Rio 2016 hopefuls visit Itchenor to talk about Olympic sailing dream

Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth on the 49er FX in Miami  Picture by Richard Langdon
Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth on the 49er FX in Miami Picture by Richard Langdon

A WOULD-BE RIO 2016 Olympic medal winner from Itchenor will talk about her career on the water at the village’s sailing club tomorrow (Friday).

Sophie Ainsworth will be at Itchenor SC with her sailing partner Charlotte Dobson as part of the club’s winter calendar of events.

The visit comes in between racing in the Miami World Cup and the Spanish World Cup, which they will take part in next month.

The GBR FX girls teamed up last June to race the 49erFX, the new Olympic women’s double-handed skiff class. Both have previously sailed in other Olympic classes up to 2012.

A long-standing member of Itchenor SC, Ainsworth learned to sail at Itchenor in an Optimist and was soon on the international circuit. Her youth sailing was spent helming a 420, and in her last year crewing a 29er, she was 2007 youth and ladies’ world champion.

She won a silver medal at the youth world championships in the 29er before being selected for the 470 Olympic development squad.

“The highlight of my 470 crewing career was winning the European Championships in 2012,” said Ainsworth. “I was the training partner for London 2012 470W silver medallists Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark before I decided to switch to the 49erFX.”

Dobson was also a junior Optimist sailor and moved into the Laser Radial for youth sailing, in which she won bronze at the ISAF youth worlds, two silvers at the class worlds and was youth European champion twice. She continued on the single-handed pathway, campaigning towards the Olympics in 2008 and 2012 winning medals at the Europeans, World Cups and making the top three in the world rankings twice.

The 49erFX is capable of speeds of more than 20 knots. Mackay Boats developed the new FX rig for the 49er, and the boat was selected at an ISAF conference and will be used for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Dobson said: “When the 49erFX category was launched in in May last year it was an incredibly alluring opportunity to change into the high octane skiff world. Teaming up with Sophie after a year of a rotational squad was the final step of the transition and marked the beginning of our new challenge.”

Preparations for 2016 have already begun and the team are fighting against the clock to get to grips with the new class.

“It will require a lot of time on the water as the boat is very physically demanding and requires you to be powerful as well as agile,” said Ainsworth. “Rio is also a very specific venue with a lot of tide.”

The pair have already had experience - they visited Rio in December to train with the Brazilian 49erFX teams and won the intergalatic championships.

They will be speaking at Itchenor about their 2016 Olympic campaign and their efforts to get there - as well as the fundraising and sponsorship opportunities available to anyone who wants to support their campaign.

To book a place for the talk, call the club on 01243 512400. Booking is essential, and you will need to become a winter member of ISC, which is free, and you can attend other events like these throughout the year. See www.itchenorsc.co.uk