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1 Oct 2007

Welsh sailor Ed Wright is now facing one of the toughest challenges of his career – qualification for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

Currently ranked third in the world in the Finn class, you would think that the road to China would be clear-cut. However, the sailor - who was taught his craft at Plas Menai Watersports Centre in Caernarfon - is pitted against double Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie for the single British spot in the heavyweight dinghy category.

The RYA have unveiled that the two sailors will now be tested at the Sydney International Regatta in December and, if required, the Finn Gold Cup in January in Melbourne, the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma and French Olympic Sailing Week at Hyeres – both of which will be staged in April 2008.

While Wright has shown enormous talent in the Finn in a very short space of time, he needs no reminding that he faces a tough test if he is to make it to Beijing. Ainslie not only boasts three Olympic medals but he has also won the World Championships on seven occasions and assisted Emirates Team New Zealand to a second place finish in the America’s Cup.

The 29-year-old grew up on the doorstep of Plas Menai and was hooked on sailing from the age of nine. The Engineering graduate just missed out on a spot at the Athens Olympics, finishing second at the Laser trials.

A switch to the Finn class followed and so have the honours – a gold medal at this year’s Hyères Olympic regatta and a third place finish at the Finn Gold Cup.

In September 2006, he was crowned the new Finn European Champion – after just 18 months in the class. He took the lead of the regatta from the second day.

Wright sailed for Welsh junior and youth squads in both Toppers and Lasers. Alan Williams, who manages the Plas Menai Water Sports Centre, was his

coach for the International Sailing Federation Olympic World Championships in Portugal last summer:

"It has been a pleasure working with Ed - he is one of the most focussed athletes I have ever worked with. He is superbly athletic, has excellent technique and a mental toughness which is second to none, it’s a tough job to overcome someone with Ben Ainslie’s pedigree but if anyone can, then Ed can."

To prepare for the qualification showdown, he has an intensive winter planned in Miami and Palma to "iron out creases."

Chris Atkins, Chairman of the RYA’s Olympic Selection Committee:

We’re looking forward to the continuation of the trials in the Finn class, where our two World Class sailors Ben Ainslie and Ed Wright will have the opportunity to race against each other for the first time since the start of the RYA’s Olympic trials process for Beijing."

The RYA Olympic Selection Committee reserves the right to disregard results of individual regattas if they deem the fleet quality inadequate for a Trials regatta.