Racing at the Perth 2011 World Championships has started with Ainslie and team McGregor/Lush dominating their classes
The Olympics may still be eight months away with plenty of international regattas between now and next August, but for sailors and selectors alike, the next two weeks will be critical for many of those who will, or will be hoping to, go to the Games in Weymouth next year.
Among the British team, not everyone has been selected with places for the Laser Radial, 470 men and 49ers yet to be decided. The latter two classes in particular have stiff competition within the UK squad and this will be one of the last opportunities for sailors to prove themselves to the selectors. Here Britain isn’t alone as several other countries look to use the Perth event to help them select the most suitable sailors for the 2012 Games.
For those that have already qualified, the pressure to perform will still be present but the emphasis will be in focussing more on their international opponents than it will impressing the selectors. Others in the more technical classes will use the event to check their boat speed with the top players.
Racing started on the weekend and saw the Macgregor girls and Annie Lush get off to a good start and picked up three wins and one loss before a lack of wind put paid to their remaining two scheduled matches, which will now be held on Tuesday (6 December). Their wins were notched up against the Spanish crew, helmed by Silvia Roca and a second win over Denmark’s Trine Abrahmsen.
The host nation’s Olivia Price took the only point off of the British trio before the British trio bounced straight back to take their third win against Anna Kjellberg.
Here’s the official word on the opening days’ races from Skandia Team GBR:
Already a record holder with an unprecedented five Finn world titles to his name, Ben Ainslie put down an early marker for a sixth world crown on his opening day at the Perth 2011 World Championships, picking up two race wins on Monday (5 December) to kick off his regatta.
After a short delay waiting for the afternoon sea breeze to arrive, Ainslie got his Finn Gold Cup underway in style, leading the first race from start to finish and sending the warning signal that, in spite of having already sealed his Olympic berth, he’s by no means resting on his laurels on the Fremantle waters.
In the second of the day’s two races for the heavyweight dinghy fleet, Ainslie didn’t have it all his own way, rounding the first mark in fifth place to Skandia Team GBR teammate Ed Wright’s first before pulling his way back through the fleet and into pole position on the first downwind leg.
“I didn’t have such a great start,” Ainslie recalled. “I think I was fifth or sixth at the top mark but I had a great first reach and first run and got through to the lead at the bottom mark and was able to hold on to that for the rest of the race, with Ed Wright also having a good race as well.”
“They were a couple of difficult races – there was nice breeze but it was still quite tricky and everyone was anxious to get racing.
“I’m happy with two wins [today] but there’s a long way to go and some tough competition out there,” remarked the triple Olympic gold medallist.
With the perfect scoreline for his opening day, Ainslie sits at the top of the Finn leaderboard, with European Champion Giles Scott the next highest Brit in equal fourth, defending World Champion Ed Wright in seventh and Andrew Mills in eighth.
Olympic bronze medallist Bryony Shaw also got her regatta off to an impressive start, with a second and a third from her two races in the RS:X women’s windsurfing fleet sitting her in second place behind Israel’s Lee Korsitz after the first day’s racing.
Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell occupy the same position after two races in the 470 men’s event, recovering from a bad start in the first race, in which they rounded the first mark in the mid-20’s before pulling back to fifth, and capped the first day off in style with a race win to sit them just behind the Finnish Lindgren brothers in the overall standings.
“We really couldn’t have asked for much more on the first day,” said Patience, who was delighted with their recovery in the opening race.
“Since me and Stuart started sailing together one of our strengths has been comebacks, and often races like that we call ‘regatta savers’. You can mill around in 28th at the back of the fleet having had a bad start, or you can get on your toes and do something about it. The opportunities are always there, they’re always presenting themselves it’s just about seeing them.
“It was a deep windward mark rounding and a nice wee finish at the end.”
Skandia Team GBR development squad duo Phil Sparks and David Kohler had a pleasing start to their first World Championships together, with 12,3 for their day seeing them in 11th place overall, just one point ahead of two-time World Champions Nic Asher and Elliot Willis in 12th with 12,4 for their opening days’ efforts.
Double Olympic silver medallist Nick Rogers and crew Chris Grube, also competing in their first 470 World Championship since teaming up last December, posted 14,5 to see them in 16th overall, while Alison Young is the highest placed British Laser Radial sailor after day one, in 14th place overall.
Fleet racing continues in the Finn, 470 Men’s, Laser Radial and RS:X Women’s events on Tuesday (6 December), while Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor also return to action for the next bouts in their women’s match racing round robin group against Croatian, Peruvian. Dutch and American opposition