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AFLOAT: Recce in Rio for Weymouth sailors
WEYMOUTH’S aspiring Olympians have been enjoying a reconnaissance mission in Rio ahead of the 2016 Games.
Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth are among the British Sailing Team members who have just returned from a three-week training block in Rio.
The duo sail the 49er FX, which is the new women’s Olympic high performance double-handed skiff.
Scottish-born Dobson, 27, who lives in the Rodwell area, said while the main goal was to “do a decent block of winter training”, spending time in the next Games’ venue had been “massively beneficial”.
She said: “With the 49erFX being a new Olympic class, being sailed by new teams, there is so much to work on you could easily lose sight of all the Rio-specific stuff that we will need too, and I think we’ve done pretty well at balancing both factors.”
Dobson and Ainsworth stayed with Martina Grael, the daughter of the Brazilian sailing legend Torben Grael during their Rio recce and were bowled over by the friendliness and enthusiasm of the locals.
Dobson said: “I have to admit when Torben first walked in I was a little bit star-struck, and to be sat having breakfast surrounded by five Olympic medals, a Volvo Ocean Race trophy and a Louis Vuitton Cup has been a bit surreal.”
The aspiring Olympians enjoyed some “touristy stuff” but also worked hard training and racing against a large group of international sailors, both 49erFX women and 49er men.
As the 49er boat has been an Olympic class since the Athens 2004 Games, the men are already seasoned skiff racers and Dob-son said it was a “tough and huge learning experience for the girls”.
The only downside to their Rio trip was experiencing the water pollution, which other Olympic class sailors have raised concerns about.
The two issues are the health factor because the water quality is very poor and the amount of debris in the water.
Flip-flops were floating in the race area during the recent 49er Intergalactic Championship reg-atta and one boat got a Timb-erland boot stuck to its rudder, but Dobson is confident these problems will be sorted pre-Games.
She added: “We saw in China, when they had all the fisherman out clearing the algae before the Beijing Olympics, how possible these short-term fixes can be and I’m sure the powers that be will be looking into all those sorts of options for Rio too.”
Dobson and Ainsworth are now spending 10 days at home for Christmas before returning to Rio for more training and racing ahead of the Miami ISAF World Cup event in January.
Follow their progress at volvo carssailing.co.uk
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