Ainslie enters calm before Olympic storm

Ainslie enters calm before Olympic storm
By Eurosport

28/06/2012 at 22:09Updated 02/07/2012 at 17:49

As pressure and expectation reaches almost unmanageable levels ahead of London 2012, Team GB medal hopeful Ben Ainslie can't wait for a rare opportunity to relax before the Olympics begin.

Ainslie will make his final public appearance ahead of the Games this weekend as he competes in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race aboard the 49.5m charter yacht ELEONORA.

Ainslie has endured a hectic last few months with sponsor's public appearances, final preparations in Weymouth, plus competing at the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta all contributing to a busy schedule.

But as Ainslie prepares to join the 1,800 boats and 16,000 sailors from all over the UK in this weekend's race, the three-time Olympic gold medallist is relishing a rare break away from the rigours of everyday training in Weymouth - the venue for this summer's Olympic sailing regatta.

"This year's J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race will be my final public appearance before London 2012 so it is an extra special one this year," said Ainslie, who will be joined on board by former England rugby skipper Nick Easter.

"It will also be nice to get away from Weymouth and Portland and do something a bit different than the rigours of training but it is also a great race and I get a chance to race on ELEONORA, which is this big plastic schooner so it will be a good distraction from the Games.

"So it will be great to get out there and sail something a bit different and just really enjoy it before we get back to the rigours of London 2012.

"This year I will be joined by Nick Easter and last year it was Will Greenwood and it is always nice to get the rugby boys involved.

"You would think, looking at them, that they would look after me but I am actually looking after them and it is a lot of fun with always a good bit of banter.

"The great thing about the race is that it brings all sorts of sailors together, from beginners to more experienced guys, and also all walks of life."

Despite relishing his relaxing jaunt in Cowes, Ainslie admits the London 2012 Olympic Games are never far from his mind as the countdown to the opening ceremony ducks under one month.

Ainslie is one of the most recognisable figures in the Team GB squad and he admits he has been blown away by the support he has received in recent months from the British public.

"I am pleased with my form and everything and this year it is extra special with it being a home Games, it really has been different," added Ainslie.

"The support I have received has been fantastic and seeing people donning the red and green socks and getting behind my bid has been surreal.

"It is still a bit strange to me but I am not going to complain and having everyone cheering me on could make a huge difference - it has been unbelievable.

"I really enjoy the Round the Island Race and I can't wait to relax a little for a change but obviously this year it is quickly followed the Olympics which has been taking most of my attention."

Andrew Simpson, meanwhile, might have seen the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta title slip through his fingers at the death this month but he isn't about to panic, insisting he is well on track for London 2012 glory.

The 35-year-old headed to the Olympic venue of Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy alongside Star partner Iain Percy looking to deal an early blow to their rivals with Sail for Gold the last regatta before the Games.

And it looked like they would do just that as they lead the fleet by one point heading into the all-important medal race.

However, a collision with Brazilian world champions Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada meant they finished the event with bronze, allowing Ireland's Peter O'Leary and David Burrows to take the gold.

But, despite slipping down the leaderboard on the final day, Simpson believes he and Percy are that much closer to retaining their Olympic crown after testing the Weymouth waters.

"Despite missing out on the gold medal nothing happened to knock the belief that we can win gold at the Olympics," he said.

"On the contrary, things are coming together. We had good speed, which has been our issue for while, so that's what matters, we'll keep working on it.

"You always enter a competition to try to win so of course we did try and win. But the notebook was out every night and we were trying to make improvements and it's all irrelevant, it's what happens in a month.

"So learning was a big part of the regatta but I won't say we didn't go out there trying to win, and we didn't, so we are obviously disappointed but it's fine, there's something somewhat more important this year to start worrying about now."

With O'Leary and Burrows winning the gold, they head into London 2012 full of confidence that they can pull it out of the bag at the Olympic venue.

But with Scheidt and Prada, who finished Sail for Gold second, having claimed victory in Weymouth at the Olympic test event last year, Simpson is readying himself for a battle later this summer.

"The Irish did a great job, they were going fast, going the right way and they got it right," he added. "In the fleet, any one of the top ten can probably win a race or win an event at times, if they get it right, so that's the nature of it.

"We know what to expect and we will be ready for whoever brings it this summer."