Home water advantage played down

The man charged with guiding Great Britain's crack sailing fleet at the London 2012 Olympics has played down the benefits of home water advantage.


Stephen Park, the RYA's sailing manager, knows much is expected after their six medals, including four gold, in Beijing four years ago.

And while team members have based themselves in Weymouth, venue for Olympic sailing events, for several years, Park is refusing to heap more expectations on their shoulders.

“Home advantage is different when it comes to sailing,” he said.

“Theoretically, you would think there is a pretty big advantage because you’ve got the opportunity to know the conditions, the waters, the winds, the tides and the currents.

“But the reality is that if you look out the window there are half a dozen nations down here, and they’ve been here for ages. They’re going to be here up to the Games, and they’re spending as much time in Weymouth as we are.

“It’s pretty much open season and beyond our control, and it is frustrating. All of the facilities that access Portland Harbour, almost exclusively, are private.

“If we wanted to restrict everybody here, we would have had to buy up the whole facility, and even then we would have probably been on shaky political ground. And if we wanted to stop them going elsewhere, we would have had to go to every club and every slipway and pay whoever owned them to make sure others couldn’t sail there.

“And politically, and as the top sailing nation, that would be pretty hard to be seen to be actively taking steps to prevent others sailing in the locality and the risk would be that we would become an even bigger target.

"The cycling test event for example in the velodrome saw the home crowd really raise the game of the British cyclists, we don’t have that same advantage."

Park has set a conservative target of four medals at the Olympics, where Ben Ainslie will seek to win a record fourth consecutive gold in the competitive Finn fleet.

And he claims it will be almost impossible to repeat the success of four years ago.

“If you asked all the sailors then they are all going to say that they will win a medal, so their target is ten Olympic and three Paralympic, but the RYA’s target as a whole is four and one,” he added.

“I think we’re normally pretty good at goal setting - we’re realistic - but any country that brings back four Olympic medals in sailing is going to be the top nation so it would be a good place to be.

“We have the capability to more than that if everyone performs to their best on the day which I should say I don’t think we will. The laws of statistics say we won’t, especially in a sport like ours with some many uncontrollable factors.

“But if it does go well, it could be the most successful Games ever by a margin, but four medals is a significant challenge, and even getting close to the six medals we won in Beijing is pretty much impossible.”

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