Iain Percy

Ed Gorman writes about the man who made winning Britain's first ever Finn Gold medal look all so easy

Sunday October 1st 2000, Author: Ed Gorman, Location: United Kingdom
Iain Percy - the man in FinnsThey always say that great sportsmen and women make things look easy. Iain Percy made winning a gold medal in the Finn class look just so - he even had the impertinence to do it with a race to spare.

Shirley Robertson and Ben Ainslie won their titles in Europes and Lasers only by the narrowest of margins and after agonisingly close final encounters. But Perky breezed home after sailing Fredy Loof of Sweden down the pack in the penultimate race, destroying a high quality fleet replete with experienced campaigners.

The 24-year-old from Winchester, who was once number five in the world in Lasers, was in a different class in the Finn. Apart from the last race when he didn't need to be at the top of the fleet, he was never out of the top ten and led overall from start to finish. As he would say, he was fast up the track and down it and most impressively, he was always able to recover, even when he had "shite starts".

John Derbyshire, the RYA Olympic Manager, believes Percy is out of the top-drawer and has been impressed not only by his on-the-water racing, but by the way he has quickly mastered the technical complexities of the Finn rig. This has helped him sweep to the top of a class which normally rewards no-one who has not spent upwards of eight years slogging away at it.

Much of Perky's success is due to the impact of his coach David Howlett, whose technical, tactical and irreverent approach has provided everything he needed in the way of support. Howlett believes Percy is a complete performer and - forgetting Arsenal's chances against Man Utd this weekend for a moment - admitted to being seriously impressed by him.

Howlett reckons Percy has no weaknesses - an amazing assessment in a sport where so many great competitors become noted for one frailty or another. But Percy is as good in the light as he is in fresh conditions; he is a good starter, he is fast upwind and exceptional downwind, especially in waves when he is better than anyone.
Iain Percy with coach David HowlettThe extra edge that makes him unbeatable is his aggression and his confidence in his tactical game. Percy never gives the impression that yacht racing is particularly complex - in fact at times it bores him. To him the variables are fairly straight-forward and decision-making is clear-cut. Mistakes do not rile him while success seems not to go to his head.

As far as the Finn goes, it is unlikely that he will carry on in that class - it's a case of "been there, done that" for Percy and bigger boats and fully-crewed racing are likely to be among his next challenges. Up until last year he had been planning to give up sailing after the Games and get a "proper job", but he has enjoyed himself so much that the City, where most of his university friends are now working, doesn't seem so enticing as it once was.

And one last thing about Percy, he doesn't know the words to the national anthem. If he has plans to win another gold medal in sailing - say in Athens in four years time - he should put a bit of practice into that area, even if the rest of his game is pretty near perfect ...

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