Round one to Clark
The 32-year-old Royal Naval Officer was competing in the first of a potential three-regatta series of trials events for the women’s single-handed class – the only one of the 11 Olympic sailing classes in which the Royal Yachting Association has still to identify its preferred candidate for the Beijing Games. Charlotte Dobson, Lizzie Vickers and Andrea Brewster are also in contention for the one British spot.
Clark held her position as the top Brit in the Miami fleet from the outset of the six-day regatta in Biscayne Bay, and went into the final medal race in fourth place but with the chance of bronze. She needed to finish ahead of Swedish rival Karin Soderstrom to earn a place on the podium for Skandia Team GBR.
The British sailor, who won bronze on the Olympic waters in Qingdao at sailing’s 2006 Test Event, chased Soderstrom in the first leg, and was drawn into a tacking battle with the Swede as she tried to nudge in front.
But Soderstrom managed to increase her lead on the first downwind leg of the 10-boat final race, and in the extremely light wind conditions, Clark was unable to gain ground. She finished the medal race in eighth place to maintain her fourth place in the final results, while Charlotte Dobson finished in the medal race in sixth place – after having led for the first lap – to finish in sixth place overall.
Lizzie Vickers sailed an impressive second leg to finish the medal race in second place and improve her final result to ninth, while local USA sailor Paige Railey clinched overall victory in the class.
“I just couldn’t find any speed out there!” Clark said a frustrated afterwards. “It’s funny how one bad race at the end can colour your view of the rest of the week, because I am really pleased with my result here.
“I finished as the top Brit, which is obviously important for the trials, and I didn’t pick up a score outside of the top ten all week so I’ve got to be happy with that.”
The RYA’s Olympic selectors will now determine whether the trials in the Laser Radial class will move on to the next event, which would be the World Championship at Takapuna in March.
Meanwhile, an infringement at the start of the Yngling medal race and subsequent penalty turns for Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson dented their chances of a podium finish. The trio, who will contest the Yngling World Championships in Miami in a week’s time, recovered well from the incident to cross the line in sixth, and finish the regatta in fifth place overall just three points away from the podium spots.
“It’s been a different kind of regatta for us here in Miami, with the different classes having different goals,” remarked RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park.
“The Radials and the Paralympic classes have had their trials so they’ve obviously been conscious of that, and the Star and Yngling crews are in the development parts of their programmes in preparation for the World Championships, but more importantly the Olympics in China.
“It’s a little bit disappointing that we weren’t able to convert the two medal opportunities we had today, but I’m not worried – it’s been a goal-oriented regatta and we’ve achieved a lot of the goals that we came here for.”
1. Paige Railey (USA), 41pts
2. Anna Tunnicliffe (USA), 44pts
3. Karin Soderstrom (SWE), 62pts
4. Penny Clark 73pts
6. Charlotte Dobson 91pts
9. Lizzie Vickers 102pts
16. Andrea Brewster 141pts
1. Mandy Mulder/Mary Faber/Merel Witteveen (NED), 76pts
2. Ekaterina Skudina,/Diana Krutskikh/Natalia Ivanova (RUS), 86pts
3. Renee Groeneveld/ Annemieke Bes/ Marge Kampen (NED), 104pts
5. Sarah Ayton/Sarah Webb/Pippa Wilson 107pts
15. Shirley Robertson/Annie Lush/Lucy Macgregor 146pts