What did we learn from Skandia Sail for Gold?

Some stand-out performances in Weymouth this week from the Australians, notably Tom Slingsby in the Laser and Nathan Outteridge/Iain Jensen in the 49er.

These Aussies have gone undefeated in Weymouth for the past three years. Current form marks them as hot favourites for gold in the Olympics just over a year from now, although both went into the last Games as favourites and neither took a medal home from China. Such is the way pressure works in the unique atmosphere of the Games, but they will go into Weymouth 2012 much wiser and four years older.

Ben Ainslie won ahead of Giles Scott, who has to be recognised as the world’s second-best Finn sailor but who has a mountain to climb to get past Ainslie for Olympic selection.

The sailors have had some big hoops to jump through this week, fighting for the opportunity to win the one available slot at the Olympic Test Event back in Weymouth this August.

Biggest surprise performance is Nick Rogers and Chris Grube coming in 4th overall in the 470. Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell have been much more consistent performers over the past two years, but the double Olympic silver medallist and his new crew have really stepped up a gear when it mattered the most. An interesting selection dilemma here.

Kiwi girls Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie wiped the floor in the women’s 470 and are establishing themselves as big medal favourites for next year. Talented sailors though they are, I would not have bet money on the new team of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark bringing home a medal so early in their partnership, but they got a silver here to match the silver they won in Hyeres a month or so ago. These two just seem to have clicked straight away.

As for the 49er, this was the most fascinating selection battle of all, with five Brits finishing in the top eight places. Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes won Delta Lloyd Regatta a couple of weeks ago and have now made a firm bid for Test Event selection by finishing top of the Brits with a bronze medal. The former World Champions seem to have struggled in the new ‘big rig’ era of the Olympic skiff, but gradually the Exmouth duo are finding their form again.

So who was top nation overall in Weymouth? Three golds puts Australia on a par with Team GBR but the Brits take it overall with three silver and one bronze compared with a single silver and bronze for their rivals downunder. Good showings also by France and New Zealand.