London 2012: Patience and Bithell assured of at least silver
The 470 Women sailed the seventh and eighth races of their series on the Harbour course.
With the wind down to around 10 knots, it was surprisingly Xiaoli Wang and Xufeng Huang, no doubt buoyed by the success of their team's Radial gold medallist Lijia Xu, that banged the left hardest to round the top mark in first place ahead of Croats Enia Ninčević and Romana Župan with Israel's Gil Cohen and Vered Buskila and Brits Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark holding 10th.
To get out of the pack the Brits gybed early, pulling them up to eighth at the leeward gate with Kiwis Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie on a roll, up to second behind the Chinese.
On the next beat Aleh and Powrie overhauled the Chinese. The Brits were still holding eighth at the top mark, but on run managed to roll past the US and Israeli boats to take 5th at the gate.
Over the course of the next laps the Kiwis extended to take the bullet with the Chinese hanging on to finish second (their best result at London 2012) with Dutch two time World Champions, Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout fourth, and the Brits still fifth.
In the second race the Kiwis and Dutch got ahead up for the first beat taking the left side with the Brits rounding in the thick of things in 11th, however on the run they picked up four places.
Mills and Clark did well playing the shifts up the centre of the course on the next beat to pull up to third behind the Kiwis and Spain's Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos with the Dutch fourth. Down the run the Kiwis extended away with Brits up to second, leading the charge behind her. And this is how it was until the finish with the Dutch pulling up to third on the final run.
With two full fleet races to go tomorrow, the 470 Women has turned into a three horse race with the Kiwis leading after their two bullets today, now four ahead of the Brits with the Dutch in turn another three back. However the gap between Westerhof/Berkhout back to France's Lecointre/Geron is now 19 point and it will be interesting to see if this trend continues in the final two races tomorrow.
"We are happy with our day," said Saskia Clark. "The Kiwis had an awesome day with the Dutch had the three of us have pulled quite clear. We still have two more fleet races to go but that is what the scrap is panning out to be."
Of their racing today in the shifty, gusty conditions on the Harbour course, Mills reported: "No massive drams, just real tight racing and it is flat water on the harbour and not too windy and pretty shifty and everyone kind of arrives at the same time at the windward mark. In the first race we did a little bit of a bad job of getting around the windward mark and getting free. We got sucked into the pack a little bit which made our lives quite hard but we sorted that out and did a much better job in the second race."
The Brits seem to be showing a talent for pulling up through the fleet, as Mills says: "We have always had the ability to do that. That has always been a strength of ours. We are just good at staying calm and picking away boats as they come. We don’t do anything drastic to overtake people whereas a couple of other people tend to just bang a corner and hope for the best, whereas we take a slightly different approach and I think that works and that is why we are one of the most consistent boats out there."
Assessing her competitors Mills reckons the Kiwis Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie was similar to them - all-rounders, quite calm and conservative, good at picking off boats, while the Dutch are similar, but are particularly quick upwind [thanks no doubt to towering crew Lobke Berkhout] when it is windy and they have got a lot of experience from past Games.
With the wind getting lighter tomorrow and going into the southeast (the rarest wind direction for Weymouth Bay) this may not prove best for the Dutch.
Of today's racing Lisa Westerhof said: "We made a really big comeback in the first race so it looked like a drama, but in the end it wasn’t one, because we fought back really really hard and we were pleased with that. We had a good start, but we ended up in the middle with boats passing up from left and right in the first upwind and we couldn’t get out of it but in the end we did.
"In the other race we had a solid third - I think it could have been a second. The Kiwis were already in front at the first top mark so it was hard to get them. But third is fine.
So a three boat race? "It looks like that. Anything can still happen. It is sailing and it isn’t over until the last race."
|1||NZL||Jo Aleh||Olivia Powrie||2||6||2||5||-10||4||1||1||31||21|
|2||GBR||Hannah Mills||Saskia Clark||-6||1||4||6||1||6||5||2||31||25|
|3||NED||Lisa Westerhof||Lobke Berkhout||1||8||6||4||2||-18||4||3||46||28|
|4||FRA||Camille Lecointre||Mathilde Geron||10||-17||1||8||12||3||7||6||64||47|
|5||BRA||Fernanda Oliveira||Ana Luiza Barbachan||11||5||-14||1||6||10||10||10||67||53|
|6||GER||Kathrin Kadelbach||Friederike Belcher||-19||2||7||13||15||5||6||5||72||53|
|7||USA||Amanda Clark||Sarah Lihan||7||3||5||7||19||-20||3||9||73||53|
|8||ITA||Giulia Conti||Giovanna Micol||8||10||-18||2||3||1||16||17||75||57|
|9||AUS||Elise Rechichi||Belinda Stowell||14||7||3||-21||9||7||9||14||84||63|
|10||JPN||Ai Kondo||Wakako Tabata||9||4||17||-19||11||9||13||7||89||70|
|11||ESP||Tara Pacheco||Berta Betanzos||15||14||8||-16||13||8||11||4||89||73|
|12||ISR||Gil Cohen||Vered Buskila||3||-21||10||18||4||14||12||16||98||77|
|13||POL||Agnieszka Skrzypulec||Jolanta Ogar||13||13||-20||17||7||2||18||8||98||78|
|14||ARG||MarÃa Fernanda Sesto||Consuelo Monsegur||16||-19||19||3||5||12||14||12||100||81|
|15||CRO||Enia Ninčević||Romana Župan||4||16||13||11||-20||11||8||20||103||83|
|16||DEN||Henriette Koch||Lene Sommer||5||12||-16||10||14||16||15||11||99||83|
|17||CHN||Xiaoli Wang||Xufeng Huang||18||18||9||12||8||-19||2||18||104||85|
|18||SWE||Lisa Ericson||Astrid Gabrielsson||17||11||11||9||16||15||-19||13||111||92|
|19||SLO||Tina Mrak||Teja Cerne||12||9||12||14||-17||17||17||15||113||96|
|20||AUT||Lara Vadlau||Eva-Maria Schimak||-20||15||15||15||18||13||20||19||135||115|