Chichester sailors can take pride in Rio 2016 efforts

Ben Saxton and Nic Groves / Picture by Jesus Renedo - Sailing Energy
Ben Saxton and Nic Groves / Picture by Jesus Renedo - Sailing Energy

Itchenor sailors Sophie Ainsworth and Ben Saxton missed out on medal glory in Rio – but declared themselves proud to be Olympians and hungry for more.

Ainsworth was partnered by Charlotte Dobson in the 49erFX class while Saxton had Nicola Groves for company in the Nacra 17’s first-ever Olympic regatta.

Neither pair could force themselves into contention for a podium spot ahead of their respective medal races but both were far from disgraced by their efforts and are eyeing further chances to shine on the international circuit, perhaps even at the next Olympics in 2020.

Ainsworth and Dobson aim to end their Rio run on a high in today’s 49erFX medal race after seeing their podium hopes ended.

They went into Tuesday’s races sixth overall knowing a good day on Guanabara Bay could leave them with a medal chance in the decider.

But scores of 15, 14 and eight from their races left them with too big a gap to close with just the one race remaining.

We started off the event really well and then didn’t manage to close it out. But we’ve done ourselves proud, plus we’ve had fun. The Olympics are awesome.

Ben Saxton

With Ainsworth still aged only 27 and Dobson 30, a run for Tokyo 2020 could be on the cards.

Dobson said of Tuesday’s racing: “It was a really disappointing day. We had a case of the slows for the first race and then really struggled to get back into it.

“Then I had some problems on the start in the second. In the third we managed to put it together a little bit better, but all in all a fairly disappointing day and not what we needed.

“We felt pretty comfortable on this Aeropuerto racecourse and were feeling in our stride. But we didn’t manage to get going and on such a one-way track it was just really punishing.”

“I’d love to campaign for 2020. It’s been amazingly fun and while we’re disappointed right now, it’s been a magical month and I’d love to be able to do it again.”

The 49erFX gold looks like going to sailors from Spain, Brazil or Denmark.

Ainsworth’s fellow Itchenor member Saxton – sailing with Groves in the Nacra 17 class – also put up an effort that was commendable but not enough for them to add to Team GB’s best-ever medal haul at an ‘away’ Olympic Games.

They reflected on an ‘awesome Olympic experience’ after finishing in ninth spot.

The pair went into Tuesday’s double-points medal race knowing a podium finish was a long shot and so it proved as they crossed the line ninth in the race to confirm the same position in overall standings.

It was the first Games at which the Nacra 17s have competed and now the duo want more.

Saxton said: “You need to be able to nail every single day – we said that coming in to the event, and we tried it.

“Nic and I went out with the approach to try to attack the Games. We started off the event really well and then didn’t manage to close it out. But we’ve done ourselves proud, plus we’ve had fun. The Olympics are awesome.”

Groves added: “We had a bit of a rocky road on the last couple of days and unfortunately that put us out of the medal positions. But it’s our first Olympics and there have been a lot of learning experiences so we’ll see what we can do from here.

“The whole Olympic experience is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before, so I think you can take so much out of that and on to whatever you decide to do next.”

The Nacra 17 was won by the Argentinian pair, the two-time Tornado class Olympic medallist Santiago Lange with Cecilia Carranza Saroli.

STEVE BONE

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