Into the medal races
Winners in the paralympic classes were decided on the penultimate day of Skandia Sail for Gold, held in similar conditions to yesterday with a bright morning but a heavily overcast afternoon bringing rain and ‘challenging’ shifts and bullets of wind on the race course.
In the Skud 18 it was the Australian pair of Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox that have dominated the class with seven first places and two seconds. The Beijing silver medalists beat the British team of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell into second place. Fitzgibbon commented: “It’s been a good week for us guys, a long week but it’s been a good week. We’ve done really well we’ve sailed well and Rach [Rachael Cox] and I are getting better and better and we’re doing well. It’s great coming to Weymouth [with two years to go], I’m comfortable in the conditions and we’ve had a great a result going forward to the Games.”
World Champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell picking up the overall World Cup series crown, but having to settle for second place at the regatta. They picked up their worst result of the regatta in their opening race of the day, but ended the event on a high to take the final race victory.
“The Australians fully deserve their gold medal – they sailed better than us this week and I’m not going to take that away from them,” said Rickham. “I think they’re stronger in breezy conditions than we are – this week obviously brought a bit of breeze so we know what we have to work on and where the gaps are, and I suppose all things being looked at, that’s the advantage of having an event here.
“We can see where we need to make up ground versus where we were at the Worlds where we were playing very much to our strengths. All in all, it’s been good learning, I can’t really complain. It’s a medal – a medal’s a medal!”
In the Sonar class its been an intriguing, this week also belonged to the Dutch team of Udo Hessels, Marcel van de Veen and Mischa Rossen. They took an early lead, which was dragged back to just a single point by Team GBR’s John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stevie Thomas going into the final day. But a bad Friday the 13th for the Brits, scoring a seventh and sixth, left the Dutch comfortable winners, with the Israeli team of Dror Cohen, Benni Vexler and Arnon Efrati just a point behind in bronze.
“Our forestay broke in the first race,” Stodel explained, “so it was a bit of drama coming down the last run but we got that fixed on the water and we were happy. Luckily the jib’s got quite a lot of tension on it so we managed to hold the mast up until the finish line. We were aiming for a top three - a medal at the Games venue is pretty good really so we’re happy. It would have been nice for it to be a different colour but any medal’s good right now.”
The 2.4mR class was a week long duel with another Dutch sailor, French-born Thierry Schmitter up against France’s Damien Seguin. The pair had traded the lead all week, and it came down to a single point – Seguin winning it in the final race. Beijing gold medallist, Canadian Paul Tingley fell just short of the podium in fourth.
Elsewhere through the classes, sailors were jockeying to make the top 10 in order to get a berth in Saturday’s medal races.
23 year old Brit, the towering Giles Scott (he seems bigger than ever but claims he is no longer growing) has done a grand job to hold on to lead in the Finn class and is in a strong position to take the gold. But the man 16.4 points behind him in second is none other than Ben Ainslie, the class’ early leader this week, France’s Jonathan Lobert having had a rotten day posting a 13-30-16 dropping him to third. In fact less than seven points separate Ainslie from sixth placed Kiwi Dan Salter and in the mix is a third Brit, considering the UK no2, Ed Wright.
“I think everyone found it very very difficult today,” Scott told thedailysail. “The winds were very unpredictable – straight off the shore you had gusts just rolling down off the hills and hitting the water - you had very little time to react.”
“If you had asked me a few days ago when I had my OCS I would have said no, but it has been great. I am really pleased I have been able to sail realy consistently since then.”
In the 470 Men France’s Pierre LeBoucher and Vincent Garos have retaken the lead with a useful 3-1-5 today and are now two points ahead of Aussie World Champions Matt Belcher and Malcolm Page, in turn 13 ahead of young Brits Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell.
“Conditions were extremely variable, so it was very much a case of trying to have a look at where your competitors were but more important was picking the wind as best you could and trying to be as patient as you could and just taking the opportunities and dealing the best with what you’ve got at the time,” said Matt Belcher.
Conditions on the 470 course, Malcolm Page said, varied between 2 and 14 knots today and this is big in the 470 as it is the difference between planing and not planing. “The land breeze it is very shifty. I wouldn’t say it is random but it is very hard to predict.”
Belcher added: “It takes experience to get used to those conditions. Even from yesterday having more experience sailing in those conditions, today you had a little more idea of what you think the breeze will do. So the more time we spend here the better.”
Page pitched in: “It was obvious yesterday – the British teams were on fire. They had done it before, but at least we were able to match them a little bit better today.”
Belcher: “On the first race today on the second beat the breeze was a little bit in the left, died and went quite heavily in the right. On the left Luke [Patience] was third overall, he was dead and he just came back on a shift.”
It is all change again in the Women’s 470 where Japan’s Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata are back into the lead now nine points ahead of 2008 World Champions from the USA, Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving with the world no1s Ingrid Petitjean and Nadege Douroux from France a further nine point adrift in third, after the young Spanish duo, Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos posted a 31st in today’s second race, now their discard and dropping them to fourth. A point behind the French, they are still in with a good shot at a medal.
In the 49er Aussies Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen continue to shine (read more here), despite a difficult day on the water. Fortunately this was the same for most although the leaderboard has tightened up at the top with this week’s early leaders from France, Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis 12 points behind. But come tomorrow’s medal race the battle will really be on for the bottom two spots on the podium with Britain’s Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes three points off the French and tied on points with team mates Chris Draper and Pete Greenhalgh, who came out best today with a 4-11-5 scoreline. Two other teams are also in the mix for the final podium spots.
Australia is also dominating the Lasers. Last year at Skandia Sail for Gold Tom Slingsby won the Laser by 25 points and looked set to do the same holding a 31 point lead going into today’s racing. However his impressive scoreline was today marred by a 16-19, allowing British World Champion and Beijing Gold medallist Paul Goodison to close to within eight points of him.
“Goodie gained 30 points on me today, so going into tomorrow it will be me and Goodie going for the win. Paul will need to get four boats between us. Anything can happen in the medal race - I’ll try and stick close to him and we’ll see what happens.”
“I was struggling to commit to a side,” Slingsby said of today’s racing. “You had to really pick a side of the course and work your side and I got bounced around in the middle too much. Paul was a bit more decisive and picked his side and did really well. It was a bit frustrating especially to lose a big lead on the last day but we’ll see what happens tomorrow.” Expect some match racing between these two tomorrow.
In the Radial Dutch sailor Marit Bouwmeester is back in the driving seat now with a four point lead over New Zealand’s Sara Winther with the experienced sailors Sarah Steyaert from France and Finland’s Sari Multala close behind. Today was disastrous for US favourite Paige Railey who was one of several to be black flagged in the final race – enough to prevent her even taking part in the medal race.
In the Star the posse of Finn sailors have finally got the better of Ireland’s Peter O’Leary and Frithjof Kleen leaders for most of this week, with Sydney 2000 Olympic Finn bronze medalist, Freddy Loof and his crew Johan Tillander (SWE) putting in a commanding performance in the shifty breeze. They are now three points ahead of the Irish with another Finn sailor, Athens bronze medalist Matuesz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki nine behind. Reigning World Champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson are now out of the medal race after they posted a 33 in today’s final race.
The tightest battle for the podium is in the RS:X Men where Britain’s Nick Dempsey, France’s Julien Bontempts and the Netherland’s Dorian van Russelberge are all within one point with Portugal’s Joao Rodrigues also in the mix. In the Women the top two are looking secure-ish with Spain’s Blanca Manchon six points ahead of France’s Charline Picon.
In the Women’s Match Racing, there was a succession of epic battles to choose the finalists - none more so than the lengthy GBR versus USA bout between Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and younger sister Katie Macgregor versus Anna Tunicliffe, Molly Vandemer and Debbie Capozzi. It was a critical match for the ISAF Sailing World Cup – Macgregor and co. were a point ahead for the tour so far, but defeat would lose them the title. They also started the day 0-2 down, but recovered the -0.75 awarded for damage in an overnight appeal. And that meant they only had to win three races on the trot.
Macgregor and her team came very close, winning two, leveling the score, then getting the lead and a penalty on Tunnicliffe in the third. But the Americans weren’t done yet, clearing the penalty and getting the lead back on the run, and holding it to the finish. Afterwards a disappointed Lucy Macgregor said: “The result is hard because we felt like we sailed well, but me in particular, [I] made some mistakes in the last race which I won’t forgive myself for a while. But we do feel like we sailed well, so certainly are disappointed with the final result.”
The battle was also on for the ISAF Sailing World Cup standing with France’s Claire Leroy, Marie Riou and Elodie Bertrand only a point behind Anna Tunnicliffe’s team. The French girls progressed to the semi-finals as well, having beaten Australian Katie Spithill’s team 3 -1. The semifinal line-up saw Claire Leroy on the tiller against the Dutch team of Renee Groeneveld, Annemieke Bes, Brechtje van der Werf. While Anna Tunnicliffe took on the other top Australian team of Nicky Souter, Nina Curtis and Olivia Price. No one really expected the result – a three-nil victory to the Aussies.
If Claire Leroy went through to the final, she would take the ISAF Sailing World Cup title. The French team went two-nil up before Renee Groeneveld pulled a race back. But Claire Leroy, long-term resident at the top of ISAF’s Women’s Match Race Rankings, wasn’t to be denied and with her crew took the fourth race to go through to the final against the Spithill sister and her team. Leroy was delighted: “To win the World Cup is a big surprise for us! We were so happy because as we passed the line our coach shouted that Anna didn’t win her race and we just couldn’t believe we had won the World Cup! We are really pleased, but we still want to win the event.”
Full results here