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Britain’s Olympic team sailors enjoy spectacular send off

There were fireworks and fanfares as the British Olympic team sailors - including windsurfing medal hopes Bryony Shaw and Nick Dempsey - received a send off to remember at the fifth quadrennial Sail for Gold Ball last night (Wednesday 11 June).

More than 800 guests showed their support to the 24 Olympic and Paralympic team sailors that will compete in Beijing this summer and Britain’s young, up-and-coming Olympic stars of tomorrow by packing out the London Hilton on Park Lane.

In the presence of HRH The Princess Royal, President of the RYA, the guests, including some of the biggest names in sailing from the past and present as well as many from the worlds of commerce, politics, the arts and media, were treated to a feast of entertainment as the Ball once again raised significant funds to help support the development of World Class sailing in Britain.

Led by popular TV presenter Davina McCall, the fundraising effort offered a fantastic array of raffle prizes while the Sail for Gold auction, with auctioneer Nick Bonham, was a massive success. Once again reputed sports artist Brian West’s exclusive Sailing for Gold painting attracted many bids and Brian has already pledged his support for what will be his fifth Ball in 2012.

Speaking on behalf of the sailors, double Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie thanked everyone for attending and highlighted the importance of the financial backing to ensure that British sailors continue to top international podiums for many years to come.

For the third consecutive time, Peter Harrison was the Principal Sponsor of the 2008 Sail for Gold Ball.

Meanwhile, teenage singing starlet Emilia Dalby, who made her debut singing Rule Britannia at 2004 Sail for Gold Ball, welcomed the sailors to the Ball with an emotional rendition of Jerusalem before guests enjoyed a set from the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth (Royal Band).

John Derbyshire, RYA Racing Manager/Performance Director, said: “You could not fail to get excited about the forthcoming Beijing Games at what was, once again, a fantastic night for British sailing. People are so always so generous in their support for the sailors and this year was no exception.

“The sailors really appreciate the efforts of everyone who attends and as well as being a fitting send off to the team before the Olympics, it is also the sailors’ chance to say thank you personally for that support. It was definitely a goosebumps occasion.”

Over 3,500 guests have attended the previous Sail for Gold Balls, which have been held in each Olympic year since 1992.