which they are certainly capable of!

 

We say ‘Bronze’ for:


Alison Young in the Laser Radial class
Alison Young was only selected to represent Team GB in the Laser Radial in May. This will be her first Olympics, but it would appear that she’s hit peak form at the perfect time. After steadily improving her results over the last 18 months to finish fourth at the worlds earlier in the year, she grabbed the gold medal at the Sail for Gold Regatta in June (see Sail for Gold Regatta: British sailors on track for best ever Olympics)! While her strength is undoubtedly strong winds, that regatta was held in a range of conditions, which bodes well for the Games themselves.

Bryony Shaw in the RS:X Women's class
Bryony Shaw won a bronze medal four years ago and will be hunting something better in Weymouth, which we'd love to see. She could do it but she has some pretty tough opposition to overcome… we think a second bronze is most likely, but we'd love to be proved wrong!

Stevie Morrison & Ben Rhodes in the 49er class
Injury delayed selection in this class, coupled with a strong line-up. In the end it was the Beijing Olympic representatives Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes who overcame injury to win selection. Statistically athletes who have previously been to an Olympic Games are more likely to medal, so their experience in China will have counted in their favour.

Over optimistic?
If we were completely correct then Britain would net an amazing 10 medals out of 10 on offer... while that's entirely possible given the calibre of the team, we think in reality that's unlikely, as some of them, although they obviously have the potential, will be tripped up on the day. So we're going to take a stab at the team getting eight medals in total with three golds... the bets are on!

The Olympic regatta
The Olympic regatta runs from July 28-August 11 in Weymouth and Portland. As well as the ticketed spectator area, there are large screens planned to enable visitors to view the action on the beach and at the special Bayside festival (see Weymouth Bayside Festival), which takes place over the duration of the Games. All in all, it’s going to be an amazing event!

Written by: Gael Pawson
Gael Pawson is the editor of Yachts & Yachting Magazine and the founder of Creating Waves. A keen racer, she has sailed all her life, and started writing about the subject whilst studying journalism at university. Dinghies and small keelboats are her first loves, but she has cruised and raced a huge variety of boats in locations across the world.
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