Itchenor pair ready for Olympic bow in Rio

Ben Saxton and Nicola are competing in the Nacra 17 race series
Ben Saxton and Nicola are competing in the Nacra 17 race series
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Itchenor Sailing Club member Ben Saxton says he is relishing his Olympic debut in Rio.

Saxton and Nicola Groves, who will be competing in the new Nacra 17 catamaran class at the Games, got a quest for gold under way today.

Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves are hoping they can achieve something special in the Nacra 17 class

Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves are hoping they can achieve something special in the Nacra 17 class

Saxton, from Ashwell, and London-raised Groves first teamed up back in 2014 with the pair getting stronger.

The newly-formed partnership quickly paid dividends as they were crowned European champions a year ago.

For the first time at any Olympics, the Nacra 17 class has been introduced meaning a male and female mandatory team will compete for glory.

With Saxton seeing his partner as ‘very relaxed in her own haphazard way’, while Groves described her teammate as ‘real fire’.

Despite being so different, 27-year-old Groves is hopeful she and her partner can make history and become the first British Nacra 17 Olympic medallists.

She said: “The Nacra 17 is definitely the fastest, most furious boat in the Olympics. It’s very, very physical, and you have to be able to move at the same time as pulling a large amount of weight, so it’s quite challenging.

“If you do the wrong thing you know about it, the boat will just kick you off. There’s no let up in it at all.

“Ben and I are quite different but I think that really helps.

“Ben’s real fire, real passion and, not that I don’t have fire or passion, but we express it differently.

“If you had two people that were exactly the same it wouldn’t work in the boat together, you would have too much of one thing and not enough of the other, so we work really well.”

Saxton arrives at his maiden Olympic competition having excelled in RYA Junior and Youth ranking events.

His partner Groves took some what of a different path to the top, after graduating from Exeter University back in 2010, she then worked for a London advertising agency before turning a sailing professional in 2012.

Four-time Nacra world champions, Billy Besson and Marie Riou, head in as favourites but Saxton believes anything is possible.

He said: “It’s special because we’ve got all the team history over all the years, so as members of the team want to keep that going for the team as well as ourselves.”

The Nacra class is scheduled to be a 13 race series, it all got underway yesterday, with medlas to be handed out following the final round on Tuesday.

To follow the British pairs fortunes in Rio visit www.rya.org.uk/Rio2016 or follow the team @BritishSailing on Twitter.

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