TEAM GB contender Annie Lush will be racing against some of her best pals at the Olympics .
But luckily Lush has no qualms about taking on French sailor Claire Leroy and American Anna Tunnicliffe, saying ‘There’s nothing better than beating your best friends.’ Poole’s Lush, who races in the women’s match racing Elliott 6m class with sisters Lucy and Kate Macgregor, said once on the water they had too much respect for their rivals not to give it their all.
The 31-year-old Poole sailor said: “Some of the people I’ll be competing against at the Games are very good friends.
“I’ve been to a few of the girls’ weddings and class them as some of my best friends.
“I respect them all the time but there’s nothing better than beating your best friends – you raise your game to race them and that’s what it’s all about.”
Last year Lush went to Leroy’s wedding last year in France, after being the surprise guest at her hen party.
She said: “It was a lot of fun.
“I was the only non-French friend there and it was a big surprise that I was there, which was really nice.
“I also went to Anna Tunnicliffe’s wedding quite a few years ago in America.”
Cambridge graduate Lush initially dreaded the ever-quickening Olympic countdown but now cannot wait to get cracking, she added: “There’s been so much talk about it, I just want to go and do it.”
Lush grew up Sailing in Poole Harbour with her dad David Lush and although she always preferred dancing, she was ‘quite serious’ about racing locally until the age of 12.
She said: “Then sailing took a massive dip during my teenage years when I discovered boys and parties and more fun.
“I still sailed at a local level but wasn’t part of a squad.
“A group of us would drive to the national events but it wasn’t really that organised.
“When I was 18 I qualified for the World Championships in the 420, which was my first campaign as part of the British team.
Lush secured a place at Cambridge University and spent a gap year ‘travelling the world in a boat’ as part of a charity project.
At university, she joined the sailing and rowing teams and in her second year qualified for the rowing team’s top ‘blue boat’ which won the Oxford-Cambridge boat race.
Lush said: “It was a really close race and I felt invincible after that, I wanted to get that feeling again and decided at that moment that I wanted to go to the Olympics.”
After her graduation, Lush began Match Racing training – years before it was announced as an Olympic class – and the coach, Olympian Cathy Foster, asked her to join an Athens campaign in the Yngling three-person keelboat.
Lush said: “That was a steep learning curve, my first real experience of professional sailing.
“Sailing is quite a lifestyle sport and such a full-time commitment, it’s not like you can do two hours rowing and then go home, we’re out there training all day.
“We travel all the time, through the Athens and Beijing campaigns I was at home a maximum of four days a month.”
Lush was the training partner for Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson’s team, which won gold at Athens.
Robertson, Lush and Macgregor then joined forces to campaign for Beijing 2008 in the Yngling, but despite winning 2007 Worlds bronze, they were pipped for selection by Sarah Ayton ’s eventual 2008 Olympic champion team.
London 2012 will be Lush and Lucy Macgregor’s Olympic Games debut following the introduction of Women’s Match Racing as an Olympic discipline.
Lush said she hoped Great Britain would generate as much of a ‘party atmosphere’ as Athens did.
She said: “Athens was my first experience of the Olympics so it’s still my favourite.
“It was just an amazing experience, the Olympics is like no other event, with people of all nationalities celebrating together.
“I was amazed by that and the party atmosphere as well.”
Lush described Beijing, where she worked as a training partner for Paralympic sailor Helena Lucas, as ‘a really amazing spectacle – everything was just big and impressive.”
One of her highlights was watching Usain Bolt run the 200m.
Last year, Lush and the Macgregor sisters, won gold at the Hyeres World Cup event in April and silver at June’s Skandia Sail for Gold World Cup regatta.
Lush was part of Lucy Macgregor’s team that won the 2010 ISAF women’s World Match Racing title, which they followed up the following year with silver.
The Team GB Match Race Girls recently finished sixth at the 2012 World Championships and have since enjoyed some ‘awesome weeks’ with their training partners on Weymouth and Portland ’s Olympic waters.
While training, Lush and the Macgregors rented a house in Weymouth with Olympic windsurfer Bryony Shaw but they are now settled into the British team accommodation at RYA Portland House on Osprey Quay .
The Match Racing is one of the longest-running Olympic sailing events, with round robins, knockout events and then medal races.
Lush’s dad, her mum Karen Pearce and stepdad will be among the supporters watching from the Nothe Gardens.
Lush added: “Hopefully we won’t finish racing until the last day because that’s the finals.
“Most of the Match Racing will be on the Nothe course.
“Even though the class isn’t going to be included in the next Games the organisers think it will be one of the best to watch for spectators.
“Hopefully we will prove that and put on a good show.
“The racing is really close and fun.
“There’s nothing I’d rather be doing and that’s a good feeling.”