Sophie Ainsworth clinched victory at the Sailing World Cup in Weymouth to make it the perfect warm-up for the Rio Olympics.
The Itchenor Sailing Club star she believes a tricky week of racing off the Dorset coast will stand her in great stead for the upcoming Games.
Following a week of light winds causing a heavily reduced race schedule, Sunday finally saw stiffer breezes at the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy – and Ainsworth took full advantage in the 49erFX class.
She and partner Charlotte Dobson finished fourth in the medal race, worth double points, to seal overall victory – finishing one point clear of New Zealand duo Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech in second.
The World Cup was the final major competition before Rio 2016, now less than two months away, and Ainsworth says she couldn’t have asked for a better warm-up.
The duo achieved an impressive fifth place in the women’s 49erFX at the World Championships in Argentina last year and were subsequently selected to represent GB in Rio.
“In Rio we’re expecting the wind to be quite light and the schedule to be quite demanding in terms of fitting it in with lots of waiting around,” she explained. “We certainly got a lot of that last week at Weymouth!
“Having a lot of races cancelled changes the importance of the days that you do race – you can’t have any bad races and you need to be consistent.
“So the highlight of the week for us is that we managed to stay very consistent throughout and manage our risk well to make sure we were in a position to be fighting whenever the medal race was.”
The Dorset event began with a lack of wind leaving all racing cancelled last Wednesday. But with a healthier breeze 24 hours later, Ainsworth and Dobson sailed impressively to finish first, fourth, ninth and second in the day’s four races – leaving them narrowly behind Swedish pairs Lisa Ericson and Hanna Klinga and Julia Gross and Cecilia Jonsson in the overall rankings.
Friday’s racing was also cancelled but Ainsworth and Dobson more than made up for that disappointment 24 hours later. They recorded two victories and a sixth-place finish in the three races to surge to the top of the overall standings, two points ahead of Gross and Jonsson, to set up the final day’s success.
Ainsworth and Dobson will be making their Olympic debuts in Rio and their performances suggest they will be right in the medal hunt.
The World Cup victory in Weymouth laid down a marker to their rivals but the 26-year-old, who recently held an event at Itchenor to talk to members about her career and her Olympics hopes, insists the pair won’t be dwelling on their success for long.
“We’ve got a couple of days to have a bit of a relax and regenerate our nerves but then we’re straight out to Rio,” she added.
“Then we’re backwards and forwards for the next month or so putting the final preps in before the big event.”
Ainsworth believes linking up with coach Mark Asquith in late 2015 has helped her and Dobson immeasurably and insists the pair could not be in a better place.
They got the Rio nod in March, which gave them five months of preparation time – and Ainsworth has enjoyed the challenge of getting ready for the 49erFX event, which makes its Olympic debut this summer.
“Because it has never been in the Olympics before, there isn’t a set pathway meaning you had people coming from laser radials, from 470s,” explained the 26-year-old.
“The 49erFX is such a team dynamic boat and you’re so dependent on who you sail with and what your strengths or weaknesses are, so it’s incredibly exciting. And I’ve definitely got the perfect partner in Charlotte.”
* The Sailing World Cup was held at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy from June 6 to 12. The National Lottery-funded British sailing team are supported by official partners Volvo Car UK, Zhik and Peters & May. Follow the team’s latest news and updates at britishsailingteam.com or on Twitter – @BritishSailing
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