Giles Scott firing on all cylinders
The Miami weather saved the best for last on Medal Race day at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami. The competition was decided in the ten Olympic events on Biscayne Bay under sunny skies and enough wind for good racing.
Uncooperative wind this week limited the number of series races for most of the events. This created even more significance for the double points-scoring Medal Races, leaving more sailors and their crews in contention. All classes sailed one medal race with the exception of the 49ers and 49erFXs which sailed three short races, each worth a single point.
Among the Brits, Giles Scott, Bryony Shaw and the 470 women’s pairing of Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre ensured a golden hat trick for Team GBR. Weguelin and McIntyre clawed their way back through the medal race fleet to claim their first World Cup title since teaming up a year ago, while Giles Scott managed to overhaul a nine-point gap behind Australia’s Oliver Tweddell to seal honours in the Finn class – his third victory in three regattas since his return to the class following America’s Cup duties.
Francis Peters and Nicola Groves in the 49erFX, Nacra 17 duo Ben Saxton-Hannah Diamond and Laser sailor Nick Thompson all started the day outside of the podium spots in fourth place, and ended the day with bronze medals.
British 2011 World Champion Giles Scott made a successful come from behind victory on Saturday to take home the gold medal. In the medal race Scott came home in second, nine seconds behind Luke Lawrence (USA). Overnight leader Oliver Tweddell (AUS) slipped up with an eighth place finish Saturday, after going into the Medal Race with a nine point lead.
Tweddell earns another silver medal after finishing second at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne. Jorge João Zarif (BRA) garnered bronze medal honours.
Conservative tactics paid off for 26-year-old Scott: “It was a very difficult race. Oli was a bit more high-risk. I think I rounded in about fourth or fifth and he was eighth or ninth. We kind of maintained that gap – as I picked up a few he picked up a few. I managed to dial him down when I was coming down on the port layline when I was coming downwind. That held him up another couple of boat lengths which confirmed it for me so I was very happy with how it went.
“All you can do is try and look after yourself and try and do everything you can to get yourself in a good position and see where your competitors are in the fleet and see if you can affect them in any way you can. But it’s generally look after yourself first and then see how they’re doing.”
Scott returned to the Finn in September after a campaign with the Luna Rossa America’s Cup team, and now with three wins from his three regattas since returning, he’s feeling the benefit of his break from the Olympic classes.
“There are a lot of very smart people doing a lot of very smart things in the America’s Cup world and for sure there are a lot of lessons you can learn for Olympic sailing.”
World #3 Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) got the day off to winning ways. Starting the day with an eight point advantage, they overcame a poor start, but made a late surge on the final downwind to claim the Medal Race win and the regatta victory with it. The duo, European bronze medallists, have previously won the EUROSAF Champions Cup title in Kiel, but this marks their first World Cup victory since teaming up last January.
They won six of seven races this week to win by a 12 point margin over former 470 World Championship silver medalists Camille Lecointre and Hélène Defrance (FRA). Lecointre and Defrance placed third today to earn silver. Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar (AUT) took the bronze.
“It’s pretty cool,” said 19-year-old McIntyre, whose father Mike won Olympic gold in the Star in 1988. “We’re just relaxing after that race – it was quite stressful! We had an awful start and had to battle our way through. The exact people we didn’t want to be winning were winning, so it was a pretty full-on race. But we pulled through and managed to win it, so it’s all good.
"The light wind isn’t usually something we tend to favour, but it’s not been a struggle this week. We’ve done a lot of training before the regatta and we felt pretty confident going in. It’s just nice to know that we’ve got good pace, which is always helpful, and it’s nice to know that we’re able to handle ourselves in tight situations.”
The story of the day, quite possibly came from the Men's 470 event.
The defending champions Stu McNay and Dave Hughes (USA) had a one point lead over Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) at the start of the day. The regatta favorites World #1 Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) were 14 points back of the leaders. But the day belonged to the French team of Bouvet and Mion who notched up their first ISAF World Cup victory. A fourth place finish was good enough to secure the gold medal, as fleet leaders McNay and Hughes dropped back to ninth in the medal race.
Meanwhile, Belcher and Ryan placed second, which moved them up for a silver medal - however significantly this was the first time London 2012 gold medalist Mat Belcher hasn't won a 470 event since November 2011 (read more about him here). McNay and Hughes earned bronze medal honours.
Belcher commented: "Getting in six races as opposed to 10 was challenging, but the French had a great regatta, and so did the Americans. The fleet quality here is phenomenal. We've got most of the top 15 in the world here.
"We've learned a lot about our competitors and how they race in these conditions. It certainly motivated the fleet to try and turn those results, but for us it's all about Rio. And these conditions will be similar to Rio.”
On his victory, Bouvet commented, "We are very happy because it was the objective to win the regatta and be better than Mat and Will. We try to do our best in every important regatta. Here was very important for us because it's the start of 2014 and we wanted to let everybody know how good we are.”
Winning the Medal Race was Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE). The Greek team finished eight points ahead of Belcher and Ryan, and 12 points ahead of World #3 Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO).
Team GBR's Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield finished eighth overall with a sixth in the medal race.
Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA) secured gold in emphatic fashion in the Nacra 17, winning the Medal Race by 16 seconds over compatriots Federica Salva and Francesco Bianchi.
The Italians were untouchable in the Medal Race, leading from start to finish. "We are very happy we won here in Miami,” said Sicouri. "It's the first time for us we've won a World Cup. We couldn't have asked for more.”
Heading into the day the Italians were locked on 36-points with training partners Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT) so it was a winner takes all scenario. A strong start mixed with good upwind speed meant they had a solid advantage at the first mark. From there the chasing pack could not touch them and they raced away to take the win.
Sicouri added, "It was a good race, we had a good start and that's what allowed us to get ahead of the Austrians, our direct competitors. From there we raced our race, just had fun and it worked.”
The Austrians came through in seventh in the Medal Race which was enough to secure silver.
A fight for bronze played out at the back of the fleet. Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond (GBR) trailed 49er Olympic gold medallist Iker Martinez and Tara Pacheco (ESP) by two points heading into the Medal Race with it all to play for. The Brits came from behind to pass the Spaniards at the midway point, finishing in ninth and securing bronze on countback.
Paige Railey (USA) successfully defended her ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami title from last year with another top performance this week. Railey was the most consistent sailor from start to finish with a fleet series scoring line of 2-1-2-(12)-2-4. She had an 11 point lead over 2012 Olympic silver medalist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) heading into Saturday.
Bouwmeester comfortably won the medal race and Railey was second. They were first and second, respectively around each mark.
Despite a ninth place result in Saturday's race, Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) captured the bronze.
"I had some goals for how I wanted to sail the medal race and where I wanted to finish,” said Railey. "I wasn't thinking about the – 'what if' - if I do this, I could lose the event. It was more about what I was going to work towards so I can keep progressing for Rio, and what we will face there.”
World #2 Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) continued his winning ways and held on to his three point lead from Friday. He placed fifth today, enough to win by four points over medal race winner and 2013 World Champion Robert Scheidt (BRA). Stipanovic, the 2013 European Champion, posted steady results throughout the week (2-(5)-1-1-2) leading up to today's medal race.
Scheidt and Brazilian teammate Bruno Fontes placed one and two in the medal race. Nick Thompson (GBR) was third in the medal race, securing bronze for Team GBR.
"I was able to stay so consistent this week because I was confident in my light air technique,” said Stipanovic. "I was able to use that by getting off the line well. Coming here, I had no expectations because I didn't do much training after the worlds. I was able to keep a clear mind throughout the event. After this, I will head back to Croatia and train there until the Palma [World Cup].”
Sarah Steyaert and Julie Bossard (FRA) sailed consistently across three 49erFX theatre style, single point races to win gold.
The French pair had a handsome lead over Giulia Conti and Francesca Clapcich (ITA) in advance of the final, but with three races on the agenda, anything was possible.
Steyaert and Bossard had room to sail conservatively and came through with an 8-2-5 score line that ensured that they finished 14 points ahead of Conti and Clapcich.
Standout performers of the day were Britain's Frances Peters and Nicola Groves who recorded 2-5-1 and their first World Cup podium finish. The result pushed the Britons up into third, overtaking Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) who dropped to fourth.
Team GBR's Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth sailed a steady day finishing fourth in all three races to end the regatta sixth overall.
Beijing 2008 Olympic gold medallist Jonas Warrer and Peter Lang (DEN) came out on top in a testing final day which comprised three ten minute races. Consistency has been sparse in the 49er fleet throughout the week, reflecting in the high score lines from 12 races and on the final day Warrer and Lang were able to put together steady races to pick up gold.
A 6-4-3 score line put the Danes on 67 points with USA's Brad Funk and Trevor Burd two points behind on 69 points.
Team GBR's Stevie Morrison and Chris Grube cemented their new partnership rounding off the podium on 70 points. However Podium Potential pairing James Peters and Ed Fitzgerald stole the day with two race wins to finish sixth overall, with the new team of John Pink and Stuart Bithell in fifth.
World #1 Bryony Shaw (GBR) once again proved her all-round credentials in the Women's RS:X by taking her first gold of 2014.
British Sailing’s 2013 Athlete of the Year led the RS:X women’s windsurfing series from start to finish, sealing overall victory by five points after a third place in today’s medal race. Shaw had a bumper 2013, picking up medals in seven of nine regattas and is happy how 2014 has commenced: "It's a great way to start the year. I've led from the beginning of the week and wanted to just make a good race.”
Shaw came through in third in an eventful Medal Race: "I thought I'd put myself in a really good position above the pack. One Italian, Flavia [Tartaglini], who I was defending against was on my hip the whole way to windward and the other Italian [Laura Linares] tacked away to the right side. I kind of lost track of her and when she came back into the picture she had a really nice lever and led us all from the left hand side.
"From then on it was about trying to keep a lane. It was so tight but there was a tight little fumble at the windward mark so I slipped through to third. There was quite a lot of current and I got stuck on the wrong side of the track so had to fight back so I didn't make it easy for myself.
“We had a winter where we were mostly sailing on the fins, so to come here and be strong in pumping conditions is a really good sign for the coming season. I’m looking forward to having an event where we do have more time on the fin and check that speed out, but to know that we’re going well in light winds is a really good sign.
“It’s great to start the year off with a win, and hopefully that will keep coming. I feel like I’m a very good all round sailor now, so if we get to Palma and it’s all about board speed or fitness or tactics then hopefully I can rise to the challenge and come away with another win.”
Charline Picon (FRA) got caught up at the first mark, holding several of the fleet up. Laura Linares (ITA) was the benefactor of the tangle as she sailed away and opened up a lead in excess of one minute.
As Shaw came through in third picking up gold, Linares' race victory promoted her up to second, demoting compatriot Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) to third.
A Medal Race bullet ensured Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) took gold in style in the Men's RS:X.
Italy's Mattia Camboni came out with youthful exuberance in the Medal Race to power ahead early on but Kokkalanis fought back.
Trailing the young Italian by 19 seconds at the first mark Kokkalanis pushed hard to make up the difference as he explained, "It turned out to be really good in the second half of the upwind. I didn't have a good start but I tried to cover and I worked well with the shifts and got up to second position at the top.
"I'm very excited to win this race. The World Cup is one of the most important races. I'm really happy, what more can I say.”
Camboni was rewarded for his bright start and took second in the Medal Race, finishing seventh overall whilst the battle for the remaining podium spots played out behind him.
With the points close anything was possible. Nimrod Mashich (ISR) was able to secure silver, finishing in sixth but Brazil's Ricardo Santos dropped out of bronze having dropped to last in the Medal Race.
Japan's Makoto Tomizawa replaced him in third having finished in fifth.
More pics from Richard Langdon / www.oceanimages.co.uk (who seems to have provided a lot of pics of Marit Bouwmeeser...)