Two gold medals for Britain at SPA regatta

A round up of the stunning results achieved by Britain's Olympic hopefuls in Holland

Sunday May 26th 2002, Author: Nigel Cherrie, Location: none selected
Britain’s Olympic contenders completed the SPA Olympic classes regatta on a high note today. Six medals across the eleven classes means that the British team were easily the top scoring nation and take home Hein de Goederen award, as well as several thousand dollars in individual prize money purses awarded by the SPA organizers.

Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell have been knocking on the door of victory in the Star class for sometime, with several second and third places in America and Europe regattas during their first six months of competition, but this week they stepped over the line. They beat Italians Nicola Celon and Dodo Natucci by 15 points, winning three of seven races to clinch their first ISAF grade one championship.

"We weren’t really on form at the beginning of the week, but pulled it out of the bag at the end," reflected a satisfied Percy - the Olympic gold medal winner in the Finn class at the Sydney games.

In just six months they have gone from class underdogs to champions, but Percy was spurred on by the achievements of his former Finn adversary Freddie Loof (currently racing on Amer Sports One in the Volvo Ocean Race), who swept up the world and European titles in his debut year. "I saw Freddie do very well last year in a short period so I knew that the new people coming in could do well. I’m just pleased we could do well as well," explained Iain, adding, "We started six months ago with a sixth, then we finished fourth, then third and finally second, so if we didn't win this one our cycle would have been ruined. The problem now is what will happen next, I just hope we don't yo-yo back!"

Next time they race will be during their tilt at the world championship in L.A. this September. Ian Barker and Ed Peel had a torrid time, finishing in fourteenth. SPA has proved to be an expensive regatta for the 49er Olympic silver medal winner as he snapped his mast today and a replacement will set him back around £5000.

Former top Dutch Laser sailor Serge Kats was third in the 35 boat Star fleet, while 1992 Olympic Finn champion and Star veteran Jose Maria van der Ploeg finished in fifth.

Nick Dempsey’s win in the Mistral fleet is astonishing considering his absence from the circuit due to illness over the past few months, although his potential has never been in question. This was his first world class regatta since an Olympic test event in Greece last August after missing Palma and Hyeres on sick leave, but he quickly rediscovered old form. "I had no idea how I was going to go, which is why this was a big surprise," Nick said. "We had a couple of days of light winds. The first day was okay but the second day didn’t go well at all."

Nick dropped from seventh after day one to nineteenth on day two but as the breeze lifted so did his performance. His final winning margin over Polish windsurfer Miarczynski Przemyslaw was a staggering nine points. "It was pretty unexpected. It was a surprise to be that fast in a breeze. In the first windy race I pulled out and was flying," added Dempsey, who attributed his edge to the high wind training he and teammate Dominic Tidey (third overall) had completed over the winter months ‘down under’.

But he now has to look over his shoulder for Tidey who in recent months has also emerged a real medal contender. "Dom is obviously going faster. Where as before in training I would sail away in the breeze, I’ve had a bit on but obviously it has pushed me in the right direction so it can’t be a bad thing."

Next stop will be Kiel week which Dempsey won last year and then some overseas training before the world championship in Thailand right at the end of the year. Britain’s prospects in the Mistral class could not be better as second place from Natasha Sturges makes it three medals from the two classes for coach Barrie Edgington.

Dempsey’s fiancé Sarah Ayton now sails in the bow spot for Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson’s Yngling campaign. They also shifted their game up a level as the breeze increased. Their opening four results of 18,14,19,11 were swept aside by 1,2,1,3 in the second half of the regatta to claim fifth overall. Spain’s Monica Azon won.

In the Laser fleet, Paul Goodison lost his first event of the season and Robert Scheidt was there to take full advantage of Goodison’s temporary dip in form. But Edward Wright, who has been playing second fiddle to Goodison so far this year, moved up a gear to challenge Scheidt for the championship in the final race today, finishing just one point behind the Brazilian five-time world champion.

Wright led to the windward mark, but lost a few places on the run to finally finished fifth to Scheidt’s eighth although it was not quite enough to take the championship. "I knew that I had to go out and race to my best ability, Robert [Scheidt] and I had similar discards so it was just a question of doing my best," said Wright, explaining: "I rounded the top mark in first place and went down the run but my tiller extension came out. I didn't lose too many places but it was a bit dicey as there was 25 knots of breeze behind me." Sweden’s Karl Suneson completed the top three while Goodison is an uncustomary eighth.

It was deemed too windy for the 49ers again today. The class has only raced a total of six races over five days and has not raced since Thursday. Therefore the results from the preliminary rounds still stand, with Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez of Spain winning the class from Luka Rodion and George Leonchuk from the Ukraine. Britain’s Chris Draper, sailing with Olympic Silver Medallist Simon Hiscocks, sailed consistently to finish in the bronze medal position.

In four weeks the fleet will race in Kiel, Germany.

Final top ten plus other British results:

Page 2 Mistral men and women results
Page 3 470 men and women results
Page 4 Laser, Finn and Europe results
Page 5 Yngling and Star results
Page 6 49er and Tornado results

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