Ben Ainslie wins Sail for Gold World Cup gold medal

By Rob Hodgetts BBC Sport at Weymouth

Ben Ainslie led a haul of seven British medals on the final day of the Sail for Gold regatta in Weymouth.

The triple Olympic champion clinched gold in the Finn class ahead of team-mate Giles Scott, while windsurfer Nick Dempsey won the RS:X event.

Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark took silver in the 470 with Lucy Macgregor's match-racing crew also winning silver.

Laser sailor Paul Goodison and 49er duo Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes all claimed bronze medals.

But Olympic and world champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson could only finish fifth in the Star class.

The sixth event on the World Cup circuit doubled as a selection event for the British team for the pre-Olympics test regatta back at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy in August.

The top British crews in each class were later selected for the test-event team, which is a significant step towards selection for the final squad for London 2012.

Ainslie, 33, went into his final race with a 16-point lead over Scott, 23, and he sailed his young rival to the back of the fleet in sunny, breezy conditions to secure the gold.

"They are always quite tense those matches races," said Ainslie, Britain's most decorated Olympic sailor. "It was action-packed and good fun. Giles sailed well and put up a good fight."

The two-time Olympic Finn champion added: "It's been one of the hardest weeks I've ever had, with strong winds and tough physically. But that's part of sailing here in Weymouth, you have to deal with it."

Scott, who finished ninth to Ainslie's 10th in the finale, held off Croatian Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic by one point with British world champion Ed Wright climbing to fourth after winning the medal race.

"I'm pretty disappointed with silver but to be top British boat you pretty much have to be the best in the world," said Scott.

The 30-year-old Dempsey, the Athens bronze medallist, started the day one point off leader JP Tobin of New Zealand and came second in the medal race to pip the Kiwi by one point.

Dempsey, who is married to two-time Olympic champion Sarah Ayton, is aiming for his fourth Games after finishing fourth in Beijing four years ago and 16th in Sydney in 2000.

"It's massively important to win here," said Weymouth resident Dempsey, who won the world championships at the Olympic venue in 2009.

"I feel comfortable here and confident and hopefully, in the next 12 months I can move forward again. Winning Olympic gold is a lifelong dream and a lifelong ambition and I'll put everything into to make sure I do. "

Macgregor, along with sister Kate and crew-mate Annie Lush, went down 3-0 to American Anna Tunnicliffe in the final of the women's match-racing class, while in the women's 470, Mills and Clark came third in the medal race to improve their final position by one spot.

Olympic champion Goodison was third going into the final race, just one point behind Kiwi Andrew Murdoch, but suffered a poor start after thinking he had forced a penalty on leader Tom Slingsby of Australia.

The jury were unconvinced and Goodison lost crucial time which he could not make up, finishing ninth. World champion Slingsby underlined his favourite tag for next year's Olympics with a convincing win by 16 points from Murdoch with Goodison a further seven adrift.

"To finish top Brit and in the medals was what this week was all about," said Goodison after holding off the challenge of fifth-placed team-mate Nick Thompson.

"Big picture-wise I'm pretty frustrated with today, I thought I'd put a penalty on Tom with eight seconds to go. I'm very frustrated with the way the jury reacted to it.

"I missed the start by about a second and then the wind went left and I got forced out right and that was it, all over."

Morrison and Rhodes went into the finale in third place, with four other British boats breathing down their necks in one of the most fiercely contest classes in the GB team.

John Pink and Rick Peacock were just two points behind but they crossed the start line early and had to do a penalty turn and could only finish seventh to slip to fifth overall.

Morrison and Rhodes, who were bitterly disappointed with ninth in the Beijing Games, sailed solidly to score a third place to hang onto their medal behind runaway winners Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen of Australia and Stephane Christidis and Peter Hansen of France.

"It was very tense going into today but we're proud of how we hung on," said Morrison, who revealed a chat with Ainslie after a disqualification in the first race had spurred the pair on.

"He just said, 'you're still a good sailor, you can't let it affect you. You've just got to keep going out and doing your own thing', which is him through and through. We took it be a real positive challenge. He managed to win an Olympic gold medal after being disqualified on the first day [in Athens in 2004].

"That's the kind of character you've got to have. We've kept fighting, it's not been easy but here we are, we've got a bronze medal.

"In terms of how we held ourselves together mentally this week it's probably been our best performance. Not our best sailing performance but our best event-management performance."

Britons Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith ended sixth with team-mates Chris Draper, the Athens Olympics bronze medallist, and Peter Greenhalgh seventh and Dave Evans and Ed Powys eighth.

Percy, who also won gold in the Finn at the Sydney Games, and crewman Simpson won the Majorca leg of the World Cup earlier this season, but despite finishing second in the medal race could make no inroads on their overall fifth position.

In the men's 470, Nick Rogers and Chris Grube were the top British boat after climbing one place to fourth with a second place in the medal race. Rogers, a two-time Olympic silver medallist with Joe Glanfield, retired in 2010 and took up coaching, but he has since returned to stake a claim for a place at Weymouth 2012.

British rivals Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell were third in the medal race to move up two spots to sixth.

Britain's Olympic windsurfing bronze medallist Bryony Shaw won her medal race but was unable to claw back any places overall and finished eighth. Laser Radial sailor Charlotte Dobson improved to fourth overall, while team-mate Alison Young was seventh.

British sailing team for Olympic test event in Weymouth from 1-13 August:

Finn: Ben Ainslie

Laser: Paul Goodison

Star: Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson

49er: Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes

470 men: Nick Rogers and Chris Grube

470 women: Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark

RS:X men: Nick Dempsey

RS:X women: Bryony Shaw

Women's match-racing: Lucy MacGregor, Annie Lush, Kate MacGregor

Laser Radial: Charlotte Dobson

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