SCOTTISH sailor Luke Patience has said he is “gutted” after his partner for next year’s Olympics, Elliot Willis, 32, was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

The pair, ranked No 2 in the world, had already qualified to represent Great Britain in the 470 class in Rio.

British Sailing have said they will find a new partner for Patience for now but hope Willis will recover in time for Rio

Aberdeen-born Patience, 29, who won silver with Stuart Bithell in London, said: “I’m gutted for Elliot. Everything else takes a back seat when something like this happens.

“Elliot absolutely needs to do what’s best for him and I’ll support him in whatever way I can.

“Inevitably he will need to take some time out of the boat, so we will discuss the best approach to keeping the campaign moving forward and take some decisions on that front when we know more.” Patience and Willis won gold at the 470 European Championships last year, only six months after getting together.

They followed that up with silver at the Rio 2016 Test Event and a fourth place at the 2014 ISAF World Championships.

This year, they had top-three finishes at World Cups in Hyeres in France and Miami, including gold in the latter.

Willis, from Kent, said of his diagnosis: “Clearly it’s pretty shocking news to receive, as I’m sure anyone who’s been affected by a similar thing would understand.

“It’s still my dream to win Olympic gold but right now my focus and energy needs to be on getting better.

“My health is my number one concern and I will take advice and recommendations of the medical professionals as they establish the right course of treatment for me.”

British sailing said in a statement: “This is obviously bitterly disappointing news for Elliot, as it clearly could impact on his ability to compete at his first Olympic Games.

“Our overriding priority is that he receives the right and appropriate levels of treatment for the condition to ensure the fullest chance of recovery, and we will offer him every support we can in this regard.

“The British Sailing Team are a close-knit family and all our thoughts are with Elliot for a speedy recovery.

“Elliot and Luke have made great progress to date in their campaign towards Rio and we are conscious of the need to keep that momentum going as far as possible.

“While we will need to work with Luke to find another crew for him to sail with for the time being, we hope Elliot can still be involved should his recovery allow.”

The Royal Yachting Association’s Olympic manager Stephen Park promised the sailing team’s full support.

He said: “The British Sailing Team are a close-knit family and all our thoughts are with Elliot for a speedy recovery.”