Breezy conditions in Weymouth continue to make the race course tough for all and impossible for some. Matthew Sheahan reports
For the third day running, the 49ers and Tornados have been unable to race, the conditions simply too boisterous for the highest performance boats in this Olympic classes regatta to compete. By midday, racing for these two classes had been abandoned, yet it hadn’t been for a lack of effort.
For a few short bursts, the 49ers smoked downwind towards the start zone, frequently clocking 22 knots in the flat water of Portland Harbour. But the problems came when each of them had to gybe. Of the 15 or so that attempted the manouevre, none managed it successfully leaving plenty of carnage on a race course that had yet to see any competitive action.
The lack of racing puts more pressure on the organisers for these two classes in the build up to the medal races on Sunday, where the top 10 boats in each of the fleets race for glory on the final day of the regatta. No racing so far, means no means of seeding the fleets. There is hope however in the weather forecast for Saturday which suggests that breezes will be lighter throughout the day.
Meanwhile, the Laser, Laser Radial, 470, Finn classes headed out into even more lively conditions in Weymouth Bay for another punishing day on the race course. Here, winds sat at 18-22 knots for much of the day with a big sea running that provided spectacular surfing conditions once again.
The closely fought battle for first place in the 470 class is ensuing between Skandia Team GBR sailors Rogers & Glanfield and training partners Asher & Elliot. The two teams have been switching between first and second place all day, with the underdogs Asher and Willis edging in front to take the overall lead after day three.
“It is about time we got wind at some of our regattas, as most of them have been quite light all year. Today we have had good conditions where we were had 20 -25 knots at most but it was very steady,” said Elliot Willis.
The women’s 470 fleet is also seeing conflict between Britain’s Bassadone and Clark, who are being pushed hard by Sweden’s Torgersson and Zachrisson, both teams put on an impressive display of power and tactical skill in the 20 knot conditions, securing multiple first and second places.
Birgmark (SWE) is still holding onto the lead in the Finn heavyweight dinghy, with world number three Britain’s Ed Wright raising his game to creep up the leaderboard to second. With selection for the Beijing Olympic Finn place yet to be decided, Wright is hoping for a solid performance at this regatta, as he is vying for the only Finn place in Britain’s Olympic squad against double Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie.
“I felt a bit rusty today especially when I was coming first in the first race of the day,” said a tired Wright. “I capsized and let so many people through but got sixth in the end. Cascais was the last time I sailed in these conditions. I made a few mistakes in the races but the last one I was happy with. I won that quite comfortably so I just have to do some damage tomorrow and we will be good coming into Sunday.”
The RSX fleet saw some challenging racing with Britain’s Nick Dempsey taking control of the men’s fleet, scoring two firsts. His results today have allowed him to make gains of the Frenchman Fabrice Hassen, who tops the leaderboard and has dominated the RSX 9.5 racing since Wednesday.
Fabrice commented after racing, “This is my first time racing in Weymouth, to be able to race at the future Olympic event for 2012 is fantastic, a really great experience. The conditions have been very good today, we had less wind than yesterday which made racing a little less stressful, but I am pleased with my performance and it is good to still be at the top of the table. The competition at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta is very good, with a much higher standard of racing than I expected, Britain’s Nick Dempsey is doing really well and is a big threat to me, I’m looking forward to the final days of the competition it will certainly be a close finish!”
Also flying the flag for Britain is Beijing hopeful Bryony Shaw in the RS:X 8.5, her performance on the water was outstanding, scoring thee consecutive firsts, placing her top of the table after today’s results and ahead of her nearest rival Spain’s Blanca Manchon. Britain’s continued dominance at the regatta was confirmed in the Laser Radial fleet with British sailors holding the top three spots on the leaderboard. World number 11 Lizzie Vickers shone out with a consistent, second and third confirming her leadership of the class.