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Percy and Simpson still got it

Star aces claim pre-medal race Star victory at Princess Sofia Trophy

Friday April 8th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

Despite the double points scoring medal races still due to take place tomorrow, so the winners have already been decided in two classes at the 2011 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre.

For Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, the medal race will be a formality. The Beijing Gold medallists have sailed consistently despite the high calibre of the fleet and their 27 points lead over second placed Italians Diego Negri and Enrico Voltolini is now unassailable. Behind them in the Men's keelboat class, five teams are still capable taking the two remaining podium places. It was by no means a dream day for Switzerland's Flavio Marazzi and Enrico de Maria who OCS in today's first race and broke their mast in the second immediately after rounding the weather mark.

“We’ve had a good week and things have gone well but it was kind of one of those times where things worked out and some of our rivals didn’t have good weeks,” Percy admitted. “The result shows us to be a little bit further ahead than maybe we are, but still we’re really happy. It’s nice to win an event after such a long time away. We didn’t actually feel particularly quick this week. We’re normally pretty fast and upwind certainly we weren’t that quick so we’ve got to work on that a lot to try and get faster. You can sail well here and there, but one thing’s for sure you have to be fast in this game and we weren’t quite there this week. There’s a little bit of work still to be done.”

The top three remain the same in the RS:X classes with Marina Alabau (ESP) starting in the medal race with a good lead over her opponents. She has already secured her a gold or silver. Charline Picon (FRA) is also insured to finish on the podium opened to the top five.

“I don't usually perform in the conditions we had these last few days but I feel really well this week," said Picon. "Tomorrow will be a three way battle between Marina, Laura and me. I have a chance for Gold if Marina makes a mistake but my main objective will be to secure the silver.”

Laura Linares and Alessandra Sensini who are competing in Palma in their first Olympic selection event are two places apart, with, unexpectedly Linares ahead of her Olympic veteran counterpart.

“My objective is to do as best as I can and will give my best tomorrow. I will not look out for Alessandra and will concentrate to gain places on the podium.” says Linares.

In the RS:X women and men divisions, the podium remains open to the top five. Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED) is conserving his lead and cannot be toppled from the podium. Byron Kokalanis's good races today (1-3) have propelled him up to fifth overall, within reach of a medal.

In the 49er, for Dyen/Christidis (FRA) and the Sibello (ITA) brothers, the medal race will decide who goes home with Gold or Silver. Allan Norregaard and Peter Lang (DEN) are favourite for bronze with a seven points lead over their closest rival. However, the Bronze will also be the direct objective for sailors placed up to eighth overall.

The Finn battle for Gold will follow the same scenario as the 49ers with only Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott (GBR) standing a chance for Gold, Ainslie now holding a 14 point lead over his Skandia Team GBR teammate. The two British are continuing to race to top places with Ben Ainslie winning this year's first Sailing World Cup event Sail Melbourne, and Giles Scott, the second in Miami. With top two places secured in Palma they are sure to increase their lead in the SWC standings.

“We’ll see how I get on tomorrow,” said Ainslie, who today scored his sixth bullet. “The medal races are always tight, it’s obviously double points so I’ve got to go out and sail another good race and hopefully I can do that and make it all count.”

World Champion Ed Wright will be the third British boat to feature in the Finn medal race – he’ll start the day in seventh place.

With only two points separating the top three Lasers, tomorrow's medal race will be intense between World Champion Tom Slingsby (AUS), Gold medallist Paul Goodison (GBR), and Nick Thomson who is leading the Sailing World Cup standings after winning Sail Melbourne - all effectively tied going into the final race.  With no other contenders within reach of the podium spots, their finishing positions on the water tomorrow will determine the colours of their respective medals.

The top three haven't changed in the 470 men going into tomorrow's medal race. While seven teams have a chance for a medal, only the top four can pretend for Gold. Nicolas Charbonnier and Jérémie Mion (FRA) have slightly extended their lead on team mate Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos (FRA) who will try to keep their Trofeo Princesa Sofia title.

“Today was good for us,” admits Charbonnier, “we have increased the points with the seconds.” For the newly formed team, the Princesa Sofia Mapfre was also the occasion to tune their act together. “We have learned a lot here, especially the areas where we have to work to better our sailing. So it is a very positive week.”

The top three remain the same in the 470 women fleet but the teams have exchanged places. Jo Aleh and Bianca Babarich-Barber (NZL) are back in the lead in front of Japanese Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata (JAP) and in third early leaders Cohen/Vered from Israel. Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes (GBR) in fourth place can technically get to any medal.

The medal race in the Laser radial will start with a new leader. Sara Winther (NZL) takes the lead from Evi van Acker (BEL) after placing 11th in the first race and winning the next. The score is tight between the top 10 and the podium opened to all medal racers! Today best results went to Gintare Scheidt (LTU) who climbs to fourth overall after a first and a second in today's races and is in contention for Gold.

2010 World Champion, Thierry Schmitter (NED) has successfully defended his title in the 2.4 competition after winning six out of ten races. The Dutch especially enjoyed the strong breeze on the first day: "It was great fun, We should have racing like that more often." Second overall was Heiko Kroger from Germany and Megan Pascoe (GBR) third.

“It’s always nice to come away with a World Cup medal – it would have been nice to have a different colour but I did my best with what I had on the last day,” said Megan Pascoe , adding that a podium finish at the first event of the European season is a welcome confidence boost in a year where thoughts turn to Paralympic selection.

“I’m really happy with the medal, and to be top Brit as well,” Pascoe continued.  “Me and Helena work well together and we’ve got this pact where we’ll do our best to get a Paralympic medal, whichever one of us is selected to compete there.  It’s nice this early on in the season to be top Brit, and hopefully I can hold on to it later in the year.”

Another beautiful day on Palma Bay for the Women’s Match Racing fleet at the 42nd Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofia MAPFRE. The conditions were fantastic for some great battles in the Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals.

Silja Lehtinen (FIN) won her Quarter-Final over Silke Hahlbrock (GER) 3-0 and awaited her opponent. Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) saw her unbeaten streak ended by Stephanie Hazard (NZL), but rebounded to win her Quarter-Final 3-1. Claire Leroy (FRA) defeated her countrywoman Anne-Claire Le Berre (FRA) 3-1 to reach the Semi-Finals. The battle between Sally Barkow (USA) and Lucy Macgregor (GBR) came down to the 5th and final match with Barkow victorious and winning the knock-out series 3-2 to advance.

This set up an American battle in Semi-Final One between Tunnicliffe and Barkow and a Finnish-French match between Lehtinen and Leroy in Semi-Final Two.

Lehtinen won the first match, then Leroy tied it up. Lehtinen won the next two to secure her spot in tomorrow’s Final.

“We had reached the Quarter Finals twice before, but we had never advanced. So, this was a big thing for us. Our goal for the event was to get to the Quarter Finals, so everything from here on is a bonus. There are a lot of great teams here and just getting to the top eight is very difficult. We have been training a lot Tomorrow we will just keep doing what we have been doing, nothing special. We made some big gains in our training before Miami as well and we’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing.” explained Silja Lehtinen.

In the other Semi-Final, the two American teams – Sally Barkow and Anna Tunnicliffe – fought down to the wire in an exciting 5 match series which came down to a near phot finish with Barkow’s team victorious.

“The key for today was that we really tried to be patient and not make any aggressive mistakes. Every time we were getting all fired up, we just tried to calm down and keep it simple. And I thought we had really good boatspeed and good boathandling and used it to our advantage. Just a really tough battle with Anna (Tunnicliffe) - it was back and forth more times than I can remember and so we were just pleased to win by inches in the end. We’ll just stick to the same game plan – we’re going well through the water, so we’ll just try to win the starts and go from there.” commented Sally Barkow after her Semi-Final win.

Britain's Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor missed out on the medal chances , losing their quarter-final to 3-2 to Sally Barkow (USA), while windsurfer Bryony Shaw and GBR’s Laser Radial sailors will also sit out the last day of racing after missing out on the 10 medal race places.

Medal races are scheduled to start at 1100 (local) tomorrow.

Full results here for 470 Men, Finn, RS:X Men, 49er, Laser, Star, 470 Women, RS:X Women, Laser Radial, Womens Match Racing, 2.4m

Robert Deaves' Finn focus:

Olympic champion Ben Ainslie (GBR) dominated proceedings again on the final day of the gold and silver fleet races at the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia in Palma with a 1, 5 score to go into Saturday's medal race with a 14 point lead over Giles Scott (GBR). Third placed Thomas Le Breton (FRA), who won race 10, can now only challenge for silver from Scott, while fourth placed Dan Slater (NZL) is the only other sailor in with a chance of the bronze medal.

The final day for the gold and silver fleets started with another, albeit shorter, postponement to allow time for the sea breeze to kick in. When it arrived the fleet got away just after 12.30 in an 8-10 knot southerly, which increased during the day.
Ben Ainslie (GBR) added to his string of race wins with yet another bullet in race nine, his sixth of the series, this time from Dan Slater (NZL) and Jonathan Lobert (FRA), who has been struggling so far in this regatta. The third place gave Lobert a welcome boost up the results, but he had left it too late to make the medal race. The fleet was so tight that most of it crossed the finish line in one big group. A group of about 30 boats, were within 50 metres of each other at the finish, incredibly close after an hour of tough racing.

Race ten race started under Oscar flag for free pumping downwind in around 12 knots, with the waves getting slightly bigger. Third placed Piotr Kula (POL) tells his story. “After a good start I went to the right side of a fleet and it was looking good so I stayed there on the first upwind. After rounding the windward mark in eighth I was working at full strength on the downwind. With the free pumping everyone was making an enormous effort to speed up. After the downwind I was third. Giles Scott was pushing right behind for the next lap.”

Thomas Le Breton maintained his lead at the second top mark from Johan Tillander (SWE), Kula and Scott. “We worked really hard downwind and after a while we gained so much, that it became clear that we were fighting only against each other for third place. Giles is a really fast sailor so it was a hard battle but fortunately I managed to keep my spot and crossed the line in third.”

“I am very happy with the race as well as the whole regatta. I finished 19th overall which is really satisfying especially that after my knee surgery in October last year, I was not able to sail for five months. Despite all my ambition I did not think I would manage to do this well without training all winter.”

Fourth overall, Slater commented, “Over the last two days I have managed to improve my position in the top five. I have had good top mark roundings in all races and on a few occasions even gained downwind which has been a bit of a new development, however there is still some work to do on this so that I am able to keep up with the British sailors. Going into the medal race I can't lose my fourth place. I have a chance at a bronze but really we will have to have all the stars fall into place and all I can do is sail a good clear race.”

Lobert, who finished 15th overall this week mused on his regatta. “Today was a better day for me. This week I was trying some new gear and I have figured out that it is good in some conditions and not so good in others. Today I went back to my classic stuff just to get the confidence back for Hyeres. The speed was good and I really enjoyed the downwind today on the last race with the free pumping and nice waves. Now it's time to rest and be ready for Hyères.”

The final two silver fleet races brought a number of boats scoring OCS, including the first across the line in race nine Tomas Vika (CZE). Race nine was won by Julian Massler (GER) followed by Marko Kolic (ITA) and Egor Terpigorev (RUS). After more boats picked up an OCS in race 10, first across the line was Terpigorev, having a great day, followed by Alejandro Aranzueque (ESP) and Efe Kuyumcu (TUR). This leaves Massler as the winner of the silver fleet followed by Ali Kemal (TUR) and Andre Budzien (GER).

So, the medal race line up looks like this:

Ben Ainslie – Has a 14 point lead which only Scott can catch. With more titles than the rest of the fleet put together, no one is betting any money that he will lose this one.
Giles Scott – The winner in Miami has a 10 point lead over Le Breton, so will be interesting to see whether he protects that or goes for Ainslie.
Thomas Le Breton - Can grab the silver but also lose the bronze so could be attacking Scott while trying to defend against Slater
Dan Slater – Has nothing to lose. Cannot place worse than fourth so will almost certainly be attacking Le Breton from the start to get a medal.
Zach Railey - Opened the series well but picked up some high scores in past few days. Only nine points between sixth and last so there will be real battle in the bottom half of the fleet.
Gasper Vincec – One point behind Railey and again too far off to get a medal, but can also drop to the bottom with a bad race.
Ed Wright – The world champion and winner of the ISAF sailing world cup in 2009 and 2010 has left too much to do in the medal race. Won here last year, but now too far adrift to even take a medal.
Johan Tillander – Returning to the Finn after sailing Stars for a few years, he has already become a serious threat to the established Swedish sailors and improving all the time.
Vasilij Zbogar - Double Olympic Laser gold medalist who joined the Finns last year. So far can be a bit inconsistent but gradually getting there.
Rafael Trujillo – 2004 Olympic champion and 2007 world champion. Had some good results this week, but not enough of them to be challenging for a medal. Can still get up to fifth if he has a good race.
Ainslie won in Melbourne. Scott won in Miami. Ainslie and Scott are fighting for the win in Palma. Who will win the third leg of the 2011 ISAF Sailing Wiorld Cup? The medal races are scheduled to start from 11 am.

Click on photos below to enlarge them...



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