London 2012 - British boss expects fireworks at Worlds
Team GB manager Stephen Park expects a strong showing across the 10 Olympic classes when the ISAF Sailing World Championships kick off in Perth, Australia, this weekend.
Despite many of his Skandia Team GBR already qualified for the Olympic Games next year, Park is targeting four medals from the Worlds event, where 51 British sailors will race.
The event forms a major part of the Olympic qualifying process for all nations hoping to compete at the Games sailing events in Weymouth and Portland next year.
As hosts, Team GB pre-qualified a country spot in each of the 10 sailing classes, naming seven of those picks back in September.
Park is expecting a competitive fight across the board off the waters of Perth’s port city of Fremantle, with the glimmer of a World Championship crown still enticing for those without the incentive of a British Olympic qualifying berth.
"Our game has got to be focussed on Weymouth at the moment as we go into the final calendar year of the 2012 Games, and with many of our sailors having already gained Olympic selection prior to this event, clearly this event isn’t a key priority for them," Park explained.
"However, it is a World Championships and at every World Championship every sailor will be doing their best to try and medal so we’ll look forward to seeing some of our sailors on the podium hopefully at the end of the regatta.
"I think like many of the multi-class events, if we can come away with four or five medals then we should be very happy at this stage."
Skandia Team GBR has defending world champions in three of the 10 events: Ed Wright in the Finn, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson in the Star, and Women’s Match Racers Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor.
Perhaps the strongest British challenge will come in the Finn class which boasts five strong GB contenders, including world champion Wright, European champion Giles Scott alongside triple Olympic gold champion Ben Ainslie who’s in the running for an unprecedented sixth Finn Gold Cup title in Perth.
Park expects some exciting racing across the classes in Perth, and expects a tough international challenge, not least from the host nation who remain Britain’s closest rivals in Olympic classes sailing.
"The Australians have clearly spent a lot of time here in Perth getting to know the conditions and they are known for being strong wind specialists, but at the end of the day there are going to be a lot of players from a lot of different countries who are going to be competing at the top end of the fleet.
"We can’t just concentrate on the one country, we’ve got to do what we can do, concentrate on our own game, make sure that we take each race as it comes and if we can do that we should be there or thereabouts at the end of the regatta."
For the three classes where British Olympic berths have still to be decided - the 470 Men, Laser Radial and 49er - these Worlds will provide a dual challenge.
"I think we can expect some really tough domestic competition in there," explained Park.
“I’m sure that each one of the teams representing Skandia Team GBR will be desperate to come out, not only as top British boat but also in the medals at this event to really put down a strong marker for selection running into the spring regattas - should of course they be part of the selection process.”
The women’s match racing event kicks the Worlds regatta off on Saturday 3 December, with the Finn, RS:X Women, Laser Radial and 470 Men’s events the next to get underway on Monday 5 December.