Ainslie’s fifth world title

Ainslie’s fifth world title

Britain's freakishly talented single-handed Finn sailor Ben Ainslie with a second placing in the medal race of the Finn Gold Cup today won the class' world championship for the fifth time.

Ainslie already held the world record for the number of wins in this long established and legendary Olympic class; well ahead of Paul Elvstrom (two wins), Willi Kuhweide, Jorg Bruder, Lasse Hjortnaes, Freddy Loof, who all had three wins.

And he has Olympic gold medals in both the Laser class (2000) and Finn (2004).

Ainslie finished just a wave behind British team mate Ed Wright in the medal race, which is restricted to the top ten sailors after eight races in the 82-boat fleet, but well ahead of New Zealander Dan Slater, who had been only a point behind him going into the medal race.

A fresh 15-knot sou-‘wester, with only minor variation in direction, made the race probably the regatta's fairest. The outcome was decided at the start with Ainslie getting away well towards the middle of the line while Slater was buried and had to tack off on port early but in disturbed air under the Canadian Chris Cook.

Wright cracked the best start towards the pin end of the line while Pieter Jan Postma (Netherlands), who went into the medal race in third place, also looked good off the line towards the pin, but was disqualified as a premature starter.

Wright led around the first mark of the two-round windward-leeward course from Ainslie with Johan Tillander (Sweden) third and Slater back in eighth place. While the fair breeze presented few passing opportunities Slater, always fast downwind, improved to fifth to secure the silver medal ahead of Jonas Christensen (Denmark).

Although Ainslie had only to finish second to win the regatta, he worked body and boat hard, surfing waves to the finish trying to win the race. "I had a bit of a skid out halfway down that run which wasn't far off a capsize," Ainslie said. "I still wanted to make sure I beat the Dutch guy because anything can happen."

As it did happen Postma, unaware he had been disqualified for his premature start, had continued racing.

Slater explained his poor start: "I saw that PJ (Postma) and Ed were pretty well advanced and I thought they were over the line. Then once Ben popped out, I just had to stay with PJ and Jonas to stay in touch for a medal.

"The game was pretty well over."

Slater, who has been friends with Ainslie since they raced Laser Radials against each other more than 15 years ago, was the first to congratulate him as they hauled their Finns ashore at Black Rock Yacht Club.

They were still friends? "He's alright, he's not bad for a Kiwi," said Ainslie as they shook hands.

Ainslie said this world championship had been the hardest to win of his five along with 2003 when he had a really close tussle with the defending world champion Rafael Trujillo (Spain).

"It went down to the wire in the last race and this one was just as close," said Ainslie. "There's really big strength and depth in the class now and so I am obviously delighted to win it and look forward to lots of hard work up until China."

(Ainslie has already been named as Great Britain's representative in the Finn class for this year's Olympics).

Final points for the top ten are: Ainslie 39, Slater 46, Christensen 53, Postma 65, Tillander 78, Cook 80, Wright 86, Aimilios Papathanasiou (Greece) 92, Peer Moberg (Norway) 102; Ivan Klajkovic (Croatia) 103.

Anthony Nossiter, already nominated as Australian team member for his third Olympics, finished the regatta in 12th place, behind Tapio Nirkko (Finland) and a place ahead of Trujillo.

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