Light start for Skandia Sail for Gold
Skandia Sail for Gold got underway today in light conditions with the majority of classes coming back ashore for a lengthy delay until late afternoon when the breeze eventually built enough to allow racing to get underway.
GBR leads the 49er class but not Britain’s chosen crew for London 2012. Instead it is Dave Evans and Ed Powys ahead posting a strong 1,1,3 today, leaving them eight points ahead of second placed Austrians Nico Delle Karth and Nikolaus Resch with Croats Pavel Kostov and Petar Cupa third.
Evans commented: “It was a long day and it’s only three races so far, but with the forecast what it is for the rest of the week, from previous regattas we’ve learned to just try and get the results in and don’t expect it to be a six day regatta. It was a good day for us today – we were good out of the start, and once you’re in front in the lighter winds it’s a lot easier so we made our lives easy today. We quite like the windier conditions usually – it’s a lot easier, a lot less stressful, so today was good for us. We’re happy!”
Stevie Morrison-Ben Rhodes are currently in fifth with a consistent score line of 6,4,4, while favourites in the Olympic skiff, Australia’s Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen hold seventh, a point behind Morrison and Rhodes.
Australia got off to a stronger start in the 470 Men, where serial World Champions Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page set the trend scoring two bullets to take the lead ahead of Britain’s Nic Asher and Elliot Willis on 5 points and Spain’s Onan Barreiros and Aaron Sarmiento in third.
“After being sent out early on for an 11am start we got away on time in quite marginal conditions,” said Belcher. “The wind was very unstable with big shifts and large velocity changes. We just kept our cool and played the cards we had. We saw a small opportunity on the last downwind to catch the leaders after being in fourth at the last top mark and managed to take the win.
“We then waited two hours until the committee decided enough was enough and sent us back ashore to join the other classes. Unluckily for us we only spent 15 to 20 minutes ashore before being sent back out. The wind was much more stable and we sailed a nice race leading from start to finish. We’re in good shape, obviously coming from our win at the Worlds, so we’re just enjoying our performances on the water and trying to improve each day.”
Asher and Willis have had a six month absence from the water due to Asher suffering health problems. This is the duo's first regatta since Perth 2011 and Asher is delighted to be back on the water: “It feels very good to be back on the water racing again – it’s been a long time! The racing today was just as I remember 470 racing in 6-8 knots – quite tricky, really close but very enjoyable!
“It was a good day today racing at the top of the fleet, our aim for the week is to finish in the top three. I feel a lot better now, everything seems to be back to normal again so there’s no reason why we can’t finish the week with a medal. We’re sailing well and we’ve got good speed which is key. Having only sailed together for five days since December, we are certainly looking forward to the bigger breeze which is forecast for the rest of the week where we can hopefully stretch our legs a little.”
Britain’s London 2012 representatives Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell won the first race, but followed it with a 10th, leaving them in 11th overall.
In the 470 Women, newly crowned World Champions Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark continued their form with 4,1 to put them in first overall, tied with the newly formed Australian team of Olympic veteran medallists Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell.
Clark commented: “It was quite a frustrating day with a lot of sitting around, but once we were out racing we did very well. We were quite conservative at the start as we didn’t want to relive our [black flag] drama at the Worlds, however we raced very well and just picked of boats all the way throughout the races which lead to two great results and a solid start to the regatta. Our focus is most definitely to learn more about Weymouth, the Olympic environment and the team environment. Learning the lessons which we need to learn for two months’ time when competing at the Games is our main aim.”
Only one race was sailed in the Finn where fresh from his win at the Delta Lloyd Regatta, it was young American Caleb Paine who came home first (US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider’s London 2012 representative Zach Railey is currently fourth).
“It was fairly close after the first weather leg, and the distance (on the fleet) stayed the same on the first reach,” Paine explained of the moment capturing the race lead. "It was all in the first downwind. I stayed with all the boats and sailed in the pressure. There was an opportunity for me to either to stay with boats on right, looking downwind, or go to the guys on the left. I gybed over and took the pressure on the left side, and after rounding the mark it was a pretty easy beat by hitting the right side and I just extended.”
Among the strong British contingent Mark Andrews lies in third with Ben Ainslie fifth, while Giles Scott got off to a disappointing start in 21st.
Germany dominated the Lasers today with Simon Groteluschen and Philipp Buhl winning the one race held in the yellow and blue fleets respectively. Australian favourite Tom Slingsby lies in seventh, a point behind his talented team mate Tom Burton, while among the Brits Paul Goodison is 13th.
The opening day of the Laser Radials caused some upset to the form guide with Chinese no2 Dongshuang Zhang having the best day with a 2-1, leading two points ahead of Canada’s Isabella Bertold with Spain’s Fatima Reyes a further point back in third. Among the heavyweights, Evi van Acker holds fifth ahead of Sari Multala, while Marit Bouwmeester is 16th. Britain’s Charlotte Dobson and Alison Young lie 13th and 14th respectively.
The form was more in order in both RS:X classes. In the Men France’s reigning World Champion Julien Bontemps, the Beijing silver medallist leads Germany’s Toni Wilhelm on 3 and 4 points respectively with Britain’s Nick Dempsey third after scoring a 5-8 today.
Meanwhile Poland’s Zofia Noceti-Klepacka had the best day of the Women with a 2-1, ending the day three points ahead of Britain’s Bryony Shaw in second with Spain’s Marina Alabau, Italian legend Alessandra Sensini and Australian Jessica Crisp immediately behind.
Shaw commented: “I was really happy with how I was going in the light winds; I was a bit shy on both start lines as I was very wary of getting an OCS. It wasn’t very punchy but I managed to hold my lane and play the shifts pretty well. In both upwinds I was inside the top seven and I think my down winds were my real strength today – they really pushed me through the fleet. A couple of things that need work on are my port speed up wind and putting a bit more power into the pumping which are a couple of nice bits to work on between now and the Games.”
In the Stars there was just one race, won by Danes Michael Hestbaek and Claus Olesen from Canadians Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn. Favourites Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada came home fourth while Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson were 12th today. Erm – Mike McIntyre and James Grant brought up the rear in the 20 boat fleet.
Despite the light conditions, the Women’s Match Racing is now well underway with the teams of Finland’s Silja Lehtinen and Australia’s Olivia Price the only ones as yet unbeaten. Britain’s Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor won three out of their four losing to Lehtinen while favourite, Anna Tunnicliffe’s team from the USA had a disappointing start with just two wins out of six matches.
In the Paralympic classes, Britain’s Megan Pascoe opened her account with a race win and a second to end the day equal first with Dutchman Thierry Schmitter. They are now 10 points clear of favourite France’s Damien Seguin after two races.
Canada leads the Skud after one race, won by John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit ahead of Australia’s Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch, with Britain’s World Champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell hold third. Only one race was held in the Sonar, won by Udo Hessels’ team from the Netherlands.
Racing at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta continues tomorrow (Tuesday 5 June) with Paralympic classes (2.4mR, SKUD and Sonar) finishing on Friday 8 June and medal races for the 10 Olympic Classes scheduled for Saturday 9 June.