After a difficult week, perfect conditions for the medal races in Weymouth and a key Olympic indicator
For all the stress and change in plans that the week had held, the Medal races ran as smoothly as clockwork in perfect conditions. And while there were familiar and expected names at the too there were also some surprises which will doubtless provide food for thought for all as the Olympics approaches.
The day kicked off with a 15-20kt breeze from the west which, apart from a small dip of a few knots part way through the proceedings, stayed pretty constant throughout the day. Unlike the Olympic programme there were two medal races courses, one under the Nothe, (the Olympic site) and the other in Portland harbour itself. Both proved tricky to read at times thanks to the influence of higher ground around the right hand side of both course areas.
The result was to provide a race course full of snakes and ladders that benefited some who read/anticipated the conditions correctly and tripped up others.
Among all the classes there were some key performances, that will get British tongues wagging, particularly that of Giles Scott’s dominant display in the Finn class where he won the week with ease leaving the British Finn representative Ben Ainslie trailing in his wake and on the medal race, swimming around his boat at the leeward gate – few had ever seen this before.
Alison Young’s confident display in the Laser Radials has drawn plenty of attention and highlighted that the former fleet leaders are not as invincible as they have looked over recent years. In the match racing the Australian team led by Olivia Price delivered an impressive performance to knock the top players off their perch.
Indeed, the Australian team as a whole provided plenty of food for thought as they were the second highest medal winners across the fleet winning five medals to GBR’s 11.
Now the dust has settled, the flood waters subsided and the breeze died down, I shall be taking a look shortly at what has been learned from this event and how this might affect things come the Games in 47 days. In the meantime, here’s the official word on the medal race day and individual performances.
THE MEDAL RACES – CLASS BY CLASS
Laser – Harbour course
Tom Slingsby was the man to beat, five-points ahead of Germany’s Philipp Buhl in second place. But by the time the fleet had reached the top mark, Slingsby had just one man in focus and that was Britain’s Paul Goodison. The Brit was fifth coming into the medal race, but with a real chance of still taking silver. Goodison, the Beijing Laser gold medallist, had a plan, he wanted the pin end, won it and headed off to the left-hand side.
At the first windward mark it was Slingsby first – Goodison one boat length behind. The pair pushed each other down the run extending away from the fleet, then on the second beat Slingsby, who is unbeaten on the 2012 Olympic racetrack, covered Goodison. He kept it up for the rest of the race and leaving Goodison vulnerable to the pack behind and as the wind pushed the fleet together on the final run, Tom Burton and Andy Maloney slid past on the line. The result gave Burton the silver behind his countryman, and left Philipp Buhl in bronze. Goodison had to settle for fourth.
470 Men – Nothe course
Current 470 World Champions, Belcher and Page have been dominant in the 470 class throughout the week. Their main rivals for gold were the British pair of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. Off the start-line it was the Brits that got the initial jump, controlling the Australian pair up the first beat and rounding the windward mark just ahead. However Belcher and Page managed to squeeze low round the mark getting inside, from there the Australian pair sailed away to win the medal race in convincing fashion. Patience and Bithell held second to give themselves the silver medal, while bronze went to the New Zealanders Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders, who finished the medal race with a solid fourth.
Laser Radial – Harbour course
This has been one of the tightest fleets all week, and going into the medal race three sailors were separated by the narrowest of margins and any one of Lijia Xu, Alison Young or Sari Multala could have taken gold. But it was the Netherlands Marit Bouwmeester that got the best start, unfortunately the Dutch sailor was in an uncustomary sixth place heading into the medal race, and then got a penalty coming into first windward mark. The overall leader, Lijia Xu then hit the windward mark and put herself out of contention, after a tight layline call and a shift saw Xu hit the windward mark. Her penalty turn set her back from fourth to ninth.
Britain’s Alison Young was just one-point off Xu going into the medal race, rounded the windward mark in second to get a grip on gold. It was one she didn’t relinquish before the finish. Only Ireland’s Annalise Murphy beat her, and her fabulous final race pulled her up into bronze medal position. In third on the water behind Murphy and Young was Finland’s Sari Multala, and that was enough to get her the silver. China’s Lijia Xu’s ninth place in the medal race dropping her down to fourth and out of the medals.
470 women – Nothe
The Kiwi pairing of Jo Aleph and Olivia Powrie looked like they would be left to sail their own race, nine points ahead of their nearest rivals, the French pair of Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron. There was still a big fight for silver and bronze with just four points separating the French from current world Champions, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark in fourth. A bad start for British pair – when their tiller extension broke moments from the start – meant they trailed the fleet as they headed up the first beat. But the French race wasn’t going to plan either, rounding the windward mark in ninth.
The British pair recovered better than the French, and it looked like silver was between them and the Brazilian pair of Martine Grael and Isabel Swan – the two boats equal on points coming into the medal race. But on the final gybe coming into the finish line Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan (USA) – sixth coming into the medal race – grabbed the win on the line. It pushed them up to silver, leaving the Mills and Clark to win their battle with the Brazilians and take bronze.
49er – Harbour
By now the wind was blowing 19 knots with gusts of 23, and the French pair Emmanuel Dyen and Stephane Christidis sailed a perfect medal race – the led from start to finish, with an impressive 300m gap at the finish. They were second behind Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen going into the medal race and the point’s difference meant that the Aussies had to get fourth or better to keep gold. Seventh at the top mark, they had time to make ground on the three lap windward leeward course and grab the fourth they needed by the finish. It left the French in silver.
Fighting it out for the bronze were the British crews – three made it into the medal race. Steve Morrison and Ben Rhodes, the British representatives at this year’s Olympics were in sixth place coming into the medal race. They stayed clean and finished second on the water, but it was not enough to beat their training partners, Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign, who grabbed a sixth place on the water and the bronze medal.
RS:X Women – Nothe
One of the star performers at Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta this week has been Poland’s Zofia Noceti-Klepacka, only counting firsts and second places going into the medal race, she had a 17-point lead over Spain’s Marina Alabau – who was in turn 15-points ahead of third. Noceti-Klepacka again showed the fleet the way home winning the medal race in impressive fashion and keeping gold. Marina Alabau also had a solid grip on the silver and an eighth place on the water was enough to get her the medal.
Behind the top two though the points were tight, just two points separating Olga Maslivets (UKR) in third from Alessandra Sensini (ITA) in fifth. After a four lap course, the final podium place went to Lee Korzits from Israel who finished second in the medal race, one place ahead of main rival Maslivets who dropped to fourth overall.
Star – Harbour
Next up were the heavyweights in the Star class – reigning Olympic champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson had a slim one-point lead over their main rivals, four-time Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt and his sailing partner Bruno Prada. The Irish and Canadian crews were just a couple of points back.
Off the start line, the leading pair headed left, but it was the right that paid. A port and starboard incident up the first beat meant the Brazilian duo had to do penalty turns, and it demoted them to the back of the fleet.
With O’Leary and Burrows in second at the leeward gate the Irish were now in pole position for gold, with the British and Brazilians fighting to hang onto silver and bronze. On the second beat, Scheidt headed right whilst Percy opted for the left again. At the top mark, Brazil had pulled up to sixth with the two-time British gold medallist two places adrift in eighth.
There was now a potentially mast-breaking 20-23 knots of breeze on the race course, and Scheidt and Prada surfed their way into fourth, while the Irish team had dropped to third. But it wasn’t enough, gold went to Ireland’s Peter O’Leary and Davis Burrows, while Scheidt and Prada took silver, with Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson having to settle for bronze.
RS:X Men – Nothe
Frenchman Julian Bontemps held an eight-point lead heading into the medal race, the Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberge his closest rival. The RS:X boards flew round the four-lap windward leeward course, reaching speeds of 25 knots, and it was van Rijsselberge who took control, winning the medal race. And with Bontemps only finishing fifth, it left the pair on 31 points a-piece, the tie break going to Dorian van Rijsselberge with his medal race win. It gave the Netherlands the gold medal, France the silver, and Britain’s Nick Dempsey took the final podium position with a third in the medal race.
Finn – Harbour
Giles Scott, the young pretender to Ben Ainslie relished the windy conditions Weymouth and Portland had provided this week. The only blot on his near perfect score line has been a 21st on the first day before the breeze kicked in. With no racing on Friday, Ainslie seemed to have lost his opportunity to match race Scott to the back of the pack to make his 21st count, instead Scott went into the medal race with a 12 point lead.
Ainslie got the better of the start, but Scott’s clearing tack put him on the right side, and left Ainslie struggling to get back in the pack. With Scott blasting through to second on the run, Ainslie made an uncharacteristic error, capsizing at the leeward gate. Scott continued his great form to win the medal race and take the gold. Now it was all down to Zach Railey and Pieter Jan Postma to get over 5 places between themselves and Ainslie to deprive the triple Olympic gold medallist of silver. In the end, Postma was closest finishing fifth, but Ainslie still took silver by just one point.
The Women’s Match Racing was forced to make an early start with quarter finals, semis and the final all still to sail. They began at 08:00 and the action was constant from there. In the quarter finals it was the Russians, Ekaterina Skudina, Elena Oblova and Elena Siuzeva that beat the Spanish team of Tamara Echegoyen, Angela Pumariega and Sofia Toro by two races to nil; Clarie Leroy and her French team of Elodie Bertrand and Marie Riou took down the New Zealanders, Stephanie Hazard, Jenna Hansen and Susannah Pyatt by another two races to nil. While the American team of Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vendemoer and Debbie Capozzi beat Finland’s Silja Lehtinen, Silja Kanerva, and Mikaela Wulff also two races to nil, and finally Australia’s Olivia Price beat Lucy MacGregor two races to one.
Onto the semi-finals with barely a pause for breath and this time it was Olivia Price’s Aussies that beat Ekaterina’s Russians – again, the score was two races to nil; while Claire Leroy and the French took down Anna Tunnicliffe’s American’s two races to nil. It meant a France versus Australia final, and it was Price that beat Leroy two races to nil, leaving Tunnicliffe to take the single race Petite Final and the bronze medal from Ekaterina Skudina.
Britain still topped the leaderboard at Skandia Sail for Gold with four golds, three silvers and four bronze medals. But Australia and The Netherlands are also right up there, we will know this summer if the British team can retain the top sailing nation slot. Lets hope the British summer makes an appearance.
Next year’s Sail for Gold Regatta is scheduled for the 10th to the 14th June 2013, forming part of the newly formed European Sailing Cup.
1 – GBR John Robertson, Hannah Stodel, Steve Thomas – 14 points
2 – NED Udo HESSELS, Mischa ROSSEN, Marcel VAN DE VEEN – 16 points
3 – CAN Bruce Miller, Logan Campbell, Scott Lutes – 23 points
1 – GBR Alexandra RICKHAM, Niki BIRRELL – 5 points
2 – CAN John MCROBERTS, Stacie LOUTTIT – 10 points
3 – Daniel Fitzgibbon, Liesl TESCH – 13 points
1 – NED Thierry SCHMITTER – 15 points
3 – GBR Helena LUCAS – 15 points
3 – FRA Damien SEGUIN – 19 points
WOMENS MATCH RACING
1st AUS Olivia Price, Nina Curtis, Lucinda Whittly 2-1
2nd FRA Claire Leroy, Elodie Bertrand, Marie Riou 1-2
3rd USA Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandemoer, Debbie Capozzi 1-0
1 – AUS Tom Slingsby – 26 points
2 – AUS Tom Burton – 43 points
3 – GER Philipp Buhl – 43 points
1 – AUS Mathew Belcher, Malcolm Page – 14 points
2 – GBR Luke Patience, Stuart Bithell – 19 points
3 – NZL Paul Snow-Hansen, Jason Saunders – 28 points
1 – GBR Alison Young – 26 points
2 – FIN Sari Multala – 28 points
3 – IRL Annalise Murphy – 36 points
1 – NZL Jo Aleh, Olivia Polly Powrie – 32 points
2 – USA Amanda Clark, Sarah Lihan – 52 points
3 – GBR Hannah Mills, Saskia Clark – 53 points
1 – AUS Nathan Outteridge, Iain Jensen – 31 points
2- FRA Emmanuel Dyen, Stephane Christidis – 33 points
3- GBR Dylan Fletcher, Alain Sign – 52 points
1 – POL Zofia Noceti-Klepacka – 10 points
2 – ESP Marina Alabau – 37 points
3 – ISR Lee Korzits – 40 points
1 – NED Dorian Van Rijsselberge – 31 points
2 – FRA Julien Bontemps – 31 points
3 – GBR Nick Dempsey – 43 points
1 – GBR Giles Scott – 9 points
2 – GBR Ben Ainslie – 39 points
3 – NED Pieter Jan Postma – 40.3 points
1 – IRL Peter O’Leary, David Burrows – 23 points
2 – BRA Robert Scheidt, Bruno Prada – 23 points
3 – GBR Iain Percy, Andrew Simpson – 30 points
For full details of results in each of the fleets go to Sail for Gold results
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