If all you see of Olympic sailing is the medal race it would be easy to believe that the sport is intense, dramatic and short – and while it has those features, it’s also about endurance. And it was endurance that was tested at Skandia Sail for Gold today.
The British weather turned it on for the Queen’s 60th Jubilee celebrations with steady and occasionally torrential rain, cold temperatures and a steadily increasing breeze. It was a day to test the focus and commitment of even the toughest of athletes.
Perhaps it was unsurprising then that the Laser Radials saw some more famous names coming to the front, with Belgium’s Evi van Acker taking a first and a third to move into the overall lead. She’s being chased hard by Lijia Xu of China – bronze medallist in Qingdao and second at the recent Laser Radial World Championships. Xu had a great day in Weymouth with two firsts. Finland’s Sari Multala now holds third, with 2012 World Champion Gintare Scheidt in fourth, and double Skandia Sail for Gold winner, Marit Bouwmeester in fifth.
It’s a tough fleet, but van Acker isn’t fazed. “I don’t really care about the other girls, I am just here to do my best but it is really difficult not to look at the rest especially those who I have seen improve. My main focus is just on me and trying to be the best I can be. Sailing against Marit isn’t great, she is a great sailor but then I am too so we will see who wins.”
The Laser Men had a particularly tough time, not even getting their racing underway until late afternoon, in the worst of the weather, and then doing three races. It was the Australians that coped best with the conditions, with Tom Burton posting a first, second and a third to take a four point overall lead from his countryman, Tom Slingsby – multiple world champion and unbeaten on Weymouth and Portland waters.
Slingsby wasn’t finding it easy though, “It was a ok day for me, with a one, three and five and plenty of speed, but plenty of errors too. I think I made more and more errors as the day went on. I was too tired and not thinking straight. A lot more wind and rain today as well as big waves, so yes it was tough conditions. We were doing three lap races, so it was really hard on the body as well as it being freezing cold and raining meant it wasn't great. The visibility made things harder, in the second race I couldn't see the top mark along with 30-40 other guys who were in the top group. I think it was quite unfair to race in these conditions; perhaps we should have waited for better conditions.”
It was a big day in the Finn, after only completing one race yesterday, they had three scheduled today and they were all sailed. It was Giles Scott’s day, the Brit winning all three races – he still has a 21st from yesterday, but will move up the rankings once enough races have been sailed to allow him to discard his worst result. Meanwhile, the top of the Finn table has it’s normal look, with Ben Ainslie (GBR) leading Zach Railey (USA) by five points, after the British triple gold medallist scored a fifth, second and third for the day; Scott is in third.
There was also drama overnight, with an important redress decision for Pieter Jan Postma, who explained, “I had a big collision with Martin Robitaille yesterday, and he made a big hole in my transom and I took on a lot of water and they granted me redress for that. I also had some water in today but I wasn't sinking, and I am quite happy with my day.’ Postma now lies fourth overall after the Jury decision.
The Star class share the most distant course on the Weymouth and Portland sailing waters with the Finn, and they too had three races scheduled, and sailed them. It was the Irish team, - perhaps enjoying the weather more than some of their competitors - that had the best day. Peter O’Leary and David Burrows scored a first, second and fourth to hold a two point lead from the World Champions, Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada.
Robert Scheidt was one of those not enjoying the weather so much. “We are really happy with those results but also quite tired with it being a rough day and doing three races. Six- seven hours on the water so I am very much looking forward to a shower!” Another man having a touch day was the 1988 Star Gold Medallist, Mike McIntyre, whose return to the fleet ended badly - he was on port tack on the first beat of the second race when John Gimson tried to duck behind him. The manoeuvre went badly wrong and Gimson crashed into the gold medallist - fortunately McIntyre had borrowed the boat from Gimson!
Out on the Paralympic course for the SKUD 18 it was a Jubilee day for Britain’s Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell – they won all three races in a remarkable performance that took them past John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit (CAN) and into a four point lead. Rickham commented, “We were really happy with our performance today – we worked hard and basically feel like we deserved those three race wins. The areas we have been having trouble with we’ve progressed since Hyeres, but really we’re more happy with our consistency across the races.”
The Sonars also sailed three races in the tough conditions, and the Netherlands trio of Udo Hessels, Mischa Rossen and Marcel van de Veen held their overnight lead with two fourths and a third. Chasing them are the French team of Bruno Jourdren, Nicolas Vimont Vicary and Eric Flageul in second, and Norway’s Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Marie Solberg and Per Eugen Solberg in third. Gold and silver medallist, Damien Seguin of France convincingly won the day in the 2.4mR with two wins. It still wasn’t enough to overtake arch-rival, the Netherlands Thierry Schmitter though – the two are now separated by four points. Britain’s Megan Pascoe is in third, another five points behind Schmitter.
The RS:X fleet got two more races in this morning and it was another absolutely dominant performance from Poland’s Zofia Noceti-Klepacka, posting another second and first to take a 16 point lead from Spain’s Marina Alabau, with four-time Olympic medallist Alessandra Sensini of Italy another two points adrift in third. Overnight third-placed Bryony Shaw broke her mast extension in the first race and didn’t finish, but recovered to a fifth in the second.
Shaw commented afterwards, “It is quite a rare thing that the equipment can break as it did today. It is typical that it never happens in training, most importantly we weren’t too frustrated to be honest, it is something that you kind of get on with and I think I kept cool enough to race well in the second race.”
The RS:X Men’s contest is taking a familiar shape, with France’s Julien Bontemps holding a five point lead over Britain’s Nick Dempsey. The pair just topped the table at the recent world championships with Bontemps winning it by a couple of points. But Demspey had the better of the day, with a first and a seventh to Bontemps who scored a comparatively poor fifth and eighth. In third is Germany’s Toni Wilhelm.
In the Men’s 470 class they got another two races completed and it was the three-time World Champions Matt Belcher and Malcolm Page who continued to dominate overall with a second and a fourth. But the day belonged to Kiwis Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders, who posted back-to-back wins to move up into silver, seven points behind Belcher and Page. Not far behind were Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente from Argentina, with a second and a first, now in bronze.
The 470 Women got their two races done by early afternoon and it was another top day for the British World Champions, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark. They scored a third and a seventh to hold a four point lead from second placed Camille Lecontre and Mathilde Geron. In third are the Americans, Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan, who won the fourth race, leaving them ten points adrift of the French.
Saskia Clark commented, “It’s certainly different to Barcelona where we won the Worlds – the weather is just so miserable! It’s good racing though and good to have some good strong breeze. We’re still pretty calm and want to do as well as we can, the podium is in sight but the key for us at this regatta is to pick out the learning points for our next training before the big one in August!”
In the 49er fleet the day belonged to American’s Erik Storke and Trevor Moore, who threw down a first, second and a third to lift themselves onto the podium. Moore commented, “Obviously the wind today was very different to what we had yesterday but we had good boat speed and really good starts. We managed the good starts yesterday but couldn't quite put it away, so today we sailed clear of the other boats as much as we could and used our boat speed to our advantage. It worked out for us.”
The British pair, Dave Evans and Ed Powys had another solid day with a first, third and fifth to hold their ten point overnight advantage over Australia’s multiple World Champions, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) – the latter scored a first, second and sixth to exactly match the Brits. Outteridge wasn’t entirely happy with his day, however, “I was a bit disappointed with the sixth because we were winning that middle race by quite a bit and had a capsize just before the finish. We had a good recovery, got up and finished in sixth but it was big waves out there... [and there] was just one that caught us out.”
Despite almost heroic efforts and another long day on the race course, the Women’s Match Racing didn’t get their round robin completed. The racing ended at flight 22, and there are four more flights to sail before the repecharge, so nothing is settled yet – but some are looking in better shape than others. The Russia team of Ekaterina Skudina, Elena Oblova and Elena Siuzeva have won nine of eleven races, not far behind are the British team of Lucy and Kate MacGregor, and Annie Lush, and the Australian team of Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty – both teams have only lost two of ten races.
These three are currently contending the top of the leaderboard with the French team of Claire Leroy, Elodie Bertrand and Marie Riou with eight wins from eleven races. Also in contention are the Finns, Silja Lehtinen, Silja Kanerva and Mikaela Wulff with seven wins from ten races. While the surprise strugglers are the USA’s Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandemoer and Debbie Capozzi - many people’s favourites ahead of the event, but currently with just five wins from ten races.
Top three results below, for full results go to the website
470 men - after 4 races
1st AUS Mathew BELCHER, Malcolm PAGE – 8 points
2nd NZL Paul Snow-Hansen, Jason Saunders - 15 points
3rd ARG Lucas Calabrese, Juan De La Fuente 15 points
470 women - after 4 races
1st GBR Hannah MILLS, Saskia CLARK 14 points
2nd FRA Camille LECOINTRE, Mathilde GERON 18 points
3rd USA Amanda Clark, Sarah Lihan 28 points
Finn - after 4 races
1st GBR Ben Ainslie - 15 points
2nd USA Zach Railey -20 points
3rd GBR Giles Scott – 24 points
Star - after 4 race
1 IRL Peter O’Leary, David Burrows - 12 points
2 BRA Robert Scheidt, Bruno Prada - 14 points
3 CAN Richard CLARKE, Tyler BJORN - 16 points
Laser – after 4 races
1st AUS Tom Burton 9 points
2nd AUS Tom Slingsby 13 points
3rd GER Philipp Buhl - 22 points
Laser Radial - after 4 races
1st BEL Evi Van Acker 14 points
2nd CHN Lijia Xu 16 points
3rd FIN Sari MULTALA 17 points
RS:X Men - after 4 races
1st FRA Julien BONTEMPS 16 points
2nd GBR Nick DEMPSEY 21 points
3rd GER Toni WILHELM 30 points
RS:X Women - after 4 races
1st POL Zofia NOCETI-KLEPACKA 6 points
2nd ESP Marina ALABAU - 22 points
3rd ITA Alessandra SENSINI – 24 points
49er – after 6 races (1 discard)
1st GBR Dave EVANS, Ed POWYS - 9 points
2nd AUS Nathan Outteridge, Iain Jensen – 16 points