Ainslie on form
Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour were battered by unseasonably strong winds for day three of Skandia Sail for Gold. The Skud and 2.4m didn’t make it off the dock, but the other 11 Olympic and Paralympic classes did, and took on conditions that were definitely ‘top end’. The average wind speed on the breakwater read 25 knots throughout the day, with gusts up to 29 knots. There was damage to boats, broken masts and capsizes, stuff that you rarely see from the top Olympic sailors in the world. But it was the Brits who most relished the conditions, leading five of the 13 fleets as the sun began to set on a still windswept Weymouth Bay.
In the Finn Ben Ainslie lived up to his reputation, winning both today's races. With five races sailed Ainslie is discarding a seventh, leaving him nine points clear of team mate Giles Scott and 'Bambi', Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic, who are tied.
"It was hard work out there again today with very strong wind conditions on a tricky race course," said Ainslie. "I come back in from a day like today and my body is aching, but it’s all about testing yourself, so it is satisfying to get two good results. I’m definitely better trained compared to last year’s Skandia Sail for Gold, where I’d literally just got back into Finn sailing. We have worked hard technically on the boat and physically on my fitness so it’s good to see that hard work paying off. I am happy with how things have gone so far but there is still a long way to go this week and hopefully the wind dies down a bit so it will be a little bit easier for us all.
The Finn and Stars were again sailing course Foxtrot – over five miles offshore – where there wasn’t just the wind to contend with but a difficult sea state. As a result the Finns were sent in after completing just two of their planned three races, due to the strength of the winds and height of the waves. In the Star such conditions usually means damage and so it was that there were four dismastings, albeit this fate not befalling any of the leaders. Sweden's Freddy Loof and Max Salminen relished the conditions with a 2,1 scoreline, moving them up into second place six points adrift of double gold and silver Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt and his Brazilian partner Bruno Prada with Poland’s Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki hold third just a point behind the Swedes. Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson hold fifth place, ten points from the podium. The race committee wisely decided not to go for a third race due to the amount of kit breakages in the fleet.
"Today we had a good start and sailed well and consistently," commented Loof, the 2004 Star World Champion. "It’s rough, tricky and challenging sailing out there but it’s good, I like it. We got it working really well and were fast downwind whereas yesterday we were not so good. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow; Weymouth is an awesome sailing venue to sail at and I prefer it to China, plus it’s much closer to home!"
In the 470 Women, Skandia Team GBR's new pairing of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark kept their noses clean with a 5-6 which was enough to keep them in the top spot. However the star performers of the day were Israel’s Gil Cohen and Vered Bouskila, who for some reason relished the strong winds coming home with a third and first place that hoists them to second, 10 points from the leaders. With discards coming into play so some of the big hitters are back with New Zealand’s Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie up to third, two points ahead of Spain' Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos with Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes fifth. Double world champions Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout won today's first race but didn't start the second.
In the 470 Men the Aussie steam train was fully fired up in the strong conditions, World Champions Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page posting two bullets propelling them up to first place now they can discard their uncharacteristic 17th scored in the first race. Overnight leaders, France's Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos, winners here last year, managed one win and a seventh to drop to third, also passed by Sweden's Anton Dahlberg and Sebastian Ostlin, now up to second. In the inter-Brit competition Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell hold sixth place on 25 points, seven from the podium, four points ahead of Nick Rogers and Chris Grube, who are ninth. Nic Asher and Elliot Willis drop to 13th after a DSQ in today's first race.
Malcolm Page, the Beijing Gold medallist said: "The last few regatta’s we competed in we seemed to make a habit of going for it full blow and going into the finals in first place, and then stuffing it up! We are improving everyday here but we just need to keep our form. The real racing starts tomorrow, I am looking forward to the challenge of the gold fleet, there is nothing like competing against your biggest competitors and not watching them in the other fleets. I think it will make a big difference to the score card."
The Laser Men sailed two races early, and it was Netherland’s Rutger van Schaardenburg with a first and second, and Britain’s Nick Thompson with a first and third that dominated racing – the former moved up from third to second, but Thompson leap-frogged the Dutchman to go from fourth into the lead with Tom Slingsby now second. But impressively just one point separates this low scoring trio. British favourite Paul Goodison lies eighth 17 points adrift of Thompson.
Thompson commented: "The first two days were pretty tough, getting in at 7.30 or 8 o’clock every day so it’s a bit nicer to go out there and get the job done a lot quicker and get in a bit sooner. We had good breeze, the same as yesterday, some really good breeze, and it’s going well so far. I’m not looking too much at the overall results at the moment, I’m just trying to take each race as it comes, but it’s a good start which is what I need really. I feel reasonably good – everyone’s struggling a bit as it’s been really, really tough conditions for the last three days. I’m feeling OK but it’s about going and getting maximum recovery now and make sure I am ready for tomorrow, and hopefully if it’s breezy again I should be in good shape. Pretty much everyone that’s here racing is taking this event incredibly seriously – the game is raised quite a bit here and you can tell that people are feeling the pressure. For myself it’s about trying to not let that get to me and just trying to focus on each race as it comes and go from there."
The Laser Radials sailed two races in tough conditions and a virtuoso performance from Ireland’s Annalise Murphy, with straight bullets, handed her the overall lead on just eight points after six races and one discard. ISAF Sailing World Cup leader, the Netherland’s Marit Bouwmeester was her ever-consistent-self in the breeze, adding another second and third (she got the same results yesterday) to her scoreline to hold second place, while overnight leader, Belgium’s Evi van Acker slipped to third. The Brits remain locked in contention. Charlotte Dobson lies in fifth, 11 points behind Murphy, while Alison Young won today's first race (her third bullet) but then posted a 21st, dropping her to eighth. She will be awaiting the second discard.
Annalise Murphy commented: "This event is being used as the Irish selection trails; being the only Irish Laser Radial sailor it’s not quite as important for me as it is the other girls so it takes a lot of pressure off me. It’s really important to get used to the venue, being here you get a real idea of what it’s going to be like. It’s pretty scary that it’s happening so soon but hopefully I can just be as prepared as possible for it. I’m just looking forward to going out racing each day and seeing what happens."
The 49ers waited till very late in the day in an attempt to equalise the number of races that the two flights had sailed but ultimately failed, leaving some of them with six race results and others with seven. The rules state that they go back to the last time they had an even number of races and that left Italy’s Sibello Brothers top of the heap, chased by Britain’s John Pink and Rick Peacock, and then Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes.
Pietro Sibello commented: "So far so good for us. The 49er fleet is really competitive. The English are really strong, they have five different teams who are sailing at a really high level and are pushing the rest of the fleet a lot. I think the Australian guys (Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen) are the other ones to look out for – they are the ones to beat. I am really looking forward to battling it out with them the rest of this week! We are looking to spend as much time in Weymouth as possible; we will be here throughout the summer. It is important because the conditions change a lot here and the more time I spend here the stronger position I feel I will be in when it comes to our selection."
Today was the final day of heats for the 49ers, 470s, RS:X and Laser classes before they are spilt into gold and silver fleets tomorrow.
The only Paralympic class to sail was the Sonar, and both races were won by Skandia Team GBR’s John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas, giving them the overall lead. The Dutch trio, Udo Hessels, Marcel Van Veen and Mischa Rossen stayed in second and the French team of Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont Vicary moved up one place into third.
The Match Racing schedule was badly disrupted, initially by boat damage and then by the close-to 30 knots gusts howling across the harbour. The gold fleet just managed to sail a handful of races, and it was Australia’s Nicky Souter, Jessica Eastwell and Lucinda Witty, along with Sally Barkow, Elizabeth Kratizig-Burnham and Alana O'Reilly from the USA that kept a clean sheet. Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vendemoer and Debbie Capozzi (USA) and Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor (GBR) are level on one win and one loss each, while both the Netherlands’ Mandy Mulder, Annemieke Bes and Merel Witteveen and France’s Anne-claire Le Berre, Alice Ponsar and Myrtille Ponge are still looking for their first win.
The RS:X Men sailed this morning, and got two races in before heading home for an early finish. It was Britain’s Nick Dempsey that cleaned up with a phenomenal two wins, pushing him up from fifth to the top of the leaderboard. New Zealand’s Jp Tobin could only manage a second and a fifth and slipped to second, with yesterday’s star performer, Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberge holding his third place.
Nick Dempsey said: "It’s been pretty nice conditions, sunny and windy and we had two cracking races this morning. I won them both which is really nice especially after a frustrating day yesterday. The first day was good but yesterday I made three major errors. I want to keep sailing well and get the points back I lost. The conditions have been gorgeous, you couldn’t race in a better place and everyone’s enjoying it and racing really hard. JP Tobin [NZL] and Dorian [NED] have both been sailing really well this week so it will be a close battle but a good one. But, I’m sailing faster than I’ve ever sailed before and I’m feeling really good so I will just keep trying my best."
By the afternoon the breeze was reaching its maximum and the RS:X Women had some spectacular sailing. It was Israel’s Lee Korzits that had the best day with a first and a second, moving up from fourth to take the overall lead. Spain’s Marina Alabau was displaced into second, with Poland’s Zofia Klepacka moving up above Alabau’s compatriot, Blanca Machon, and pushing the World Champion down into fourth.
Manchon commented: "It was really windy in the first race today, almost 30 knots, and for me it wasn’t very good. I had a bad second lap and lost a lot of places so that was disappointing but the last race was better. There was less wind and I finished fourth so I am happy with that. Tomorrow the fleets get divided into gold and silver and of course it is going to be difficult racing – we will just have to wait and see! This is a really competitive fleet and there are about five girls who are really good and are all able to win here. The Israeli girl (Lee Korzits) is great in the strong winds, so if the conditions continue like this she would be really tough to beat.
Top 3 provisional results Day 3: Wednesday 8th June
49er After 6 Races
1. ITA 3- SIBELLO Pietro / SIBELLO Gianfranco (10pts)
2. GBR 8- PINK John / PEACOCK Richard (15pts)
3. GBR 7-MORRISON Stevie / RHODES Ben (19pts)
470 WOMEN After 6 Races
1. GBR 847- MILLS Hannah / CLARK Saskia (19pts)
2. ISR 311- COHEN Gill / BOUSKILA Vered (29pts)
3. NZL 75- ALEH Jo / POWRIE Olivia (31pts)
470 MEN After 6 Races
1. AUS 11- BELCHER Mat / PAGE Malcolm (12pts)
2. SWE 346- DAHLBERG Anton / OSTLING Sebastian (16pts)
3. FRA 44- LEBOUCHER Pierre / GAROS Vincent (18pts)
FINN After 5 races
1. GBR 3- AINSLIE Ben (5pts)
2. GBR 41- SCOTT Giles (14pts)
3. CRO 524- KLJAKOVIC GASPIC Ivan (14pts)
LASER After 6 Races
1.. GBR 198211- THOMPSON Nick (13pts)
2.. NED 192625- VAN SCHAARDENBURG Rutger (13pts)
3. AUS 197541- SLINGSBY Tom (14pts)
LASER RADIAL After 6 Races
1. IRL 199417- MURPHY Annalise (9pts)
2. NED 200444- BOUWMEESTER Marit (12pts)
3. BEL 197514 VAN ACKER Evi (13pts)
STAR After 5 Races
1. BRA 8255- SCHEIDT Robert / PRADA Bruno (8pts)
2. SWE 8450- LOOF Fredrik / SALMINEN Max (14pts)
3. POL 8417- KUSZNIEREWICZ Mateusz / ZYCKI Dominik (15pts)
SKUD 18 After 3 Races
1. AUS 47- FITZGIBBON Daniel / TESCH Liesl (5pts)
2. GBR 45- RICKMAN Alexandra / BIRRELL Niki (7pts)
3. AUS 52- DUNROSS Jamie / COX Rachael (9pts)
SONAR After 5 Races
1. GBR 748- ROBERTSON John / STODEL Hannah / THOMAS Steve (5pts)
2. NED 688- HESSELS Udo / VAN VEEN Marcel/ ROSSEB Mischa (9pts)
3. FRA 840- JOURDREN Bruno / FLAGEUL Eric (14pts)
2.4 After 4 Races
1. NED 12- SCHMITTER Thierry (10pts)
2. FRA 13- SEGUIN Damien (10pts)
3. NED 11- RADEMAKER Andre (16pts)
RS:X MEN After 6 Races
1. GBR 1- DEMPSEY Nick (11pts)
2. NZL 151- TOBIN JP (11pts)
3. NED 8- VAN RIJSSELBERGE Dorian (12pts)
RS:X WOMEN After 6 Races
1. ISR 111- KORZITS Lee (9pts)
2. ESP 5- ALABAU Marina (12pts)
3. POL 8- KLEPACKA Zofia (15pts)
Gold Group Round Robin
USA Barkow / Kratizig-Burnham / O’Reilly 2-0
AUS Souter / Curtis / Price 2-0
GBR Macgregor / Lush / Macgregor 1-1
USA Tunnicliffe / Vandemoer / Capozzi 1-1
FRA Le Berre / Ponsar / Ponge 0-2
NED Mulder / Bes / Witteveen 0-2