Hunt still on for 9er gold at world/European championships 29/7/06

With only one day to go until new champions are named at 29er World Championship and 49er European Championship, the gold medals remain up for grabs. Yesterday (Friday) the competition became fierce and once again new names are leading the fleets. Skandia Team GBR’s Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes move to the front of the 49er fleet while 29er sailors Silja Lehtinen and Scott Babbage continued to extend their lead.

Warm sunshine and building breezes made for near perfect sailing conditions off the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. With an average 10-20 knots all fleets knocked off four races, leaving the top slots open in what has become a very close regatta.

The 49er gold fleet’s penultimate race of the day was the closest yet. The first placed boat and the last placed boat finished within just 68 seconds of each other with many places being lost and won through the gate.

With teams now able to discard a result in the final series, there has been yet another shake-up on the 49er leader board as Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes move into pole position following first and second place finishes.

The British have taken a three-point lead over the Danish duo of Peter and Soren Hansen who finished third at the 2005 49er Europeans and will be looking to better their previous result. Germany’s Garbiel Wicke and Wolf Jeschonneck are currently in third but with 64 points they trail the British leaders by 18 points.

World champions and defending European Champions, Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks began to claw back some places today after dropping into 16th place following a disqualification due to a protest. The pair, who routinely train on Weymouth and Portland waters, are back in the top ten resting sixth overall.

Yesterday’s leaders, John Pink and Alex Hopson have tumbled down the rankings lying just behind Skandia Team GBR team mates Paul Campbell James and Mark Asquith who close the day in tenth overall.

Campbell James is already focusing on the final day of racing: “We had a mixed day today which seems to be the case for many of the sailors out there. Tomorrow will be a big day, with a lot resting on the first race. We haven’t been hugely consistent this week but we’re hoping to hang in the top ten.”

Those just inside the top ten including Italy’s Sibello Brothers and Spain’s Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez who will be hoping to use the first race of the day to solidify their postion and qualify for the all-important medal race.

American sailor, Pete Spalding, currently in ninth overall, was enthused about the change in the weather. “It was a blast out there today. Probably the best racing the class has had in a while. Really good fun.”

The hunt for the 29er World Champion continues but Finnish helmsman Silja Lehtinen and Australian crew Scott Babbage have extended what was a one-point lead into a ten point advantage. Moving from fourth into second are Americans Cameron Biehl and Matt Noble who turned up the heat today with 2,2,7,1 finishes. The duo will now discard the seventh place giving them 30 points overall.

Team GBR youth sailors Dylan Fletcher and Rob Partridge had a frustrating start to the day, unable to get off the start line ahead of the fleet; however the pair, known for their speed and boat handling skills, posted a first and a third in two of four races just enough to keep them two points ahead of the fourth placed boat Huw Humphreys and Max Todd also of Great Britain.