Medals day and the quick fire racing worth double points produced some interesting results
‘Tougher competition than the Olympics’ was Ben Ainslie’s summary of Skandia Sail for Gold 2011. It was medal race day and the tension could be felt throughout the boat park as the elite of each Olympic discipline prepared to be tested. There was so much on the line – possible Olympic selection, ISAF World Cup points, the regatta result and of course a hefty dose of pride. Five hours later and spectators had been treated to some stunning racing, topped off when Ainslie clinically dispatched another rival to take gold. Ainslie’s win sealed Britain’s place as the top nation sailing nation at the 2012 Olympic venue. Australia was the only country that could match the home team’s gold medal tally across 13 Olympic and Paralympic classes.
It was the Women’s Match Racing that got going first, and Sally Barkow, Elizabeth Kratizig-Burnham and Alana O’Reilly (USA) recovered the form that took them so smoothly through the early rounds. The Americans took the bronze medal from Claire Leroy, Elodie Bertrand and Marie Riou (FRA) with a 2-0 sweep. It was not much different in the final, where Barkow’s compatriots, Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vendemoer and Debbie Capozzi swept imperiously past current World Champions, Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor (GBR). Tunnicliffe and her team took the gold medal without the loss of a single race. It left the Brits with silver, sandwiched between the two Americans in gold and bronze.
The rest of the action got underway on the two medal race courses on Portland Harbour. First off was the Laser class, where the top three placed sailors could not be moved off the podium – it was just a question of what colour they would take home. Reigning Laser Olympic Champion Paul Goodison (GBR) had to finish one place ahead of Andrew Murdoch (NZL) to take the silver, and five places ahead of current World Champion Tom Slingsby (AUS) to take gold. Goodison got pushed out on to the unfavoured side of the first leg, and rounded the first mark in last place. Slingsby stayed in control throughout the race finishing second to Murdoch’s sixth. Goodison could do no better than ninth – and so it was gold for Slingsby, silver for Murdoch and bronze for Goodison.
The 470 men were next off and by now the wind was up and gusting to 15 knots. It was a race for silver and gold between the French and Australian teams, Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos (FRA) holding a five point advantage from the reigning Olympic and World Champions, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page from Australia. The French pairing took hold of the race from the start gun, they led at the first mark and were never challenged. The Australians meanwhile were having a terrible time and eventually finished last – but it was still enough for silver. The bronze medal was a much closer affair and it was the Greek pairing of Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis that closed a four point gap to pass Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela from Israel – the latter only managing a ninth place. Athens and Beijing Olympic silver medallist Nick Rogers and his new crew, Chris Grube stepped up into fourth.
The Laser Radials were keen to get going, and a general recall brought the black flag out for the second attempt – a sure sign that race officials were anxious to keep things moving to the schedule. Marit Bouwmeester was never out of the top three throughout the race and never looked challenged for gold. She made absolutely certain of it with a strong final leg to win both the race and the gold medal. Behind Bouwmeester, Evi van Acker was making it hard to hold onto her silver medal, after rounding the first mark last. But the Belgian stormed back through the fleet to finish third and secure silver. Ireland’s young up and coming talent Annalise Murphy finished sixth, but that was enough to keep the bronze medal.
In the 470 women, New Zealanders Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie had a 16 point lead that all but guaranteed them gold. They sailed a safe race to finish fifth and secured the medal. Behind them there was a tough battle for the other podium positions, with Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron (FRA), Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR), and Gil Cohen and Vered Bouskila (ISR) within 11 points of each other at the outset. Mills and Clarke secured the silver with a third place, leaving Lecointre and Geron with bronze after they could only manage an eighth. Cohen and Bouskila had an even worse day, finishing dead last and slipping to fifth.
If the Radials were keen to get going, then the 49ers were super-charged. A full five boats, fifty percent of the fleet were over the line at the start, including series leaders, Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jenson. Two of the British boats were caught, John Pink and Rick Peacock, along with Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith, and France’s Julien D’Ortoli and Noe Delpech – all of them returned and cleared the start line. The exception was Italy’s Sibello brothers, who didn’t return and were penalised – desperately unfortunate as they finished the race in second place. But Outteridge and Jensen demonstrated that they were the class act in Weymouth, recovering from their restart to secure gold by finishing second behind their teammates, Will and Sam Phillips. The result should now secure the top Aussies selection for 2012. The battle for the other medals was settled in favour of France’s Stephane Christidis and Peter Hansen, taking silver from Britain’s Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes in bronze.
The RS:X Women saw a storming performance from the bronze medallist in Beijing – Bryony Shaw. But Shaw hadn’t done enough earlier in the week for her medal race win to get her anywhere near the podium – finishing eighth overall – and the real battle was fought behind her. The gold was decided between Poland’s Zofia Klepacka and Spain’s Marina Alabau – on equal points heading into the medal race. It went to Alabau with a solid second behind Shaw, Klepacka only managing a sixth to end up with silver. The bronze went to Lee Korzits (ISR), who beat Maja Dziarnowska by the one place she required to get third – the pair were last and second to last!
The Star fleet all arrived at the first mark at the same time – and it took some cool manoeuvring from America’s Mark Mendelblatt to go around ahead, after coming into the medal race in a lowly tenth place. But all eyes were on Brazil’s Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada and their contest with Sweden’s Fredrik Loof and Max Salminen. They started the day tied for the lead with 32 points each – but they weren’t up for the match race, electing to sail their own races. On the second windward leg they split sides after Loof trailed Scheidt in ninth place at the end of the first lap. Schedit didn’t cover Loof who went all the way to the left hand corner – too far, as it turned out. Loof overstood the third mark, Scheidt rounded in third and the gold medal was won, Loof forced to settle for silver despite a blistering final run. Italy’s Diego Negri and Enrico Voltolini held off a charge from Poland’s Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki to take the bronze. Beijing Olympic Champions, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson finished the medal race in second, but stayed in fifth place.
The penultimate race of the day was the RS:X Men – Spain’s Ivan Pastor jumped the gun, but it had no effect on the race as he started the day in tenth place. The medal battle belonged to Nick Dempsey (GBR) and Jp Tobin (NZL) – the pair fought each other all the way round the course, eventually leaving all but Nimrod Mashiah (ISR) in their wake. The points were so close it was a simple matter of winner takes all – and it was Dempsey who crossed the line just ahead of Tobin to take home gold. The Kiwi had to settle for silver, and Dorian van Rijsselberge secured bronze from the charging Israeli with a fourth place.
No one was expecting the Finn medal race – the last of the day – to be an anti-climax. And no one was disappointed. Only one man, Giles Scott (GBR) could take the gold medal from triple Olympic Champion, Ben Ainslie – who also happens to be the reigning World Match Racing Champion. There was always going to be fireworks and they started early, with the pair battling way behind the line as the others jostled to start. Ainslie came out in front and kept his foot on his younger rival’s throat all the way up the first leg, the pair still trailing the fleet, which was all that Ainslie really required with a 16 point overall lead. But then the unexpected happened… Scott blasted past Ainslie on the run.
The Olympic legend reversed the tables on the next windward leg to lead again at the final turning mark, only for Scott to do the same thing on the final run – despite some aggressive defending from Ainslie. But that one place was vital to Scott, who needed ninth to secure his silver medal from Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) by a single point. A tremendous physical display of no-limits pumping saw Scott safely home for silver, with Kljakovic Gaspic taking bronze from medal race winner, and reigning World Champion, Ed Wright (GBR).
The final medal race had been everything that spectators had hoped for, and as the athletes sailed home and the medal tallies were counted, any locals that had ever doubted Skandia Team GBR’s strength on their home turf could relax. The nine medal total at the end of this regatta brings home the strength in depth of the performance, particularly when you note that those nine medals didn’t include anything from three classes in which the team medalled in 2008 in Beijing – the Star, RS:X Women and 470 Men.
Quotes of the Day
Tom Slingsby (AUS) – Laser
I feel good. It was a pretty tricky race, there were two people who could catch me but luckily I got a good start and, yeah, I just defended from there.
My strategy for this race did not change much, but you have always got to watch your closest competitors. But you have to make sure you don’t get too involved in what they are doing, you’ve got to sail your own race and today I did that. Whenever they caught up a bit, I went and protected my own spot and then just sailed my own race when they fell back a bit.
There was no point in the race when I thought I would not make it as I was lucky and got the first shift – a nice 15-20 metre jump straight off the bat – and this calmed my nerves. From there I could make good decisions and it went on from there.
The focus is always on Weymouth and winning here at every event that we do is definitely my biggest goal. The Test Event is the next one and I will try to do the same again as I did here, but now everyone is gunning for me and so I will have to try and defend my spot.
Pierre Leboucher (FRA) – 470
We have sailed together for 11 years and it is the second year running that we have won the Skandia Sail for Gold event so we are very happy. It has been a long week because of the weather conditions – partly because of the winds of 20 knots all day long – and we are very tired but that is normal! We are friends with lots of the sailors and it was a very open competition and everyone had the chance to sail well.
Next we go back to France to have a ‘slow’ time followed by time at our training camp, and then we hope to come back in a month’s time for the Olympic Test event, but we have to wait for news from the selectors.
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) – Radial
Today was pretty exciting in the medal race as I only had a small gap ahead of Evi (Van Acker from Belgium). It had been close racing all week and so I expected a really close race and recently she has been match racing which made it even more exciting, but I made it a victory.
My next event will be the Pre-Olympics Test Event in Weymouth and until then I will be training here, but I can easily travel back and forth to home. Most of the time, though, I will be training here.
Nathan Outtridge (AUS) – 49er
We were way back at the start and just tried to stay clear of the British guys because they had their selection coming into this race. We had good pace and discovered a couple of good shifts which took us into second place. So obviously happy with the wind. We have had really good pace all week, and we’ve been finding good lanes and good starts. It’s just all lots of little things, not one particular thing, that add up and not making too many mistakes; everyone out there is really, really good but at the end of the day – the guys making the least mistakes normally end up the winners.
There’re always nerves, but today was not so stressful as we had a gap over the second guys and all we had to do was sail conservatively and close to the French, but if we had been closer to them it would have been more nerve-wracking. It was nice today, though. We like the winds here in Weymouth. There are normally a lot of waves around Weymouth and conditions are pretty similar to Australia. So we like it here. We are flying home for two weeks and then will be back (in Europe) for the 49er European Championships in Finland.
Nick Dempsey (GBR) – RSX
It feels brilliant. We’ve had some pretty similar conditions most days so it’s been immensely tight. JP (Tobin) and Dorian (van Rijsselberge) have been sailing amazingly, so I couldn’t really put a foot wrong as they made it very difficult. But to finish off like that was amazing. That race is kind of what it’s been like all week, so it’s been tough but it’s a really good result.
It’s been a tough week but it could have been harder physically. The body’s in one piece, the mind’s just about in one piece. I feel good and I’m looking forward to the next six weeks’ training and to doing the same again.
Olivia Powrie (NZL) – 470
We are really happy because we have had a bit of time off and this is our first regatta back so to pick up the win is great. The first time we topped the leaderboard was on the final day before the medal racing, so we seem to have timed it all pretty well really.
We had a bit of a plan going into today but there are always a few nerves going into it, because you never know how it is going to go. But it is great to know that we can win here and with the Pre-Olympics back here in a few weeks’ time it is great to get some time in here ahead of that.
Marina Alabau (ESP) – RS:X Women
The conditions were perfect today, we had really nice wind and sun so it was just perfect. I think today was about 15 knots and I feel really confident with these conditions so it was good. This was the first selection event for the Olympics and also the selection for the Pre-Olympics so that here in Weymouth and Portland is my next big event. I’m really happy to have won a few points in front of Blanca (Machon). I love Weymouth, I won the World Championships here two years ago so this was my second event I won here in Weymouth. I feel very confident – the wind is really nice.
Anna Tunicliffe (USA) – Match Racing
In the first match we had a really good start, I just led her (Lucy Macgregor) off the line, we were able to extend our lead up the first beat, kind of just held on to that around the race course. We led off the line and we basically extended upwind. Then downwind the Brits were always going to close up the gap, and so they put some pressure on us at the leeward marks, but we stayed calm and we kept extending our lead.
I think whenever you sail against the Brits they’re such a great team you never really let your guard down, so it was close the whole time. We’re very, very excited, we put a lot of work in and had a great week here in Weymouth.
Ben Ainslie (GBR) – Finn
We’ve got huge quality in the Finn fleet here, especially in the British team with Giles (Scott) and Ed Wright in particular sailing very well. It’s been a really tough week physically with strong winds so I’m really pleased to have come out on top. It was hard work, I won’t hide from that fact. It was one of the toughest events I think I’ve ever done physically.
Sometimes that’s the way it goes (re. the match race in the final). Giles was the only one who could beat me and in terms of our Pre-Olympic selection trials. I sealed the regatta win and it worked out OK. It’s always quite tense with those match races, it’s never easy and Giles sailed very well and put up a good fight. It’s a tough situation that we only have one spot per class.
Robert Scheidt (BRA) – Star
What it really shows is that you are on the right track, getting things right and doing the right preparation to get to your goal. It gives you a lot of confidence to win.
Skandia Sail for Gold 2011 – Medal Race Day 11 June 2011
49er After Medal Race
1. AUS 2- OUTTERIDGE Nathan / JENSEN Iain (60pts)
2. FRA 4- CHRISTIDIS Stephane / HANSEN Peter (80pts)
3. GBR 7- MORRISON Stevie / RHODES Ben (90pts)
470 WOMEN After Medal Race
1. NZL 75- ALEH Jo / POWRIE Olivia (52pts)
2. GBR 847- MILLS Hannah / CLARK Saskia (70pts)
3. FRA 9- LECOINTRE Camille / GERON Mathilde (74pts)
470 MEN After Medal Race
1. FRA 44- LEBOUCHER Pierre / GAROS Vincent (38pts)
2. AUS 11- BELCHER Mathew / PAGE Malcolm (61pts)
3. GRE1- MANTIS Panagiotis / KAGIALIS Pavlos (72pts)
FINN After Medal Race
1. GBR 3- AINSLIE Ben (42pts)
2. GBR 41- SCOTT Giles (56pts)
3. CRO 524- KLJAKOVIC GASPIC Ivan (57pts)
LASER After Medal Race
1.. AUS 197541- SLINGSBY Tom (41pts)
2. NZL 199218- MURDOCH Andrew (57pts)
3.. GBR 201394- GOODISON Paul (64pts)
LASER RADIAL After Medal Race
1. NED 200444- BOUWMEESTER Marit (40pts)
2. BEL 197514VAN ACKER Evi (50pts)
3. IRL 199417- MURPHY Annalise (69pts)
RS:X Men After Medal Race
1. GBR 1 – DEMPSEY Nick (28pts)
2. NZL 151 – TOBIN Jp (29pts)
3. NED 8 – VAN RIJSSELBERGE Dorian (40pts)
RS:X Women After Medal Race
1. ESP 5 – ALABAU Marina (37pts)
2. POL 8 – KLEPACKA Zofia (45pts)
3. ISR 1111 – KORZITS Lee (66pts)
STAR After Medal Race
1. BRA 8255- SCHEIDT Robert / PRADA Bruno (38pts)
2. SWE 8450- LOOF Fredrik / SALMINEN Max (44pts)
3. ITA 8266- NEGRI Diego / VOLTOLINI Enrico (72pts)
USA Tunnicliffe / Vandemoer / Capozzi 3 – Gold
GBR Macgregor / Lush / Macgregor 0 – Silver
USA Barkow / Kratizig-Burnham / O’Reilly 2 – Bronze
FRA Leroy / Bertrand / Riou 0