Emsworth sailor in confident mood as he steers a course to third Olympic gold

Britain’s defending Olympic champion Star class sailors, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, admit they are desperate to repeat the high of winning Olympic gold together again as they prepare to get their London 2012 campaign underway on Sunday (29 July).

Emsworth-based Percy and Chertsey’s Simpson, who are lifelong pals, captured the imagination when they claimed their hugely-emotional Star gold courtesy of a nail-biting medal race showdown in China four year ago.

For Percy, who had won Olympic gold in the Finn class at Sydney 2000, the victory banished the disappointment of a sixth-place Star class finish at Athens 2004, while for Simpson, the gold, won on his Olympic debut, got him the recognition his enormous talent deserved having played the role of ‘bridesmaid’ to Percy and Ben Ainslie in Olympic sailing selection.

Now the duo admit the emotion of crossing the line as Olympic champions has been the driving force behind their London 2012 campaign.

Percy said: “What’s great about winning with someone else is you’re able to enjoy it for them too. It’s a little different when you’re on own because you’ve no-one to share it with. And to share it with Bart who’s my best mate of years and years was really, really special.

“We’ve been through so much, he had given up so much of his time to help me for Sydney 2000 in the Finn, and to have gone through all that journey and 12 years later to have won it together was incredible. It’s a real motivator; it’s made us want that again.”

Simpson, who lives in Sherborne, Dorset, adds: “Is going for the second gold the same? For sure. Winning in 2008 was fantastic. It had been a long time trying to go to an Olympics and we didn’t want to just make the numbers up.

“There is no way I wanted to go and not get a gold medal so it was fantastic to win. We took two years off after Beijing to try to do other sailing and earn some money, rather than spending it, and now we want it more than anything again.”

The duo undoubtedly go into London 2012 as one of the favourites to land the crown and claimed silver behind the Brazilian pair Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada at the 2012 Worlds.

But with the Star class considered the Games’ Blue Riband sailing event, with the crew lists reading like a who’s who of past Olympic and World champions, the Brits know that they are once again going to have to be at the top of their game to land the top prize.

Percy continued: “The Star tends to be the boat you go to having won in another class. Sailing’s a sport that rewards experience and I think that’s shown more than anywhere else in the Star. Because these people have come from a previous success in an Olympic class, they tend to be a little older, a little more experienced.

“It means no-one in the Star is going to roll over. Everyone’s going to handle pressure, no-one’s going to make silly mistakes and flip out. To win you need to earn it and beat the others by being better. That’s the only way you’re going to get on the podium ahead of them.”

Simpson added: “The Star is the biggest of the Olympic boats. The boat weighs 700 kilos all up, and with the crew weight its 900 kilos. It’s a notoriously hard boat to sail and the people that sail the Star are the biggest guys in the Olympics in sailing. The Brazilians are probably one of our biggest rivals. They’ve been winning a lot over the last two years but every day we’re getting closer to being where we need to be.”

The Olympic Sailing Regatta runs from this Sunday (July 29) to Saturday, August 11. The Star medal race is scheduled for Sunday, August 5 (1pm).

Follow the Star boys – and the rest of the British sailing team – at London 2012 at www.rya.org.uk/london2012