Two British Paralympic golds
The winners of the Paralympic classes have been decided at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami despite racing being cancelled for them on their final day of the competition. Ultimately racing proved impossible in all bar two of the 13 classes across Biscayne Bay, with only the 49er and 49erFX events able to get any points on the board.
Coming out on top in the Paralympic classes were Megan Pascoe (GBR) in the 2.4mR, Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) in the Skud 18, and Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont Vicary (FRA) in the Sonar.
Saturday will be the penultimate day of racing for the Olympic class sailors. Contenders will be forced to elevate their game in the Medal Races. Sailors and their crews have had at least a week of acclimating to the light, and at times, unpredictable winds on Biscayne Bay.
Only the 49er and 49erFX fleets completed races on Friday. The sailors and Race Committee made valiant attempts to get in racing on a hazy, humid day with light air to no avail.
Megan Pascoe successfully defended her gold medal from last year's regatta. She won with an impressive scoring line of 3-2-1-1-(3) = 7. The World #1 edged out Allan Leibel (CAN) by two points, taking second, with Pascoe's teammate Helena Lucas (GBR) completing the podium.
“It’s a very, very good way to start off the year,” Ardingly’s Pascoe admitted. “Last year here was a bit more tricky – I wasn’t quite leading going into the last day and I had to have a few things go my way – but this week has steadily gone my way. Everything’s been really fast and I’m really, really happy.”
The 2.4mR fleet was sent out and even managed to start at a race before any trace of wind finally disappeared from their course area.
“We had quite nice wind to start with – it was about six knots, as the beat progressed it was going more and more left, the pressure was becoming incredibly patchy,” the 27-year-old Pascoe explained. “But going down the run it just went incredibly soggy – I was lucky enough to have had a good beat and was ahead of Helena and Allan, which is what I had to be, so even if the race had finished I was confident I’d still be in the position where I am, but the race wasn’t going to finish. We were definitely going to be timed out on that one."
Pascoe, aiming to qualify for her first Paralympic Games at Rio 2016, admits that her Miami win is a timely confidence boost at the start of the season: “I think 2014 could be very important in terms of my Rio campaign. There are all sorts of rumours about when trials might start, but really it’s always nice to win and it would be nice to go to the IFDS Worlds in a really good place. They’ve always kind of eluded me so hopefully we’ll get one this time.”
Victory for World #1 Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) in Miami collected marks the first ISAF Sailing World Cup win for the five win World Championships, who won four of five races this week. Miami has been one of only two events that’s eluded the duo so far in during their six-year SKUD partnership.
Birrell commented, "We've been to the Miami World Cup five times – my first ever Skud event was out here in 2008 and we've done every year except one since then, and we've had every result from fifth to second I think. Finally now we've got to the gold, so now we've got a 1,2,3,4,5 in our five attempts.
"Our starting was clearly not good, but did have some good speed and were working our way through the gears,” Rickham explained. “It was just good to be back in the boat and remembering stuff. It’s funny how after three months off you forget a lot quite quickly. It was nice to have a moderately relaxed regatta, manage to get control and then Niki threw in a few little tactical gems and we were off. There’s only one title left that we want, and we’ll do everything in our capacity now to make it happen."
World #2 Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul, and Nicolas Vimont Vicary (FRA) will take home the gold following a steady week that included consistent scores, 2-3-1-2-(4) = 8. They won by two points over the British team of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel, and Stephen Thomas. Robertson and crew moved into contention yesterday by posting a pair of bullets, which sealed the silver medal. Alphonsus Doerr, Hugh Freund, and Timothy Angle earned the bronze.
Jourden, the 2013 IFDS World Champion, commented on his team's successful week in Miami: "We felt very prepared even though we didn't have our own boat. We trained in more wind than we had this week, but the wind strength doesn't matter for our team. We race strong in everything and don't let the wind reflect our results. Our winning strategy for the week was to avoid risk because the breeze was so shifty and light forecast. We stayed away from laylines and edges of the course.”
Sarah Steyaert and Julie Bossard (FRA) came from behind to open up a 16 point gap over Giulia Conti and Francesca Clapcich (ITA) in the 49erFX.
Despite a difficult start to the day, the French team bounced back with two seconds while the Italians finished down the pack to fall behind ahead of the final day.
Bossard commented, "We had a bad race in the first one with a bad start and then we fell in the water but that was okay in the end because we managed to concentrate and focus better and we got twos in two. We had good speed and good starts and we're happy with that.”
Conti and Clapcich ventured into the day with a four point lead. Conti, the helm, was visibly disappointed with her day: "In the first race we made a bad strategic decision to go on the right as the pressure came on the left so it was basically done.
"In the second race we had a very bad start which we could never recover from and in the last race we weren't very lucky because we had a very good start but then a boat tacked on the top mark and hit us so we couldn't round the top mark properly. We tried to recover a little bit and ended up 11th which was not that bad. It was tricky but tomorrow is another day.”
Three ten minute Stadium races will bring the 49erFX to a close on the final day and the girls know it will be a tough day on the water.
Conti added, "I think it's going to be hard because the French are very good sailors and will do their best. I don't really like the stadium racing, I prefer a standard single Medal Race but it's something we have to get used. Three races are a lot but we will do our best.”
Bossard concluded: "There's three races with lots of points. We'll just race like the other days because there are too many points to think about something. It will be a hard day for everybody. The best one will win.”
Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) sit in third on 77 points. Team GBR's Frances Peters-Nicola Groves and Charlotte Dobson-Sophie Ainsworth head into the 49erFX medal races in fourth and ninth places respectively.
Six points separated first to sixth heading into the penultimate day of 49er racing with it all to play for. No team had taken the bull by the horns and grabbed the initiative. Consistency across the race track has been hard to come by with everything team counting at least two double point scores across the nine race series.
Three races in tricky conditions saw several shifts in position as a race win, a discarded 16th and a fourth promoted Stevie Morrison and Chris Grube (GBR) from sixth to first. The new British team formed as a trial at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne and early chemistry has been formed as the pair continue their early development.
"Stevie is an experienced helm," commented Grube, "and it kind of shows in our sailing. I'm new to the boat and everything he tells me is pretty good. At the moment we're so new to the team and we're just making sure we're taking it one step at a time and doing the things that we need to do and making sure our programme suits that."
The Britons are tied on 51 points with Julien D'ortoli and Noè Delpech but lead on countback. Overnight leaders John Pink and Stuart Bithell (GBR) dropped down to fifth overall with Brad Funk and Trevor Burd (USA) and Jonas Warrer and Peter Lang (DEN) sitting ahead of the Brits on 54 points. Team GBR's James Peters-Ed Fitzgerald will also feature on the final day in ninth.
The final day of 49er racing will see the top ten compete in three single point stadium races to decide the honours.
Saturday's Medal Race will include 14 British boats across eight classes with Stevie Morrison-Chris Grube, RS:X sailor Bryony Shaw, and Sophie Weguelin in the 470 Women’s event heading into the final day in pole position.
Giles Scott will attempt to reel in Australian Oliver Tweddell’s nine point lead in the Finn class, world silver medallists Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond will hope to break into the podium positions in the Nacra 17 multihull event, while Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield will feature in the 470 men’s medal race.
Eighth-placed Podium Potential sailor Elliot Hanson qualifies for his first ever Laser World Cup medal race tomorrow alongside Nick Thompson in fourth.