Skandia Sail for Gold: February conditions in June
It may be early June in the UK but you could be forgiven for thinking that it was February given chilly temperature, big waves, poor visibility and torrential rain that accompanied day two of Skandia Sail for Gold out on Weymouth Bay. And unfortunately conditions are only set to get worse with gale force winds forecast for Thursday and Friday as a system passes through overnight.
With winds that built to 18 knots out of the southwest today, , so the schedule is back on track after another long day on the water for some classes.
The most awesome display of the day came in the Finns, not so much from Ben Ainslie – who is leading the heavyweight Men’s singlehander with a five point advantage over his Beijing silver medallist Zach Railey of the USA– but to UK National champion Giles Scott who scored three bullets today, but who is only third given his poor 21st placed finish yesterday.
“I kind of needed it after yesterday,” said Scott. “I had a bit of a shocker and was in shut down mode, so it was good to come out today and do alright. It’s my first event on the ISAF World Cup circuit for a while so I was a little rusty yesterday and at times today, but fortunately for me I was pretty quick enabling me to pick up some good scores. I got a little bit of cramp in the third race today due to the hiking which was needed, but I’m sure I’ll be raring to go tomorrow - I’m looking forward to another breezy day here in Weymouth.”
Scott lies in equal points with the Netherland’s Pieter Jan Postma, who was awarded redress last night after Canadian Martin Robitaille collided with him yesterday. “He made a big hole in my transom and I took on a lot of water and they granted me redress for that. I also had some water in today but I wasn’t sinking, and I am quite happy with my day.’
Aside from Scott’s exceptional performance today, a bigger surprise is taking place in the 49er where Britain’s Dave Evans and Ed Powys (and not London 2012 representatives Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes) who continue to dominate, leading Australian favourites Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen by 7 points with six races now sailed. In what is proving to be a high scoring series, Morrison and Rhodes hold seventh, but are 16 points adrift of the leaders after they were black flagged in today’s penultimate race (now their discard).
Outteridge commented. “I was a bit disappointed with the fifth race because we were winning by quite a bit and had a capsize just before the finish. We had a good recovery, got up and finished in sixth but it was big waves out there and every now and then you had to flog the spinnaker to avoid them although we flogged quite a few times there was just one that caught us out, but apart from that it was a good day.”
As in the 49er, so in the Laser it is another team with nothing to lose that is leading, with Aussie no2 Tom Burton ahead teammate and favourite Tom Slingsby by four points after four races. The Lasers had a particularly tough time today, their races not starting until late afternoon, when the weather was at its worst, and then sailing three races for the two groups.
Slingsby commented: “It was an okay day for me, with a one, three and five and plenty of speed, but plenty of errors too. I think I made more and more errors as the day went on. I was too tired and not thinking straight. A lot more wind and rain today as well as big waves, so yes it was tough conditions. We were doing three lap races, so it was really hard on the body as well as it being freezing cold and raining meant it wasn’t great. The visibility made things harder, in the second race I couldn’t see the top mark along with 30-40 other guys who were in the top group. I think it was quite unfair to race in these conditions; perhaps we should have waited for better conditions.”
It wasn’t such a great day for Germany’s Laser sailors, yesterday's leaders. Philippe Buhl still holds third, nine points behind Slingsby, but team mate Simon Groteluschen, who won yesterday's yellow fleet race, was black flagged in today’s last race, plummeting him to 30th place (until the discard kicks in).
With no Nick Thompson, who is out of action temporarily for health reasons, British hope Paul Goodison holds 11th having won today’s final race in the yellow fleet.
The Radial is going much more according to the form book with the big guns now holding the top five spots and Britain’s Ali Young knocking on the door in sixth. Yesterday’s leaders in the light, Chinese no2 Dongshuang Zhang and Canada’s Isabella Bertold have spun off down the leaderboard with Zhang scoring two 18th places in the bigger conditions while Bertold was black flagged in today’s second race.
While China’s Lijia Xu won both the races in the blue fleet, it is Evi van Acker who has moved up to first two points ahead, with Finnish veteran Sari Multala now third, reigning World Champion Gintare Scheidt a point behind in fourth, and former World Champion and double Skandia Sail for Gold winner, Marit Bouwmeester fifth, another six points adrift
“I don’t really care about the other girls, I am just here to do my best,” said van Acker. “But it is really difficult not to look at the rest especially those who I have seen improve. My main focus is just on me and trying to be the best I can be. Sailing against Marit isn’t great: she is a great sailor, but then I am too so we will see who wins.”
Britains’ Ali Young remains in the hunt two points adrift of Bouwmeester. “I had a fairly solid day - I could have done a little better as there were a few little silly mistakes in there, but I’ll take the lessons I learned from today into the rest of the week. I think I’m continually improving, there’s 50-plus days to go to the Olympic Games so it’s just key for me to keep learning the lessons, to keep improving and to get at result at the Games in August.”
In the 470 Men, Australian triple World Champions Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page continue to be their ever consistent selves, posting a 2-4 extending their lead to seven points. However the class act of the day were Kiwis Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders who scored two bullets in front of the Aussies in the yellow fleet, jumping them up to second, albeit on equal points with Argentina’s Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente.
It was a better day for Britain’s chosen pair of Luke Patience and Stu Bithell, who’s 3-2 today propelled them up to sixth overall, three points ahead of yesterday’s leaders, their team mates Nic Asher and Elliot Willis. Assuming they don’t cock up tomorrow, Patience and Bithell should find themselves on the podium once they discard their 11th from yesterday’s second race.
Patience commented: “It was a great day for us today – Stuart and I absolutely love these conditions coming from Scotland, wet, windy and rain – what more could you ask for? So we were really pleased with our performance today. It’s only day two so we can’t get carried away, our main goal coming into this regatta was to learn all we can about the venue and our performance so it will be an added bonus to end up on the podium come the end of the week. We will go away and evaluate everything we can from this regatta, making sure everything is in place in time for the Games in August.”
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark continue to hold the bit between their teeth in what is becoming a high scoring event for the 470 Women. A 3-7 today was enough to keep them in the lead four points ahead of France’s Camille Lecontre and Mathilde Geron with Americans Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan third, ten points adrift of the French.
Saskia Clark commented: “It was a tricky day out there today, quite patchy and so there were some big gains and losses going on and not really knowing why. We didn’t have a great start in either race, both very safe starts but had good speed throughout both races and pulled up throughout the racing. We found it a little hard to find our downwind mode which normally comes quite easily and we normally really enjoy that in these wavy conditions but that wasn’t working great for us today so it was a definite scrap!
“It’s certainly different to Barcelona where we won the Worlds – the weather is just so miserable! It’s good racing though and good to have some good strong breeze. We’re still pretty calm and want to do as well as we can. The podium is in sight, but the key for us at this regatta is to pick out the learning points for our next training before the big one in August.”
Like the Finns, the Stars also sailed three races today with Ireland’s Peter O’Leary and David Burrows having a marginally better day in the decidedly unBrazilian conditions, with Robert Schiedt and Bruno Prada second two points adrift with Canada’s Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn another two behind. Britain’s Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson had a better day, their 3-1-7 elevating them to fourth, seven points astern of the Canadians.
Brazilian legend Scheidt said of today’s racing: “We won the first race which was quite nice, the second race we were in second place but we got a yellow flag and got a penalty and dropped to sixth. On the third race we had a great comeback, after the start we were in about tenth place but finished third. We are really happy with those results but also quite tired with it being a rough day and doing three races. Six-seven hours on the water so I am very much looking forward to a shower!”
Andrew Simpson added: ““It is obviously a summer’s day in England! It was a tricky day today, we were struggling a bit with speed today, a lot of people did well and badly in the races. We kept struggling whilst catching up; we struggled for speed against some of the guys. Hopefully the weather won’t be like this in July and August, but we do have to be ready for all conditions. We probably weren’t as good as we needed to be today, that is frustrating. But we had some good results and we are starting to catch up, of course there is a long way to go in this series. We need to work hard and see how it goes, but obviously this is a good check of where we are and where we need to be with just over 50 days to go; you cannot be miles away from the others. This is a test event.”
After another long day on the race course, the Women’s Match Racing didn’t get their round robin completed, four more flights still to sail. At present the Russian team of Ekaterina Skudina, Elena Oblova and Elena Siuzeva are leading having won nine of eleven races. Britain’s Lucy and Kate MacGregor, and Annie Lush, and Australians Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty both have a final race to sail tomorrow and have only lost two of ten races.
The USA’s Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandemoer and Debbie Capozzi are still struggling to find their form here, currently with just five wins from ten races.
The RS:X Men the situation remains unchanged on the podium since yesterday with France’s Julien Bontemps still leading Britain’s Nick Dempsey now by five points with Germany’s Toni Wilhelm third. But the strong Polish contingent is on the charge along with the talented Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberge, now up to fifth after his poor start yesterday with the best scoreline today.
Dempsey commented: “It was a very cold day, really shifty, really difficult. Quite a challenge for everyone, I had a good first race and then struggled bait on the second race because the visibility became bad, which made it really hard to orientate yourself with the shifts but I think I salvaged an okay set of results.”
Of all the classes at Skandia Sail for Gold, the biggest lead of all is that of Poland’s Zofia Noceti-Klepacka in the RS:X Women, who after a 2-1 today, now holds a 16 point adavantage over Spain’s second placed Marina Alabau, with four-time Italian Olympic medallist Alessandra Sensini another two points adrift in third. Third-placed Bryony Shaw broke her mast extension in the first race and didn’t finish, but recovered to a fifth in the second.
Shaw commented: “It is quite a rare thing that the equipment can break as it did today. It is typical that it never happens in training, most importantly we weren’t too frustrated to be honest, it is something that you kind of get on with and I think I kept cool enough to race well in the second race.”
Out on the Paralympic course for the Skud 18 it was a Jubilee day for Britain’s Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell – they won all three races in a remarkable performance that took them past John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit (CAN) and into a four point lead. Rickham commented, “We were really happy with our performance today – we worked hard and basically feel like we deserved those three race wins. The areas we have been having trouble with we’ve progressed since Hyeres, but really we’re more happy with our consistency across the races.”
The Sonars also sailed three races in the tough conditions, and the Netherlands trio of Udo Hessels, Mischa Rossen and Marcel van de Veen held their overnight lead with two fourths and a third. Chasing them are the French team of Bruno Jourdren, Nicolas Vimont Vicary and Eric Flageul in second, and Norway’s Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Marie Solberg and Per Eugen Solberg in third.
Gold and silver medallist, Damien Seguin of France convincingly won the day in the 2.4mR with two wins. It still wasn’t enough to overtake arch-rival, the Netherlands Thierry Schmitter though – the two are now separated by four points. Britain’s Megan Pascoe is in third, another five points behind Schmitter.