Weymouth half fails on final day
|After a breezy week of sailing in Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay, for the first Skandia Sail for Gold regatta in the Olympic cycle building up to London 2012, there was much anticipation for the final day and the series of short cut-and-thrust medal races for all classes. While sailors, spectators, VIP guests, including ISAF President Göran Petersson, and a substantial media presence including live TV on the BBC 'red button' presented by Shirley Robertson, waited patiently around Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, it took until lunchtime for the winds Gods to play ball, by which time the medal races for the Finns, Stars and RSes had been abandoned.
Overnight the boats of the non-medal race sailors had been moved out of the way and each class was neatly grouped, boats pulled on to a 'starting grid' by flag denoting their position just prior to launching. The Finns were on this grid when racing was canned for them, leaving Croatia’s recently crowned European champion Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic to take honours.
“This has been a great week for me,” he said. “I’m a lot lighter than the other guys, so it wasn’t easy for me the conditions we had earlier in the week. I was struggling, it was quite hard, but I really did a great job and I’m so happy to be in top spot.”
Britain’s Ed Wright had to settle for silver, but as a consolation prize collected gold for the ISAF Sailing World Cup, Skandia Sail For Gold being the final event in this inaugural series. “I’m really happy to have won the series,” he said. “I’ve learned quite a lot of things this week and I will hopefully take that away with me and get gold next time. I really lost the event on the second day - they were really my conditions, but I had a couple of capsizes. Consistency pays and all year I’ve been consistently at the top which secured it for me. The whole fleet is coming on this year, it’s really competitive and the young British guys are really starting to perform which is great for the class and great for racing - it’s been really enjoyable racing against all these guys.”
Bronze went to US Sailing Team Alphagraphic's Zach Railey. “I’m pretty happy with another podium finish this year, particularly after a bit of an up and down week,” he said. “It’s great. That’s why we train hard, to win medals.”
Britain’s Giles Scott, who was in the lead of the Finns mid-week, finished sixth, enough to earn him bronze in the World Cup series.
In the Star an OCS in race four was not enough to topple Britain’s Beijing Gold medallists, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, who won 13 points clear of Sweden's past World Champions, Freddie Loof and Johan Tillander with Switzerland's Flavio Marazzi and Enrico De Maria claiming bronze.
Simpson said he was delighted to come away from the 2012 sailing venue with gold. He said. “It’s great to win, but it’s all about what happens at 2012. We didn’t sail brilliantly this week, but we sailed on average better than the rest. We’ve had difficult conditions this week. It’s been north easterly all week, which is rare this time of year."
Percy said: “I wouldn’t have missed competing here for the world. We’ve really enjoyed ourselves. We all wanted to get out there and race, but we wouldn’t want to ruin a great week of racing with a bit of a charade. It’s a shame we didn’t sail today, but it’s the right decision.”
In the RS:X Women, Spain’s Blanca Manchon celebrated a double victory when she won both the regatta and in the ISAF Sailing World Cup. She won four of the 10 races this week. “It’s been a long, long year for me," she said. "I’ve done a lot of travelling for competitions and for training, but now I’ve won the World Cup so I’m really happy.”
Britain’s Bryony Shaw, bronze medallist in the Beijing last year, had to settle for the runners-up spot. “It would have been nice to have a little battle out there today, but I’m happy with second. The Spanish girl has sailed really well this week. Getting confidence from the result is really important from me. Missing out on the medals at the World Championships was a big disappointment for me, but this week has shown I can bounce back from that in what was an equally competitive field. I can now focus on the winter season and I know I can go into next season in good shape. Things are really moving forward for me.”
Italy’s Flavia Tartaglini took bronze.
In the RS:X Men, Brazil's Ricardo Santos and Portugal's Joao Rodrigues, shared the honours: Santos won the regatta ahead of Rodrigues, but the silver was enough to seal victory in the ISAF Sailing World Cup for the Portuguese windsurfer, ahead of Santos. France’s Julien Bontemps finished third in both the regatta and the series.
Santos said: “I’m very, very happy. It’s been hard work, but I survived. It was really nice to be on the podium with by best friend, Joao.”
Following the 470 medal race, there was a British 1-2 with two time World Champions, Nic Asher and Elliot Willis taking gold while the new pairing of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell proved with silver medal at the World Championship was no fluke, taking second place on the podium once again.
Asher and Willis went into today’s medal race tied on points with Australia’s Matt Belcher and Beijing gold medallist Malcolm Page - who had led the fleet from the start of the regatta. The Brits knew finishing ahead of the Aussies would give them the gold. In the event the Aussies were OCS, while finishing eighth was enough to give Asher and Willis gold.
Asher said: “We were pretty confident and it turned out well for us in the end. We’ve sailed really well together and the conditions have been great all week. Everything has been great on sure and it couldn’t really have been any better.”
Willis added: ““It’s been going well for us - going into the medal race joint with the Aussies. We made a pretty ballsy start off the line and had a split decision out there whether to go back or not; and it paid off! We’re very happy. It’s good to win at your home venue. We didn’t sail well at the World Championships, we just made some bad decisions. We made this a bit of a target for ourselves after that.”
Patience and Bithell were also pleased with their silver. The duo, who have only been sailing together for a month were runners-up to the Dutch crew of Steven Le Fevre and Steven Krol in the medal race.
Patience said: “We just kept our nose clear around the course. We just tried to be conservative and consolidate our position. We didn’t really make any mistakes, we let the others do that.”
Bithell added: “It was a tense race. We had quite a lot to lose going into it.”
In the event Belcher and Page were relegated to fourth overall.
In the Women's 470, a disappointing performance on Friday dropped New Zealand's Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie from the top spot with Japan's Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata holding the lead going into the final day's racing. But a fourth place in the medal race was enough to ensure the continued success of World Champions and another newly formed duo: Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout of the Netherlands. This left Aleh and Powrie to take silver with another new pairing, Team GBR's Yngling Gold medallist Pippa Wilson and Saskia Clark in the bronze spot.
Berkhout said: “We had a really bad first day, but then we got the hang of the wind and we got some pretty good results. It was nice to finish like this.”
Clark said: “It’s been a fantastic week, we’ve really, really enjoyed sailing here. Every day we’ve sailed we’ve got better and better.”
There was another gold medal for the Dutch in the Women's Match Racing, aboard the new Elliot 6s, where Renee Groeneveld, Annemieke Bes and Brechtje van der Werf beat the Skandia Team GBR crew of Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Ally Martin by two races to one.
Groeneveld said: “This is a new team, so we didn’t really know what to expect, but we’ve done a good job in training and we’ve been learning fast this summer. We’re very happy. This is the last World Cup of the year and it’s a nice way to go into the winter.”
Macgregor said: “We’re delighted with the result, but we were a bit frustrated with our racing, although we pulled together well as a team. Today the wind was lighter and we weren’t quite as strong in those conditions.”
Macgregor's team however won the ISAF World Sailing Cup for the new Olympic discipline of Women's Match Racing.
In the petit final, Beijing Laser Radial gold medallist, Anna Tunnicliffe, with her crew of Molly Vandermoer and Alice Manard of the USA beat Claire Leroy’s French crew 2-1 to secure bronze.
In both the 49er and the Laser, Aussie teams had already taken gold going into the medal race - World Champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen dominating the series with five bullet in 13 races in the 49er, while Tom Slingsby's discard was a fifth in a monster week that saw him start the regatta with five bullets.
In the 49er Spain's Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez, both recently returned from the Volvo Ocean Race, won the medal race, but a third was enough for the Italian Sibello brothers to take silver overall, while fourth was good enough to ensure bronze for France’s Manu Dyer and Stephane Christidis.
Outteridge said: “It’s the first time we’ve sailed here and we’ve had a really good week here. The conditions have been quite good for us. We’ll be back here plenty more times before the Games. Hopefully we’ll be back to get some more medals next year.”
Britain’s Chris Draper and Peter Greenhalgh finished just outside the medals in fourth, with Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith fifth and Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes seventh.
The medal race for the Lasers was abandoned just before the start.
“It definitely wasn’t easy,” said Slingsby of his highly successful week. “The conditions here suit my style of sailing. In Australia you grow up to live with strong winds. It’s natural and you feel comfortable. It’s such a great venue with big winds and big waves, but it’s very challenging."
Cyprus's 2008 Youth Worlds winner, Pavlos Kontides also had a good week, finishing second, leaving bronze to Austria’s Andreas Geritzer. Britain’s Nick Thompson won the ISAF Sailing World Cup.
In the Laser Radial, Finland’s Sari Multala came second in the medal race to ensure she added gold at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta to the gold she won at the World Championships in Japan last month. She said: “It was pretty steady for me this week. I had one bad race, but I knew that would be my discard. Three years is a long time, but I’m hoping to be back in 2012.
Top ten results following today's medal races (for others click here ):