Ben Ainslie off to a strong start
The first day of fleet racing in Perth was held in light, fluctuating breezes as four fleet racing classes took to the water on day three of the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships. With only the lightest of sea breezes reaching just over ten knots, the temperature in Perth soared to 34°C.
Already a record holder with an unprecedented five Finn world titles to his name, Ben Ainslie put down an early marker for a sixth world crown on his opening day of racing, picking up two race wins.
After a short delay waiting for the afternoon sea breeze to arrive, Ainslie got his Finn Gold Cup underway in style, leading the first race from start to finish and sending the warning signal that, in spite of having already sealed his Olympic berth, he’s by no means resting on his laurels on the Fremantle waters.
In the second of the day’s two races for the heavyweight dinghy fleet, Ainslie didn’t have it all his own way, rounding the first mark in fifth place to Skandia Team GBR teammate Ed Wright’s first, before pulling his way back through the fleet and into pole position on the first downwind leg.
“I didn’t have such a great start,” Ainslie recalled. “I think I was fifth or sixth at the top mark but I had a great first reach and first run and got through to the lead at the bottom mark and was able to hold on to that for the rest of the race, with Ed Wright also having a good race as well.”
“They were a couple of difficult races – there was nice breeze but it was still quite tricky and everyone was anxious to get racing. I’m happy with two wins [today] but there’s a long way to go and some tough competition out there,” remarked the triple Olympic gold medallist.
Robert Deaves fills in the details: Race one got under way in 12-13 knots with Oscar flag flying for free pumping. Yellow fleet started first under a black flag, following one general recall, with Ainslie winning the pin and leading throughout to take the race win. Zach Railey crossed in second while Croatia's Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic crossed third. Long time second placed Dane Jonas Hoegh Christensen ended up fourth.
The wind dropped half way through the race with the 'R' flag raised to limit pumping again, though Oscar was up again for the start of race two, as the breeze built to a solid 15 knots, providing for some great sailing conditions. This time, the defending world champion Ed Wright led round the top mark from Brendan Casey (AUS), Dan Slater (NZL), Railey and Ainslie. Ainslie took the lead on the first downwind to lead round the rest of the course for his second win of the day. Wright held on to second while Casey crossed in third.
In the blue fleet, starting second and sailing the inner trapezoid course, Spain's Rafa Trujillo, the 2004 Olympic Silver medalist, led all the way to win. He was followed over the finish by returning Olympian Canada's Chris Cook who hasn't raced competitively for three years, with the current European Champion Giles Scott in third.
Trujillo was again up the front in the second race, though the Netherland's Pieter-Jan Postma made the best of the first upwind to lead round and extend to win the race. Andrew Mills rounded in second from Trujillo and France's Thomas Le Breton. Mills dropped back, while Le Breton and Trujillo battled for second, with the French sailor coming off best this time.
Postma said of his day, “I was not so consistent today.” He finished 20th in the first race. “But the racing was good. We had good lines and the courses were well set. The level is also very high and people were fighting all the time for places. So it was not so easy. It was quite shifty and the side changed a bit. But in the second race it was clear for me what to do and I wanted to go fully left so it was pin end start and out to the left.”
Second overall, Trujillo was really happy with his results, “I am happy with the first day with two good races as I think it is going to be a long week here. I was also happy to have such good conditions after the forecast we had earlier. The first race was pretty difficult, but my coach said to try the right so I went to the right and it paid off well. In the second race PJ got away, but I had a good fight with Thomas for second.”
Railey added, “Today was a great start for me. It's going to be a long regatta so it's nice to start with two solid races. I was a little disappointed on the fifth as I lost a boat right at the end when Jonathan Lobert just got past me. Otherwise in the first race I rounded about seventh and made up too second so, overall I gained more boats than I lost, mostly on the downwind. The fleets were so compact at the top mark, with about 10 or 15 boats all hitting the top mark pretty close, and there were some pretty big speed differences downwind.”
The defending champion Wright said, “I had a slow start, though did better than last year. But who said Perth was windy? I was surprised by the light weather conditions and I’m hoping for better winds for the rest of the week.”
Top 20 results:
|1||AINSLIE Charles Benedict||GBR||1||1||2|
|4||KLJAKOVIC GASPIC Ivan||CRO||3||6||9|
|7||WRIGHT Edward Martin||GBR||8||2||10|
Women's match racing
Germany's Silke Hahlbrock put an end to Anna Tunnicliffe’s undefeated run in the final flight with the German team managing to come from behind to get over the line in front as the World No. 1 lagged with sea weed caught on her keel.
In the previous flight, Hahlbrock had managed to edge out Australia’s Nicky Souter, also previously undefeated, in another tight match.
“It was very shifty again today and we were lucky with the results we got,” said Souter. “We had three wins and a loss, in some of those wins the other team sailed very, very well and we were just lucky to get the win right at the last moment. We’re happy with the results but the conditions out there today certainly challenged us."
It was also a great day for Finland’s Silja Lehtinen, who is yet to lose a match, despite stiff competition throughout the day.
At the conclusion of day three, Finland remained the only undefeated team with USA-1, AUS-1, GER, and NZL also finishing strongly.
Finnish brothers Joonas and Niklas Lindgren were successful on the Success course, with a win and a second in te Yellow Fleet races on the opening day of the Men’s 470 competition.
A stunning start in race one by the Philippines crew of Ridgely Balladares and Chavez Rommel was overcome by the Finnish sailors, who took and extended their lead to win 34 seconds ahead of runners-up, Israelis Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela.
Britain's Phil Sparks and David Kohler took an early lead in race two for the Yellow Fleet, but the ace was won by Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page with the Lindgren brothers settling for second.
“Heading into the Worlds there’s a lot of anticipation, a lot of training and then finally day one comes around,” said Mat Belcher. “It’s always good to get the first day out of the way and today we came away with a nine and a first so they’re both keepers, it was a difficult day but we’re happy with where we ended up.
“It’s going to be a long week. The expectation was that we were going to get a lot of breeze at this regatta, but that’s not going to happen for us, maybe next week, so it’s going to be very difficult and we’ll have to fight for every point because you’re certainly going to be put in a position where it’s difficult but you can only deal with the cards you get and try and make the most of it.”
In the Blue Fleet, New Zealand sailors Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders maintained a strong lead throughout race one, with the real competition occurring for the minor places.
Swedish pair Anton Dahlberg and Sebastian Ostling, Greece's Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis and France’s Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos battled throughout the race before finishing second, third and fourth respectively.
While several boats had to be towed out because of light winds ahead of race one, the second round of racing saw an increase in breeze and a light chop.
The last race of the day for Men’s 470 Blue Fleet was won by Skandia Team GBR's Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. The young British duo recovered from a bad start in the first race, in which they rounded the first mark in the mid-20s before pulling back to fifth. Italians Gabrio Zandona and Pietro Zucchetti improved on their previous eighth place to finish third behind, followed by Croats Sime Fantella and Igor Marenic.
“We really couldn’t have asked for much more on the first day,” said Patience, who was delighted with their recovery in the opening race. Since Stuart and I started sailing together one of our strengths has been comebacks, and often races like that we call ‘regatta savers’. You can mill around in 28th at the back of the fleet having had a bad start, or you can get on your toes and do something about it. The opportunities are always there, they’re always presenting themselves it’s just about seeing them."
Skandia Team GBR development squad duo Phil Sparks and David Kohler had a pleasing start to their first World Championships together, with 12,3 for their day seeing them in 11th place overall, just one point ahead of two-time World Champions Nic Asher and Elliot Willis in 12th with 12,4 for their opening days’ efforts.
Double Olympic silver medallist Nick Rogers and crew Chris Grube, also competing in their first 470 World Championship since teaming up last December, posted 14,5 to see them in 16th overall.
Top 20 results:
|1||LINDGREN Joonas||LINDGREN Niklas||FIN||1||2||3|
|2||PATIENCE Luke||BITHELL Stuart||GBR||5||1||6|
|3||MATSUNAGA Tetsuya||IMAMURA Kimihiko||JPN||3||4||7|
|4||BELCHER Mathew||PAGE Malcolm||AUS||9||1||10|
|5||SNOW HANSEN Paul||SAUNDERS Jason||NZL||1||9||10|
|6||ZANDONA' Gabrio||ZUCCHETTI Pietro||ITA||8||3||11|
|7||MANTIS Panagiotis||KAGIALIS Pavlos||GRE||3||8||11|
|8||GIDEON Kliger||SELA Eran||ISR||2||12||14|
|9||LEBOUCHER Pierre||GAROS Vincent||FRA||4||10||14|
|10||GERZ Ferdinand||FOLLMANN Patrick||GER||7||7||14|
|11||SPARKS Phil||KOHLER David||GBR||12||3||15|
|12||ASHER Nic||WILLIS Elliot||GBR||12||4||16|
|13||McNAY Stuart||BIEHL Graham||USA||11||5||16|
|14||SIVITZ Kosuta Simon||FARNETI Jas||ITA||6||11||17|
|15||DAHLBERG Anton||OSTLING Sebastian||SWE||2||16||18|
|16||ROGERS Nick||GRUBE Chris||GBR||14||5||19|
|17||CHARBONNIER Nicolas||MION Jeremie||FRA||15||6||21|
|18||ROBERTS Adam||MARTIN Nicholas||USA||6||16||22|
|19||FANTELA Sime||MARENIC Igor||CRO||22||2||24|
|20||SAXTON Ben||MASON Richard||GBR||4||21||25|
Despite light winds delaying the start of the Women’s RS:X competition, the breeze blew in unexpected results for the yellow fleet with World No. 1 Blanca Manchon from Spain finishing 46th overall, with lower than expected finishes in both her races.
Manchon’s compatriot Marina Alabau fared better, with a third and an 11th place finish putting her in sixth place for the day.
The Chinese Women’s RS:X team thrived in the afternoon’s light winds, with all four of the country’s athletes placing in the top 10 in the Yellow Fleet.
In the Blue Fleet, wins for Israel's Lee Korzits and Italian Laura Linares, and solid results in their other race, had the two sailors high in the progressive results.
But Britain's Bryony Shaw recorded a second and a third to share the overall lead with Korzits.
Top 20 results:
|19||da COSTA FREITAS Patricia||BRA||11||10||21|
Belgium’s Evi van Acker dominated racing in the Yellow Laser Radial Fleet, with the world number two winning both her races.
Meanwhile world fifth ranked Paige Railey had a mixed day finishing her first race in eighth, before claiming a second place in race two.
In the Blue Fleet, Czech Veronika Fenclova and the Netherland's Marit Bouwmeester were the stand out performers. Fenclova, the world number three, finished first and third while current World No. 1 Marit Bouwmeester was consistent with a second and a third.
Skandia Team GBR's Alison Young is the highest placed Laser Radial sailor after day one, in 14th place overall.
Top 20 results:
|1||van ACKER Evi||BEL||1||1||2|
|5||FOGHT SCHUTT Maiken||DEN||2||9||11|
|11||DONERTAS Nazli Cagla||TUR||11||6||17|
|12||de TURCKHEIM Sophie||FRA||7||11||18|
|18||HOLM LINDBERG Alberte||DEN||4||21||25|
|19||ELIAS CALLES Tania||MEX||21||5||26|