Ayton, alongside Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson, clinched their first world crown at the ISAF World Championships in Cascais last July and subsequently went on to take gold at the Olympic Test Event in Qingdao and were nominated for the prestigious 2007 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award.
But the Skandia Team GBR girls failed to make the podium for the first time ever last week, when they finished fifth at the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta; a penalty at the start of the medal race scuppering their hopes of silverware.
A host of former World and Olympic champions, including Britain’s double Olympic gold medal-winner Shirley Robertson, will be out to try to wrestle the crown from Ayton’s Team Mirabaud crew when the Championships get underway in Biscayne Bay on Friday (8 February).
But Ayton insists she, Webb and Wilson are ready to take what is thrown at them.
She said: “We have had a great winters’ training – we have been working hard and have come on in leaps and bounds, especially with our downwind sailing and communications in the boat.
“The Miami OCR was a really great learning regatta for us from that point of view, even though we didn’t quite finish where we wanted. Miami is a hard venue, with the same conditions every day, which is pretty unusual. Our normal style of sailing is pretty conservative but the conditions meant we needed to be a bit more punchy.
“Quite a few teams have got their trials out here during the Worlds – there are still four country places for China still up for grabs – so there are a lot of people optimised here for flat water. But we are going well and our plans are on track for another World title.”
As well as Robertson’s crew of Annie Lush and Lucy Macgregor looking to make big waves early in the 2008 season, American Sally Barkow’s Cascais silver medallists, reigning Olympic 470 champion Sofia Bekatorou (GRE) and Athens 2004 Europe class gold medal-winning Siren Sundby (NOR) will all also be eager to add to their trophy cabinets.
Racing gets underway at the 2008 Yngling Women’s World Championships on Saturday (10 February) with the battle for the big prizes taking place in the double points medal race on Friday (15 February).
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse
Slovakian alpine skier narrowly beats Millie Knight to capture gold photo Getty Images