Britain holds top three Finn berths
Ben Ainslie and his Skandia Team GBR stable mates continue to prove the dominant force in the Finn at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships, with the 34-year-old regaining first place overall, with European Champion Giles Scott second and defending World Champion Ed Wright now up to third with two days of competition left to run.
Ainslie was on the offensive from the outset in the two gold fleet races today, winning the first race to Wright’s second, and then following up with a second place in the second race, which saw British boats take the top four positions with Scott first, Wright third and Andrew Mills fourth.
It was a less impressive day for the overnight series leader Dutchman Pieter Jan Postma, with today’s scores of 5,9 dropping him to third on equal points with Wright, now with a 16 point gap over fifth.
“Overall I’ve been slightly more consistent than the other guys,” said Ainslie. “It’s still very, very close and a long way to go yet with two more races tomorrow and then the medal race. I’m happy I managed to stop the rot, as it were.
“I’d been bleeding points to PJ and Giles for a couple of days, so to turn that around and have a really good day, I needed that in terms of the overall standings and will try and keep it going tomorrow.”
The Lymington-based sailor was at pains to point out just how tough Finn racing at these World Championships has been: “I noted a few comments by people that were pretty negative just because you’re not winning every race in an event, and that’s hard because while people might expect you to be at the top of the fleet, they don’t realise how tough this racing is and I think this week has shown that. In certain conditions some of these guys are incredibly tough to beat and have a lot of speed.
“But that’s part of the game, and I just have to deal with it. It’s great to be racing these guys in fantastic conditions and hopefully we’ll have some good racing tomorrow on the Centre Course.”
There wasn’t a spare seat in the grandstand with fans as close as possible to the Centre Course action on Bathers Bay, for today’s Men’s 470 racing, held in a respectable sea breeze and the boats tacking just off the breakwater grandstand, provided a taste of what Sunday’s medal races promise for local sailing fans.
Australia’s Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page had the crowd cheering as they shot home to victory in both Gold fleet races of the Men’s 470 competition with local fans chanting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi” every time the Australians sailed by.
While Belcher and Page had a strong lead in race 7, the French duo of Nicholas Charbonnier and Jeremie Mion kept the pressure on all the way to finish second.
“With two races tomorrow we can’t take our foot off the accelerator just yet,” Page said. “We have lost a 40 point lead before in Netherlands so anything can happen.”
Coming in third were Nick Rogers and Chris Grube from Great Britain, Israel’s Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela finished fourth while Tetsuya Matsunaga and Kimihiko Imamura (JPN) rounded out the top five in race 7.
Race 8 was delayed for around an hour by four general recalls. 11 teams were disqualified after crossing the line on a black flag start, including the Israeli pair who finished fourth in race 7.
Once racing finally got underway, Belcher and Page went to the front early, leaving the rest of the field to play catch up.
Britain’s Nic Asher and Elliot Willis finished second in front of compatriots Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell, who in turn ended the day having consolidated their overall second position but now 12 points behind the Aussie defending champions.
Results of 6,2 for two-time World Champions Nic Asher and Elliot Willis boosted their overall position from tenth to fifth while Nick Rogers-Chris Grube are just one place behind in sixth.
Women’s Match Racing
Two more nations qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games in an action-packed final round-robin stage Women’s Match Racing Friday.
France’s Claire Leroy and the Netherlands’ Mandy Mulder finished one-two, with Great Britain’s Lucy Macgregor in third after a slow start to the day because of a lack of wind in the morning and the Fremantle Doctor sea breeze not delivering its normal potency in the late afternoon.
Leroy and Mulder join Group A winner Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) and runner-up Ekaterina Skudina from Russia as London qualifiers and automatic advancement to the quarter-finals. Leroy was romping home as the group winner until the final two flights when she came unstuck.
By losing to the Netherlands’ Renee Groeneveld in the penultimate round, the competition was set for a nail-biting final flight.
Macgregor (GBR) was upset by Brazil’s Juliana Siqueira Senfft, meaning Macgregor needed to beat Leroy (FRA) in the final flight to also finish with 10 points.
Macgregor completed the task as Leroy picked up a penalty at the start line and trailed Macgregor all the way, trying to pressure her into a penalty of her own, but to no avail.
Mulder lost to Leroy in the 47th flight but went on to win her final three races and throw her name into the mix for the top two, which she achieved with her 10 points.
For Macgregor’s British crew, although they posted four wins and only one loss for their day’s efforts, they ended the round robin stage with a 10-3 win-loss record and caught in a three-way tie with the Netherlands’ Mandy Mulder and France’s Claire Leroy for the two direct quarter-finals places.
The British trio missed out on countback to the other two crews and finish their group in third, so will now have to fight it out through a 15-race repechage round if they’re to claim one of the four remaining quarter-finals berths.
Lush, who’s defending her world match racing title here with the Macgregor sisters, was philosophical about the tough schedule that now awaits them.
“Our goal is the Olympics,” she explained. “It’s expensive to be here in Perth so it’s better to be here and racing than to be here sitting around in the hotel – that’s not why we paid to come here! I think you can see it both ways but for the long term goal, it’s probably a good thing that we’ve got a lot more racing to do. We now will definitely race all of the teams that are likely to qualify for the Olympics so that’s a big plus.”
With the bottom four in the group dropping out and the top two advancing to the quarters, the middle eight crews now enter the repecharges.
The top four have started racing to determine seedings for the quarterfinals with USA-1 and FRA-1 winning through to the final.
Saturday promises to be another ideal day for grandstand racing on the Centre course with Laser Radial competition scheduled to continue on Saturday from 1200 and Women’s RS:X from 1445 Perth time.