The medals were decided across the eight Olympic and two Paralympic events today as the Sail for Gold Regatta 2013 brought the third stage of the 2013 EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup to a close.
On arrival to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, the world’s best Olympic and Paralympic sailors were greeted with howling winds of up to 35 knots as Race Officials pondered on what the final day of racing had in store. The Paralympic 2.4mR, Sonar and Nacra 17 classes didn’t make it off the dock while all racing for the silver fleets in Weymouth Bay was cancelled early on. But the breeze moderated by late morning, with most Olympic fleets able to enjoy some strong wind medal racing in Portland Harbour.
With no racing possible in the high performance skiff class yesterday, the 49er fleet completed two of the three scheduled medal races today. Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern (IRL) took a six point lead into the final day with the 2012 Olympians scoring a third and second to clinch the championship crown. The British Sailing Team’s Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign had a blistering final day, winning both races elevating them from seventh into the silver medal position. Will Phillips and Rhys Mara (AUS) rounded off their first competitive regatta together with the bronze medal.
On their Sail for Gold victory, McGovern said: “It’s pretty awesome – it’s our first event back and we were just hoping to get a bit of boat handling, a bit of training and we won the event, so we’re really happy with how things went!
“We haven’t done an awful lot of training, but at the same time, every time we’ve been out we’ve been really hungry to go sailing and we’ve been going really well. Our boat-handling’s been really sharp and we’ve got most of our boat and everything from the Games so we shouldn’t be slow. We’re a bit race-rusty so we still lost a lot of points during the regatta that we would hope not to later in the year, but sometimes it goes your way I guess.”
With the biggest breeze of the regatta on the final day, Seaton was pleased that they were able to complete two of the three scheduled races.
“It’s a bit more enjoyable going out today, we weren’t sure if we were going out racing and we didn’t really want to win it off the back of no sailing for two days, so it’s great to go out and show that we can win it in style!
“Some of the guys would think we’re the heavy wind specialists but it was more really the light winds that kept us in the regatta. We won the first race of the regatta when it was quite light and also being able to go fast in the breeze was really good, so we’re happy with our all-round performance,” concluded Seaton.
Charlotte Dobson and Nicola Groves went into today’s two 49erFX medal races in pole position, and with Dobson admitting to having a disappointing day out on the water, the British Sailing Team duo finished nine points in front of second place Kate Macgregor and Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) to take their first 49erFX gold medal.
“It feels great to win but we made it really difficult for ourselves in the medal races so were pretty disappointed with today, but to actually win the regatta is amazing which I think is a reflection of how we did in the opening Series! It’s our first gold of the season, first gold in an FX so ‘boom’!”
The British Sailing Team scored a 1-2-3 in one of the two new Olympic classes; the Nacra 17. Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond secured gold after medal racing was abandoned due to the testing wind conditions for the mixed multihull class. Lucy Macgregor and her crew Tom Phipps were second, whilst Beijing gold medallist Pippa Wilson and team-mate John Gimson finished third.
“It feels really good – it’s a shame we didn’t get to race today but we’re really happy with everything this week,” said Diamond. “We’ve got off the start line quite well in every race, which is something we’ve been a bit inconsistent with in the past, and we also have been really happy with our upwind speed across the range – we’ve had from three knots to over 20 yesterday, so across the range of breeze we’ve been really happy with our boat speed all around the course.”
Diamond continued: “I think it’s always a shame when you don’t race on the last day – it would have been great to go out there and finish this week off on a high but obviously it was pretty breezy today and it was kind of top end in the last race yesterday with a lot of capsizes so I think it was the right decision.”
This is the duo’s first medal since starting up in the new Olympic class, with Saxton admitting they were full of confidence coming into the regatta: “We came in [to this regatta] not expecting anyone to beat us. If we sailed well, we knew we could win but we knew we’d also have to sail well to beat the other British guys, so that’s the main happy bit about winning, the fact that we actually sailed quite well. We came fourth in Hyeres and that was a little bit gutting not to get a medal, so now it’s good to come and get a proper medal.”
Saxton added: “Sail for Gold this year has been awesome – we’ve had everything you can ask for from an event. We’ve had loads of wind, no wind, fun racing. The British weather did good, it was nice sailing with Hannah. It was just a great event and Weymouth’s done really well.”
With the Laser Radial gold and silver medals effectively going to China’s Lijia Xu and Dongshuang Zhang respectively yesterday (Wednesday 12 June), the battle for bronze was the hot topic of conversation on the final day of racing. 2012 Olympian Annalise Murphy entered the final day in third, tied on points with the British Sailing Team’s Chloe Martin in fourth. Putting her demons from last summer’s Games well and truly behind her, Murphy made the most of the breezy conditions in Portland Harbour as she sailed to an emphatic medal race victory to secure the final podium position.
“I was delighted to win the medal race,” expressed Murphy. “It’s the third medal race I have won in a row so I feel like I’m starting to put my medal race demons behind me but I’m happy with third overall. I’m a little disappointed with the way I have sailed overall but I can’t complain – it’s my third year of finishing third at Sail for Gold.”
“I finished fourth last time I was here at the Olympics which was definitely one of the hardest days of my life and I was so upset I thought that nothing was ever going to get better after that, but I’ve got back into training and I’ve been really enjoying my sailing again. Everything has been going really well and it’s nice to come back to Weymouth and enjoy sailing with no pressure and to have a good time.
“I’ve won the first two EUROSAF events and finished third in this one so things have been going well so far this year and it’s a great way to finish off Sail for Gold with a medal,” concluded the Irish sailor.
New Zealand’s Sam Meech has been dominant in the Laser class throughout the week. The Kiwi entered the 10 boat medal race today on a high after opening up a 19 point gap over second place Nicolas Heiner from the Netherlands. With Meech only needing to sail a clean race, the Palma Sailing World Cup bronze medallist finished seventh to claim event honours. Nicholas Heiner (NED) won the medal race cementing his position on the second step of the podium whilst Nick Thompson finished fourth, holding onto the bronze medal position.
“The regatta this week has been great,” said Meech. “It’s great to win gold here at Sail for Gold Regatta, I have managed to pull together a pretty consistent regatta with a few race wins so it’s definitely been a worthwhile trip.”
Beijing Olympic windsurfing bronze medallist Bryony Shaw picked up her second win of the season, adding to the gold she picked up at the Hyeres Sailing World Cup. It was Shaw’s fifth podium finish out of the six events she has competed in this year as she held on to her lead with a second place finish in today’s medal race – to give her an overall win by five points. Robert York had a great week finishing second overall whilst two-time ISAF Youth Worlds silver medallist Izzy Hamilton was third.
“It was a windy medal race today – Robert [York] put on a good show and won the medal race and I finished second but it’s nice to win overall. The first couple of day I put together a string of wins in the light winds so I was pleased with my pumping and tactics. When we got to the more plaining conditions with the bigger breeze is when Robert really started to challenge me which was good and we had some really close racing.”
Nick Dempsey, the current RS:X World Champion, overcame Elliot Carney with a medal race win to secure top spot in the RS:X 9.5 event. The GBR sailors have been neck and neck all week, trading firsts and seconds from the opening day of the regatta, resulting in a ‘winner takes all’ scenario from today’s medal race decider.
The two-time Olympic medallist said: “I had a pretty bad day on Monday, and I think other than that it hasn’t been so tight, but I certainly put a bit of pressure on myself having such an awful day on Monday and I certainly had a bit of work to do for the rest of the week. But it’s turned out pretty good in the end and I’m pretty happy with how the event’s gone – it’s been perfect preparation for the Europeans in a few weeks’ time.”
Trailing overnight leader Carney by a single point, Dempsey admits that he was looking forward to today’s medal race decider: “I was confident – it was quite windy and I’m pretty comfortable in those conditions and I know that if I get a clean start then I should generally just sail away from the fleet. But you never know- a lot can go wrong and you just have to be careful and do everything you can to minimise any risks.”
Dempsey concluded: “Elliot sailed really well and it’s been a really nice mixed of conditions and it was quite close all the way to the end so it was nice to finish it off in the medal race.”
The battle for Finn victory went right down to the wire between the British Sailing Team’s Mark Andrews and Andrews Mills. Andrews entered the double points medal race poised in second, two points off top spot with it all to play for in the final race of the regatta. With Mills being the victim of a capsize within the first 30 seconds of the race starting, Andrews sailed to an easy victory giving the Scotsman his second consecutive gold medal with the medal race win. Mills finished second overall with Peter McCoy taking third.
“It’s been close between me and Andrew all week and it was just down to whoever did the best today in the final medal race. It was a bit disappointing to see him capsize early on in the race as it would have been good to have a good ‘ding dong’ battle all the way down to the final pump on the last wave but a win is a win and it’s nice to carry on the momentum from Holland into this regatta to pick up another gold medal.”
Talking on the key to his success over the past two regattas, Andrews continued: “The key has just been consistency and to just keep chipping away. I keep on talking about Bart [Andrew Simpson] being an inspiration but that was what he always said was to just keep chipping away and to never let your head drop, and to just continue to go for it which is what I have been doing.
The first classes to be abandoned for the day amid the strong winds were the Paralympic 2.4mR and Sonar events. With an emphatic two race wins on the penultimate day of the regatta, Megan Pascoe (GBR) continues her winning streak by taking the Sail for Gold crown in front of Paralympic champion Helena Lucas (GBR), adding this week’s victory to the two golds she won at January’s Sailing World Cup Miami and Delta Lloyd Regatta in May. Lucas finished four points behind her fellow British Sailing Team mate in second, while Barend Kol (NED) took bronze.
“It’s really exciting to win Sail for Gold and my third gold of the season,” enthused Pascoe. “I had a great day yesterday out on the water with two bullets to close the game out. Today would have been nice to race because I had quite a nice point lead and it would have been good to just finish the job off properly but I’m happy enough!”
“The fleet has been really challenging this week, it was the same fleet we have in Medemblik so I’ve been racing against some of the best sailors in the world. Obviously racing against Helena [Lucas] is always a challenge – it’s been a challenge for the last six years but I think the key to my success has been all the hard work I have put in over the past six months out on the water and with my coach Rob and with the British Sailing Team.”
In the Sonar event it was another British team taking gold with John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas (GBR) storming to their third consecutive Sail for Gold Regatta victory.
“It’s great to be back on the podium here at Sail for Gold,” said Stodel, the tactician on-board the three person Paralympic keelboat.
“The team is working well, we’ve got a new coach so everything is now heading in the right direction.”
Stephen Thomas added: “We have performed well all throughout the week with some tough competition from SKUD World Champion Niki Birrell in one boat along with a few Development Squad boats who have pushed us hard. We have really enjoyed the racing this week and it’s great to come out with a win. Every year brings challenging and different conditions so it’s a fantastic achievement to win the regatta there times in a row, plus it’s always nice to win on home waters. Were now looking forward to the worlds in a few months’ time.”
Sail for Gold Event Director Tim Hall commented: “We’ve had a great event in Weymouth and Portland, with the full range of conditions testing both the sailors and our race teams and providing some quality racing over the past five days.
“We’re really grateful to all the sailors, coaches and team leaders from the 22 nations who’ve come here and supported the event this year, and our huge thanks must go to the race teams, the jury, the organising team for their hard work behind the scenes, and especially to all our amazing volunteers for all their efforts this week. We look forward to welcoming the world again to the Sail for Gold Regatta in 2014.”
Full results here