The last day of the Delta Lloyd Regatta demonstrated just how similar Olympic sailing is to real life when conditions permit
Watch enough of the world’s best in action and it’s easy to forget that even Olympic sailors get wet sometimes when things go pear shaped.
Having watched several days of the Delta Lloyd regatta, (previously Spa Regatta), the ever popular Olympic classes event in Holland last week, provided one of the last opportunities to gauge potential form for the big event in August. But aside from this, I was struck once again by the standard of competition across the fleets and encouraged by how similar Olympic racing can look to the kind of club racing that you and I might enjoy when conditions get testing.
During the Delta Lloyd week the sailors hade every thing thrown at them from flat calms and race finishes at 8 pm to a more feisty 25 knots, the best of the action was left until last, the medal races. And it’s this that’s worth a look on the official video clip of the day which provides a neat summary of who ended up where.
Meanwhile, if it’s the official word from Team GBR and how the team fared that you’re after, here it is.
Britain’s sailors ended the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Medemblik (NED) with three medals, with Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes picking up the sole British gold on a breezy final day on Sunday (25 May).
The Beijing-bound duo held on to their overnight lead in the 49er skiff class amid 22 knot winds and choppy waters to add a second Dutch title to the one they claimed back in 2005 – their first ever Grade 1 regatta victory.
With strong winds and the gold theirs to lose on Sunday’s final day, the Skandia Team GBR pair played a conservative game, opting not to hoist their huge spinnaker at all during the medal race as they watched many of their rivals capsize around them when they attempted to.
They finished the medal race in third place, which handed them the regatta win by 13 points over Spaniard Federico and Arturo Alonso, while teammates Dave Evans and Simon Hiscocks won the final race to finish their regatta in seventh place.
“Five boats capsized at the first mark, and then another two boats went in on the first run so by the time we’d reached the leeward mark only three boats had managed to stay upright,” Morrison recalled.
“We knew we needed to finish no worse than fifth if we were to win, so with all that going on around us it seemed to be the sensible option!
“It was a question of brains over valour – it didn’t look too cool, but was the right thing to do in the grand scheme of things.”
For the Exmouth pair, crowned World Champions in 2007, their victory was the chance to put behind them recent regatta disappointments where their results suffered following equipment failure.
“We feel we’ve actually been sailing pretty well all year, but our results haven’t shown that,” said Rhodes, “This event has always been a bit of a focus event for us this year – it fits in pretty well with our programme so it’s good that we’ve managed to get a result here.”
Ed Wright also picked up bronze for Skandia Team GBR in the Finn class to add to the bronze won by Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson in the Yngling event on Saturday.
But both Wright and the Tornado pairing of Leigh McMillan and Will Howden were left ruing costly errors which punished them in the final regatta standings.
In the closely-fought Finn medal race, Wright was up against Slovenian Gasper Vincec and Spaniard Rafael Trujillo for gold in the heavyweight dinghy class. In second place heading into the 10-boat double points scoring final, Wright gained the advantage, getting himself ahead of his rivals and into the gold medal position before agonisingly capsizing in the strong winds and choppy waters just 200 metres from the finish line.
“Unforgiveable. First I kept getting the boom caught on my lifejacket, then Dan Slater tried to take me out on the second run, and then I capsized,” said Wright, describing his race, although his bronze in Dutch waters does mean a second straight Grade 1 medal for the 30-year-old, who also won silver at the French Olympic Sailing Week at Hyeres last month.
There was disappointment also for Leigh McMillan and Will Howden, who were even closer to securing a podium finish in the Tornado catamaran class. Storming in towards the medal race finish line in third place – enough to have earned them a silver medal overall – they realised they’d sailed the wrong course, crossing next to the committee boat instead of a different mark which set the end of the finish line for the medal races.
The duo were judged to have not finished the race, thus picking up 22 points to see them end the regatta in fifth overall and out of the medals in spite of an otherwise promising week.
Said Howden afterwards: “All week it’s been a committee boat finish – we didn’t realise it had changed and coming downwind at that speed and in those conditions it was pretty hard to see.”
Christina Bassadone and Saskia Clark finished fourth in the 470 women’s fleet, making a strong comeback after hitting the leeward mark, but the Dutch duo Marcelien de Koning and Lobke Berkhout sailed solidly to win the medal race and just edge in front of the British pair to claim bronze.
The Laser Radial sailor Penny Clark, and the Star duo of Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson also featured in Sunday’s medal races. Clark, the 33-year-old Royal Navy Officer, finished sixth in the final for the women’s single-handed class to finish the regatta in sixth overall, while Percy and Simpson finished on a high, winning the medal race to end a tough regatta for them in seventh place.