WINDSURFING is not only the most physical Olympic Sailing class but it also provided the most nail-biting competition at last year’s London 2012 test event.
Weymouth’s Nick Dempsey was on equal points at the top of the leaderboard with his Dutch rival Dorian van Rijsselberge for the majority of the competition.
In the double-points medal race, Athens bronze medallist Dempsey used hugely tactical racing to drive van Rijsselberge to the back of the 10-strong fleet and then powered to the front to cross the finishing line in second place.
The British star missed out on gold by just one point when one of the windsurfers between them capsized and handed van Rijsselberge the points he needed to claim overall victory.
Dempsey, of Wyke Regis, anticipates similar drama in 23 days’ time.
He said: “The test event was exciting, I would forecast a similar thing at the Olympics.
“It's great being able to live and train on my doorstep, being able to live every moment of it.
“Everything you do is about winning, just training. I just want to be at my best.”
It has been four years since Dempsey suffered the devastation of slipping from joint first place to fourth in the medal race of the last Olympics.
He said: “I went in the medal race joint first at the Beijing Games.
“I made the mistake of trying to win a gold medal instead of a medal. I risked it all to win and paid the price.
“Winning the World Championships in 2009 helped and getting silver at the Test event.
“Winning and doing well at the home Games will banish it for good.”
The Team Volvo member cannot wait to compete on home waters, just a stone’s throw from where he and his double Olympic medallist wife Sarah Ayton live with their two sons, Thomas and Oscar.
He said: “It’s amazing, a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete at a home Games.
“Having been to three Olympics before you realise how special it is for the home nations and I feel like it’s come at the right time for me, it’s incredible.
“We’ve lived here for 13 years, when we moved here the sailing academy wasn’t here, the Olympics weren’t really known about, all this other stuff is just luck really.”
But he knows only too well the Olympics are all about winning a medal – gold.
Dempsey said: “I remember winning bronze in Athens, because it was only bronze and there were so many medallists I still had to sit in economy flying back “It was really annoying, Virgin would’ve upgraded us but we had to fly British Airways.
“Now I don’t need to fly to get to the Olympic venue and I go first class everywhere in my Volvo.
“It's always like that after the Olympics, it's all about the medallists and the gold medallists.”
Dempsey, who began windsurfing aged seven and Olympic classes racing aged 17, has been Britain’s top windsurfer for the past four Olympic cycles.
With the International Sailing Federation’s shock decision earlier this year to drop windsurfing from the Rio 2016 Games line-up, this summer’s event could be Dempsey’s last.
His protégé, Elliot Carney, is already looking to transfer his skills to the new Olympic kitesurfing class and Dempsey, 31, will also rethink his options after London 2012.
He said: “I've been a full-on athlete for quite a while now.
“I find training easier as the years go on. You understand what you’re capable of and what works for you.
“There is no trick. Just work hard.”
A typical day for Dempsey is three hours in the gym followed by two-and-a-half hours on the water.
He added: “Windsurfing is the most physical of the Olympic classes so we don’t go out for long. Other classes go out for four hours every day.
“It's really nice to have the other Olympic sailors around, it’s very sociable. I’ve got very good friends within the team.”
Dempsey, who trains with several of his international competitors, said Games-time racing would ‘come down to the wire’.
He described his heartbeat as being ‘through the roof’ when sailing and said it recorded 195 beats per minute recently while training.
He said: “All the sailors will be working flat out.
“At the Olympic Games everyone’s peaking, everyone's sailing fast and the racing will be close.
“Unless you’re Ben Ainslie and you just seem to sail away from the fleet but for the rest of us it will come down to the wire and it’s all intense.”
Dempsey praised his Skandia Team GBR teammates saying ‘everyone in the team is capable of winning a medal, it’s just who sails well on the day’.
He urged borough residents to ‘get behind’ this summer’s festivities.
“Every Games is different.
We are out of London so we're not in that massive bubble but hopefully we’re going to have our mini-Olympics down here and it's going to be fantastic for all the residents.
“Hopefully it’s going to be a bit of a party atmosphere and people will just get behind it, get involved and enjoy the moment.”
Meet the team
•MEET the London 2012-bound British sailing team.
All this month, in the final build up to the home Games, the Dorset Echo is putting the spotlight on each of our Olympic and Paralympic contenders. Today it’s RS:X Windsurfer Nick Dempsey...
Name: Nick Dempsey
Date of birth: August 13 1980
Star sign: Leo
Place of birth: Norwich
Current hometown: Weymouth
Who got you into windsurfing? My family
Biggest influence in your career to date?
My wife, Sarah (Ayton)
Worst moment in your career so far? Fourth at the 2008 Olympics
Best moment in your career so far? Gold at the 2009 World Championships
Best sailing venue in the UK? Weymouth
Most annoying rule in the sailing rule book? All of them!
If you weren’t a professional sailor what else would you be? Lawyer
What are your greatest passions outside of sailing? My family and photography