Strong domestic turn-out
A mix of youth and experience prevailed in light wind conditions at the first of the 2010 RYA Olympic Classes Spring Series events, held this weekend at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.
The first of the two-weekend Spring Series events saw a strong turn out from both Skandia Team GBR’s seasoned performers and regular domestic Olympic Classes racers, with racing in eight out of the ten Olympic and two Paralympic Classes held in Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour.
Chris Draper and Peter Greenhalgh, silver medallists at the recent ISAF Sailing World Cup event in Palma, came out on top in the 49er fleet after some incredibly close racing between the leading British boats. They finished two points clear of the chasing pack, which saw Stevie Morrison-Ben Rhodes, John Pink-Rick Peacock and Paul Brotherton-Mark Asquith all equal on points behind them.
The Paralympic SKUD class had its first ever outing at a domestic Spring Series event, with five boats making the start line. John Robertson and Hannah Stodel, more used to sailing in the three-person Sonar, got the better of SKUD World Champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell winning on countback while their teammate Steve Thomas teamed up with Alex Hovden to finish fourth overall.
The 2009 World Cup series winner Megan Pascoe took victory in the 13-strong 2.4mR fleet, which combined both able-bodied and disabled sailors. Beijing Paralympian Helena Lucas finished third behind Richard Cornah.
World Championship silver medallists Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell topped the 470 leader board with development squad duo Hannah Mills and Claire Cumming in second and as the first women’s boat.
Olympic, World and European Champion Paul Goodison counted all race wins to seal victory in the Laser class ahead of Skandia Team GBR teammate and world bronze medallist Nick Thompson, while Charlotte Dobson took the Laser Radial win over rising star Chloe Martin.
Goodison commented: “It was really pleasing for me to come back after not doing that much racing and win four out of the five races at the weekend. It means that I’ve hopefully not lost too much over the winter months where we’ve been doing other things.
“The event for me was also a great opportunity to sail on the Olympic waters and the medal race training we did was especially good as we’ve not had much opportunity to sail medal race formats in Weymouth before.”
Skandia Team GBR’s Andrew Mills and Mark Andrews were first and second overall in the Finn fleet, with the third podium spot going to Adrian Brunton, while in the RS:X windsurfing fleets Nick Dempsey and Bryony Shaw each won three of the four RS:X races finishing first in the 9.5 and 8.5 open fleets.
“This weekend’s Spring Series really saw a step up from the norm, with a great turnout and some good value racing,” said RYA Olympic Development Squad Manager Barrie Edgington.
“It was great to see a large turnout in the Open 2.4 Class again and in particular a domestic fleet racing in the Paralympic SKUDs, a first in Portland harbour. Much of this has been made possible thanks to the investment in developing the Paralympic Pathway and the great work of the coaches and helpers responsible for delivering and promoting racing in the disability and Paralympic classes.”
“Most classes got a taster of racing both inside Portland Harbour and out in Weymouth Bay during the weekend,” Edgington continued, “and as all the fleets were about the right size, we took the opportunity to focus quite a bit on medal-race style racing which gave an added dimension with short races and courses to shake things up a bit.”
The second and final of the RYA Olympic Classes Spring Series events for 2010 will take place at Hayling Island Sailing Club from 8-9 May. Racing will take place for the following classes – Finn, RSX, 470, 49er. Entries will be on the day.