Olympic medal hopeful Percy can’t wait to set sail for Games

Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson in Star class action  Picture courtesy of Skandia Team GBR
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson in Star class action Picture courtesy of Skandia Team GBR
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In just a month’s time, Iain Percy is hoping to make a career-defining impression as he takes to the waves for Team GB in the Olympic sailing squad.

The Emsworth-based star is no stranger to a gold medal winner’s place on the podium and has his sights firmly fixed on repeating the feat this summer.

Twelve years may have passed since he gained his first major honours at the Sydney Games, yet he remains just as passionate about his sport which has pushed him to his limits.

While he’s plainly disappointed at not claiming top spot in his favoured Star class for the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta on Dorset’s Olympic waters earlier this month, he’s holding faith in his ability as the globe trains its eyes on the biggest stage in just a few weeks.

As the 36 year-old explains, he is expecting family support when he makes his way to Weymouth for the 2012 games, vying for honours against the most talented sailors on the planet.

“I think it’s great for the country that we have the games here and I think we’re going to do them proud,” he said.

“We know how to stage a party and believe this time around will be every bit as good as in Beijing for 2008.

“Of course for me there’s a job to be done and I’ll be working hard with all the great support I’ve got.

“Nobody in our class of racing is going to be rolling over and it’s a tough group I’ll be competing against. But I’ve done everything I can to prepare,” he said of the build-up to the eagerly-awaited sporting showdown.

It has taken a rigorous regime of typically more than 12-hour days of training to prepare for the games. This includes serious gym work and at least five hours out on the water per day. That’s even before making a host of tactical calculations.

Though he’s put his Star class boat through its paces right across the globe, he has plenty of affection for waters within the Observer area.

“I moved to Emsworth about 18 months ago as my two sisters are there and I’ve other family nearby as well. I am rarely in the country, but it’s always nice to come home to people there when I’m back.

“I know the Chichester area very well from when I was training for the Olympics in 2000. I sailed from Hayling Island and I’ve sailed from Bosham before,” explained the medal contender, who fondly recalls his very first experiences on the water as a child on holiday in the Isle of Wight.

It was there that he was very definitely bitten by the bug and quickly began to harbour serious ambitious for his fast-developing hobby.

Despite his natural aptitude for his sport, he could never have imagined claiming the ultimate accolade at his first games in Australia.

“It was a dream come true to have won in Sydney, which is where my sailing became a career.

“I’d been pretty much full-time since 1998. I am glad still to be out on the water with Andrew Simpson who helped me a lot in the 2000 games.”

With all the success he has had, which include golds in the world championships in 2010 to add to his Sydney and Beijing victories, what advice would he have for young sailors within the Observer area?

“I think you just have to keep going with your sailing and enjoy it and your development will come.

“The RYA qualifications are a good way to start out and try some of the smaller boats like the Optimists.

“There are lots of sailing schools out there in Chichester harbour area which are very affordable. You just have to try one of those and see how much you like it.”

It’s clear that the Olympic facilities at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy are set for a feast of hotly-contested action on the water.

Percy, who is an MBE for services to sport under his belt in addition to his honours on the water, adds: “I think Weymouth very good centre indeed.

“I’m very proud of it as all the talk has been of creating some kind of legacy from the Games, but we have in fact been using the site at Weymouth for the past six years as we were the first venue to open. The legacy is already here!

“It would be huge for us to win and I am looking forward to having the Emsworth contingent down including my mum and dad.

“My girlfriend Alexandra has never seen me in competition before, so I’m not sure this is the one to start her off with! But my sisters Katrina and Bryony will be there.”

NEILL BARSTON