EXMOUTH’S Olympian Ben Rhodes will be among the British sailors starring in the Opening Ceremony celebrations on Weymouth Beach tomorrow night.
The 31-year-old crewman who sails in the ‘fast and fun’ 49er Skiff class with helm Stevie Morrison is feeling the ‘fittest’ he has done in years and cannot wait to compete on home waters.
While the events in the capital come too close to most of the sailors’ first races for them to take part, the borough’s celebrations are set to give a dozen members of the British Sailing Team a spectacular launch.
They will experience the support from 12,000 fans at the Live Site when they stand on the stage, between 7.50pm and 8.10pm, just before the main Opening Ceremony show is broadcast live on giant screens.
Rhodes is looking forward to the local celebrations, after putting in ‘a lot of hours’ in recent months.
He said: “London’s official opening ceremony is too close to the start of our event for us to be going so we’re looking forward to what Weymouth has to offer.
“We haven’t really had time to breathe since selection, making sure we’ve got all our equipment sorted and that we’re on top of fitness, we had to fit six months’ work into three as it was a late selection.
“When you get a new boat it takes the best part of five days to complete it and get it ready to sail.
“And we had two of those to sort. and the only way to do it is to do a lot of hours to make sure it gets done.”
He added: “I’d like to go to the London 2012 closing ceremony.
“The closing ceremony in Beijing was pretty special.”
China may have staged spectacular Cultural Olympiad events but the conditions at its Olympic and Paralympic sailing venue in Qingdao left a lot to be desired.
Rhodes said: “Most of the time we were there in Qingdao it was very foggy, not very good visibility.”
He said the biggest benefit of the home Games was the ‘lack of logistical nightmares’.
He said: “In these last few months we’ve got through so much equipment to test and that side of things.
“Over there we had to ship it there and then you’re pretty committed to that kit.
“That was a massive part of things.
“And just the sheer amount of time you can spend at a venue without it feeling like you’re trapped, we were away for the best part of a month at a time and when we got back we needed almost a fortnight to get over it again. Here’s it’s pretty homely.”
Rhodes and Morrison, 33, have been friends of 20 years.
They grew up competing against each other in Cadet dinghies in Exmouth.
With a medal of each colour from the three World Championships preceding their Olympic debut at Beijing 2008, the pair went to China as one of the favourites and were bitterly disappointed to finish ninth. Bronze at the 2011 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta earned them selection for last year’s Olympic Test Event, where they narrowly missed out on a medal in the last race.
The pair were forced to withdraw from the 2011 Worlds in Perth, Australia after Rhodes suffered a rib strain midway through the regatta but their strong track record of podium finishes on Weymouth and Portland ’s Olympic waters earned them the nod from Royal Yachting Association selectors in April.
Last month the Team GB-selected duo finished fourth at the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta, behind their British teammates who they beat to selection Dave Evans and Ed Powys.
But Rhodes is confident that they are capable of winning a medal on home waters and described the 49er boat as ‘great fun’.