France comes out on top at Skandia Sail for Gold
France went home with the largest haul on medal race day at Skandia Sail for Gold. The French scored three gold medals – Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos finally winning the 470 Men, while Charline Picon came out on top in the RS:X Women, as did Damien Seguin in the 2.4mR. The most golds were won by the Australians after Nicky Souter, Nina Curtis and Olivia Price claimed the Women’s Match Racing, Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge/Iain Jensen won the Laser and 49ers respectively after team mates Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox had won the Skud-18.
The Dutch edged out Skandia Team GBR in the gold medal table with wins in two classes - Marit Bouwmeester in the Laser Radial and Udo Hessels, Marcel van de Veen and Mischa Rossen in the Sonar. Team Skandia GBR were left with a single gold - with Giles Scott the surprise winner in the Finn. However Team GBR made up for this with two silvers and four bronze medals.
The medal race action kicked off with the Men’s Laser fleet - Australia’s Tom Slingsby had to fend off the challenge of Britain’s 2008 Olympic gold medallist, Paul Goodison. Goodison had an eight point deficit, and the easiest way for Slingsby to win was to ensure that both sailors ended up at the back of the ten-boat medal race fleet. He did it particularly effectively, inflicting a penalty on Goodison that put the Brit to the back and into silver. Canada’s Michael Leigh picked up the bronze, while his compatriot, David Wright had the consolation of winning the medal rac
The Laser Radial Women have been locked in a war of attrition all week, with long days on the water and precious few races to show for it on occasions, as these highly competitive teams struggled to get good starts. No such problems in the ten-boat medal race however, and the Netherland’s Marit Bouwmeester finally clinched the gold medal that she has had at least one hand on all week. Finland’s Sari Multala completed a remarkable comeback – the 2010 World Champion wasn’t even qualifying for the medal race at the start of Friday’s racing, but she ended up with silver. New Zealand’s Sara Winther took the bronze.
The Women’s Match Racing was sailed concurrently with the early medal races, where the newly crowned French ISAF Sailing World Cup Champions, Claire Leroy, Marie Riou and Elodie Bertrand took on Australia’s Nicky Souter, Nina Curtis and Olivia Price for the gold medal. The Australian’s took the first two races, before Leroy fought back to win the third. But saving three successive match points was too much for Leroy and her team, and they lost the fourth race to cede the gold medal to Souter, Curtis and Price. The Dutch team of Renee Groeneveld, Annemieke Bes and Brechtje van der Werf beat the USA’s Anna Tunicliffe, Molly Vandemer and Debbie Capozzi for bronze.
The action was coming thick and fast on the two main harbour courses, where the medal races were alternating to supply a constant, almost dizzying sequence of action for the gathered crowds – both virtual and real. In the 470 Men, Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos have spent the week swopping the top spot with the newly crowned world and ISAF Sailing World Cup champions, Australians Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page. In the end it was France that took the gold, pushing Belcher and Page into silver. The bronze was taken by the British team of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell.
The Women’s 470 fleet has been ultra competitive, with several leaders during the week. But it was the Japanese pair of Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata that had control going into the medal race. But they had to hold off a challenge from the Spanish team of Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos, who crossed the finish line right behind the Dutch World Champions, Westerhof and Berkhout. But Kondo and Tabata were third, more than enough to record a comfortable win overall and take gold, with Spain in silver and the American team of Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving dropping from second overall going in, to take bronze.
The 49er class always produces some outstanding action. Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen converted a relatively comfortable 12 point lead over the chasing pack into a gold medal in smooth style, but all around them it was desperate stuff, with 3 points separating second from fourth place going in to the medal race. It was the Danish team of Peter Kruger Andersen and Nicolai Thorsell that came away with silver; and the Brits, Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes got the bronze by just a point from the early leaders of the regatta, France’s Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis.
In the RS:X Women’s fleet, Spain’s Blanca Manchon – and last year’s Skandia Sail for Gold winner - went in to the race guaranteed silver or better. It was silver that she got, as her closest challenger, Charline Picon of France won the medal race with Manchon back in seventh. Britain’s Bryony Shaw finished the race second behind Picon, but had to settle for bronze overall, the colour she got at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The RS:X Men also had some British interest in the 2009 World Champion and Athens Bronze medallist, Nick Dempsey. Dempsey went into the final day even on points with France’s Julian Bontemps, and the Netherland’s Dorian Van Rijsselberge just one point adrift of the leading pair. But it was Portugal’s Joao Rodrigues that took gold, after grabbing second in an intense final race. Van Rijsselberge got past Dempsey for silver, leaving the Brit in bronze and Julian Bontemps (FRA) with nothing.
The big guns of the Star fleet had been put in the shade all week by the Irish team of Peter O’Leary and Frithjof Kleen. The Sydney 2000 Olympic Finn bronze medalist, Freddy Loof and his crew Johan Tillander (SWE) had just edged ahead of the Irish yesterday, but O’Leary and Kleen were not to be denied. They sailed a very collected race to come third, and with Loof and Tillander back in ninth, the Irish were golden. Poland’s Matuesz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki went home with bronze, fending off the former Laser superstar, Brazil’s Robert Scheidt and his crew Bruno Prada.
And so we’ll end as we began, with what was probably the biggest story of the week – there’s nothing like burying your lead. Ben Ainslie’s much touted return to the Finn fleet that he had so completely dominated for so long had fizzled and sparked all week. A brilliant performance on Friday had put him up into second place this morning. But gold was virtually out of reach and in the pocket of Giles Scott, the young Brit who would be King. But Scott looked unsettled and couldn’t recover from a mid-fleet start, only just doing enough for gold with an eighth place finish. Ainslie didn’t start well either, but pulled back to finish third with a familiar relentlessness. Unfortunately, the two boats still ahead of him were France’s Jonathan Lobert and Croatia’s Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic. And that result dumped Ainslie into fourth, leaving France with gold and Croatia silver. There will be a lot more to be written on that story as the next two years unfold.
Top 10 results below.
Images from Richard Langdon/ Skandia Team GBR: