Paralympic medals decided
Waking to a brisk northwesterly breeze, sailors at US Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR today made up for races lost to light air yesterday. Conditions, though chilly by Florida standards, played out perfectly for medals to be determined in the three Paralympic classes, while 10 Olympic classes fought their final full fleet races prior to tomorrow’s medal races.
For France’s Damien Seguin, a two-time 2.4mR IFDS World Champion and currently ranked #1 in the world, winning gold in the Paralympic 2.4mR class was looking good from day two when he assumed the lead over his 30-boat fleet. Clinching victory today, however, was not as straightforward as today’s scores reflect. Following seven boat lengths behind leader USA’s John Ruf at the finish in race one, Seguin was determined the actual winner only when Ruf was disqualified for being OCS and neglecting to exonerate himself.
“After that, for my next two races, my score was such that I needed only to loosely cover Thierry Schmitter,” said Seguin, further explaining that only if he finished worse than sixth would he foil his own plot. Schmitter, another former IFDS World Champion, took the silver, finishing fourth in the first race and winning the next two, each time with Seguin behind in second.
“There were many different winds here,” said Seguin about the practice this provides for his run for a spot on the French national team. “We started in strong wind, then there was light wind and today medium-strong. I am very happy for that and for the competition.”
Taking bronze was Canada’s Allan Leibel, who is able-bodied and allowed to compete here, since the class is declared 'open' for this event.
Gold in the Sonar was taken by GBR’s John Robertson/Hannah Stodel/Steve Thomas but came with an intriguing twist today. After the disappointment of a race disqualification on Thursday lost them their overall lead to the Dutch team of Udo Hessels/Mischa Rossen/Marcel van de Veen, the Brits came out fighting and picked their way through Friday’s three races into the gold medal position with 5,2,3 on the board. They took gold by six points over the French team helmed by Bruno Jourdren, with bronze going to the Dutch World Championship-winning crew.
“There were two points between us and the Dutch, so no one will ever know how it would have played out on the water,” said Robertson, explaining that he understands Hessel’s middle crew Rossen, a single-arm amputee, had been having problems with his opposite shoulder and the team had decided beforehand to race no more than two races today.
Robertson’s team, which took the Silver here last year, posted a final score of 30 to the 36 points posted by silver medalists Bruno Jourdren/Eric Flageul/Nicolas Vimont Vicary. The Dutch team, with 37 points, is going home with the bronze.
As for his team’s overall strategy here, Robertson said, “We tried to sail our own race and not get hung up with the other guys. Hanna did a fantastic job calling tactics, especially today, as the wind was up and down and all over the place, with 40-50 degree shifts.”
Hannah Stodel added: “It’s very pleasing, considering we had a stressful night last night with a DSQ added to the board. We went into today wearing red bibs, in bronze position, so we had a lot on but we sailed really well today. This is certainly a good start to the season. Everything we’ve been working on over the winter – all the ‘mental toughness’ stuff we’ve been working on has been paying off. Our confidence has come back, we’re working really well together and sailing well as a team.”
The Australian Paralympic Skud 18 team of Daniel Fitzgibbon/Liesl Tesch has led their fleet since day one and boasted six victories in their nine-race score line to take gold. Today they confirmed their position, posting a 1-1-2.
“We didn’t walk away with it, really, but we were comfortably ahead,” said Fitzgibbon, who won a Paralympic Silver Medal (with a different crew) in Qingdao. "We didn’t expect to have done so well with such a new combination,” he added, noting that he and Tesch, who gave up Paralympic basketball (she is a two-time medalist) for her new-found love of sailing, have only been together on the SKUD 18 for a few weeks. “It’s a new challenge for her and a breath of fresh air for everybody.”
Winning Silver was US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics’ Scott Whitman/Julia Dorsett with Skandia Team GBR's Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell. Alexandra Rickham said:“I can’t be disappointed with the fact that we’ve actually got a medal. I’m disappointed because they’re both competitors that we’ve been jousting with for the last year or two and Dan, who won, we’d just beaten in Melbourne so we were hoping to keep that ball rolling. But we can’t be too disappointed – it’s a medal, and some people don’t have them!”
Elsewhere the top ten in each class were determined today for tomorrow's double points-scoring medal races, with the exception of the Women's Match Racing. Here the semi-finals were raced today with the USA's Anna Tunnicliffe's team beating Lucy Macgregor's 3-0, while France's Claire Leroy had a similarly decisive result over the USA's Sally Barkow. While Tunnicliffe and LeRoy will race in the finals tomorrow, Macgregor and Barkow's team will fight it out for bronze in the petit-finals.
“We’re very excited by our results today,” said Tunnicliffe, who tomorrow will line up with the French team she know well as she has been training with them prior to this event. “She is a very fast sailor and very smart. For us, we have to take it one race at a time and not think about any end results. We are excited for tomorrow’s race and looking forward to it.”
Match racing starts on its own course at 9:30 tomorrow, with fleet racing starting at 11:00 am on two additional courses.
In the 49er Skandia Team GBR's John Pink and Rick Peacock have cause for early celebrations as they ensured victory in the 49er class with a day to spare. With teammates Paul Brotherton-Mark Asquith and Dave Evans-Ed Powys holding a firm second and third places respectively, the Brits are all but guaranteeing a clean sweep of the podium spots in the skiff event.
The story is similar in the Finn, where Giles Scott continues to dominate and Skandia Team GBR hold the top three spots. Andrew Mills has the best of today's results witha 2-1 and is now eight points off the lead, while a 3-2 was enough to launch Ben Ainslie back into third, a point astern of his team mate. Ainslie is a comfortable 10 points clear of Australian Brendan Casey, so again the Brits are in a strong position to claim a clean sweep of the podium tomorrow.
“It was quite a tricky day with some good 15-20 degree shifts but I seemed to have some good pace and managed to hold it all together,” Mills surmised.
The Laser is an altogether tighter affair. Despite posting a 15th which he must score, in today's last race, Sweden's Rasmus Myrgren had a worse day allowing the reigning Olympic Gold medallist to take the lead, but by just a point. But going into the medal race four sailors inclduing Julio Alsogaray and Britain's Nick Thompson are all in with a chance of victory, with just fours separating them.
The USA's Paige Railey had the most consistent day on the water in the Laser Radial and her 19 point lead means she has all but claimed gold prior to the medal race. Belgium's Evia van Acker and France's Sarah Steyaert are looking comfortable in the remaining podium spots.
“I just went out trying for consistent results,” said Railey of her 4-2-4 results today. “Luther said to me, ‘Go out and get some races.’ I was three points behind; all I wanted was a close medal race with Evi (Van Acker) and Marit (Bouwmeester). They are both really good sailors and I wasn’t excepting to win. All I tried to do is get in wind and if wind died Luther told me to get my head out of the boat and think 10 steps ahead to find where the next big breeze was coming from. It definitely worked out. Tomorrow I’ll go out and do the same thing again. And I’ll definitely cheer on my brother [Zach - in the Finn].”
The British men’s crews at the top of the 470 class had a tougher time on Friday, but still hold on to the top two spots heading into the final. Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell hold a four point edge over teammates Nic Asher and Elliot Willis, who lead the Australian World Champions Matt Belcher and Malcolm Page by a similar margin. There is a 9 point margin to fourth, so again the podium occupants, if not necessarily their final positions look set for tomorrow.
Britain's Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes have been fighting hard in the Women's 470. Today they bounced back from a black flag disqualification in their first race to maintain their second place overall, but Ingrid Petitjean and Nadege Douroux hold a six point lead over them, while another French team, Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron are just a point off the Brits. Sarah Ayton and Saskia Clark also make the medal race cut in ninth place, but Hannah Mills and Katie Archer missed out by a point, despite scoring best of the day’s results posting a 1,4,1.
In the Star, Brazilians Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada are the third team to claim gold with a day to spare and have done so in the most decisive manner with a 33 points margin over Canada's Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn, with France's Xavier Rohbart and Pierre Alexis Ponsot, in third.
There is still racing to be had in the RS:X Men which Dorian van Rijsselberge continues to lead but is only four points ahead of Britain's Nick Dempsey, in turn now six points clear of third placed Israeli Nimrod Mashiah. In the women's class Bryon Shaw is also second but has a lot of work to do catch Spain's immaculate Marina Alabau who is 11 points clear of her.
Full results here
More images from Richard Langdon/Skandia Team GBR