The fourth day of racing at the Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth and Portland brought strong winds from the word go, with 18-22 knots gradually building throughout the day – but it appeared to make no odds to the Laser Radial London 2012 Olympic champion Lijia Xu, who clinched event honours on the penultimate day of the regatta.
The forecasters certainly hit the nail on the head with the British ‘summer’ battering the 2012 venue at this third stage of the EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup. Race officials had a challenging time out on the water as they contended with poor visibility and strong South Westerly gusts. With a scheduled start of 1400 the racing for the 49er and 49erFX fleets was canned while other classes suffered postponements, cancellations and some exhilarating racing for the classes who did take to the water.
The Laser Radial fleet completed two of the three scheduled races, and with a race win - her seventh of the eleven races so far – followed by a third for her efforts today, the 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the year and double Olympic medal winning Lijia Xu amassed a 22-point lead at the top of the table to take the Sail for Gold crown ahead of tomorrow’s double points-scoring medal race.
“Today was quite wet and we began with very strong breeze. Gradually the wind dropped and I was preparing to do some more racing but the race committee gave up after two races. I think my aim was to try to become fitter for strong wind sailing in the future, so hopefully I can sail faster in strong winds,” said the Sail for Gold Regatta 2013 gold medallist.
Competing for the first time since winning gold last summer after an exhilarating medal race in Weymouth Bay, the Chinese sailor explains that even though todays conditions were wet and windy, she has enjoyed her return to the 2012 sailing venue.
“I think that we are pretty lucky this time because for the first two days and even yesterday the wind is pretty light and I think we [Dongshuang Zhang] are both very good at light winds because most of the conditions in China are light winds with big waves. These two days when we were racing outside [Weymouth Bay] it’s also quite wavy instead of choppy, flat water. We are very much prepared for ‘wet Weymouth’ because we’ve been here before several years in a row. This year the weather is the best year!” concluded Xu.
Xu’s fellow team mate Dongshuang Zhang (CHN) has as good as wrapped up the silver medal, with the Radial sailor sailing a consistent series across the mixture of conditions which have been thrown her way.
“Despite the wind being strong and not so favoured for me, I tried my best and enjoyed the strong wind as well as the light breeze,” explained Zhang.
“I am extremely fast in light winds and confident in light winds during competitions. Liji and I train together most of the time, because we are not only from the national team but we come from the same province sailing team as well so when we go back to China we still train together. I am honoured to train with her because I can learn a lot. I am looking forward to Rio in 2016 because the venue there has light winds.”
The battle for the Radial bronze however is still on with Annalise Murphy (IRL) clawing back a seven point gap from British Sailing Team’s Chloe Martin in the fight for the podium position – with the pair equal on 58 points.
“I was really happy to win the first race as I have kind of been quite far behind for the whole week but the second race didn’t go quite so well, but overall I’m happy with today,” said Murphy.
“I would of liked to have raced a third race today because I go well in the breeze, but in the end I was happy to come ashore after being out on the water for seven hours yesterday,” laughed the 2012 Olympian. “Things aren’t going as well as I would have liked this week, but my aim is to of course finish on the podium tomorrow, I’ll just have to go out and sail a good race and hope that other people make mistakes which will push me up the table.”
Sam Meech (NZL) has increased his lead at the top of the Laser fleet despite recording his worst score of the regatta with a first followed by 15th in the final race of the day, with the Kiwi only needing to sail a clean race tomorrow to secure event victory. Nicholas Heiner (NED) remains in second while Nick Thompson (GBR) clinched his first race win of the regatta to move into the podium positions.
Nick Thompson (GBR) was happy with his performance: “I am pleased – it’s been a bit of a slow start to the year for me in Palma, Hyeres and Delta Lloyd. I’ve not done particularly well at all three events, so to come here feeling fresh and actually get a race win in in the breeze is kind of a milestone that I’ve been trying to get, and so I’m really pleased.
“We had one more [race] planned, so we got two in. I think you have to think about the safety of everyone at the back of the fleet. Obviously I wanted to do another race to have the chance to get some points on my competitors, but I could certainly understand where they were coming from.
Thompson continued: “The aims really coming into this was really to get a top three, but really it’s more about making sure I’m feeling good in the boat. I haven’t had that for a while and it’s certainly all starting to come back together. I haven’t done a huge amount of training this year, I’ve just done regattas, and so it’s been nice to feel the speed coming back and that’s helping a lot in the racing. Sail for Gold is always an important event because it’s in your home country and it’s in Weymouth so you’re always looking to do well there.”
The Nacra 17 course completed three races with Australia’s pairing of Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darminin delivering a blistering performance. The duo who have a got a strong back ground in multihull sailing, competing at WPNSA at the 2006 ISAF Youth Worlds in the Hobie 16 catamaran class and taking Youth Worlds gold in 2009 together, took control of today’s fleet with two seconds and first, moving them up one place from fifth to fourth, only two points off a podium position with tomorrows all important double pointer medal race still to come. Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond (GBR) remain in control at the top with 2-1-4, while Lucy Macgregor and Tom Phipps (GBR) are five points behind in second.
“It was really challenging out there today, we had some pretty shifty and gusty conditions and in Australia we are for renowned for liking the breeze and with two econds and a first we are very happy for sure,” said Waterhouse.
“We love these conditions today – getting a good start off the line was a high priority and were pretty quick in the breeze so we just kept an eye on the Brits who are also quick in these conditions - but I think we just seemed to sail a bit quicker than everyone else and did the best we could do. We have only been in the Nacra 17 since April and struggled at the beginning of the regatta because of the light breeze but today we sailed great and were really pleased. We have come here to take as much as possible out of this regatta as we work towards the Worlds in a few months’ time,” explained Warehouse.
The RS:X 8.5 and 9.5 raced in the morning in the more moderate conditions, and it's still all about the one-two double act from British Sailing Team Nick Dempsey and Elliot Carney. The young pretender to Dempsey’s throne had another impressive day with a first and three seconds to hold onto his overnight lead, while Dempsey added three bullets and a second to claw back points on his GBR counterpart. The gap between them is now a single point – setting up an intense medal race decided on the closing day of regatta.
17-year-old Robert York (GBR) had another day impressive day in the RS:X 8.5 rig racing alongside Olympic bronze medallist Bryony Shaw (GBR), scoring three firsts and a fourth, cementing him in second place. Shaw holds on to her lead at the top of the scoreboard with 3-1-2-6, while the two-time ISAF Youth Worlds silver medallist Izzy Hamilton (GBR) occupies third, once again posting consistent results with three seconds and a third.
In the Finn fleet, Andrews Mills (GBR) has opened up a two point gap over Mark Andrews (GBR) with two seconds from the two races completed today. Peter McCoy (GBR) sits third after recording his first race win of the regatta in today’s opening race.
In the 2.4mR Paralympic class Megan Pascoe (GBR) stormed to two races win opening up and four point gap over Paralympic gold medallists Helena Lucas (GBR) who posted two thirds, while Barend Kol (NED) remains in third. John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas (GBR) also added a further two race wins to there almost perfect scorecard of nine wins from the 11 races completed.
With no racing in the high performance skiff class, Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern (IRL) head into tomorrow’s three medal races in pole position, harbouring a six point lead over John Pink and Simon Wheeler (GBR) in second. Australia’s Will Phillips and Rhys Mara are poised in third. In the women’s 49erFX class, Charlotte Dobson and Nicola Groves (GBR) take a healthy 11 point lead into tomorrow’s final day, while Kate Macgregor and Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) are second and Frances Peter and Mary Rook (GBR) are third.
Racing is scheduled to start at 10am tomorrow (Thursday 13 June) with one double-points medal race for all classes apart from the 49er and 49erFX, who will have three, and the Paralympic classes who will sail two final single-points fleet races. Similar conditions to today are expected with a breezy start to the day, expected to moderate by lunchtime.
The event is also open to the general public tomorrow (Thursday 13 June) giving them the chance to witness all the action of the medal races, the closing ceremony and the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the world’s top Olympic and Paralympic sailors.
Full results here