The British team is topping the leaderboard in five classes at the Qingdao International Regatta 29/8/06

British sailors had a good day at the 2006 Qingdao International Regatta on Monday (28 August), topping the leaderboard in four of the classes and with top three positions in three more after this eighth day of racing at the first Olympic Test Event.

Another superb showing by Ben Ainslie, with two more wins from the two Finn races, sees him extend his lead over the fleet by 14 points, while 49er World Champions Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks wrested the top spot from French rivals Emmanuel Dyen and Yann Rocherieux with the help of a race win and a second from their first two races of the day.

The fog was still lurking over the 2008 Olympic waters, but after an hour’s postponement a reasonably steady sea breeze had formed allowing racing to get underway. The day started well for Athens bronze medallists Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks, with a bullet in the first race, closely followed by a second in race two, moving into the lead from their overnight berth of second. An eleventh from race three wasn’t quite what they were hoping for, but with the French pair finishing behind them in 13th the lead stayed in Skandia Team GBR hands.

“It’s hard work concentrating,” Draper explained. “There are a lot of things happening, there are a lot of opportunities to gain places and a lot of opportunities to lose places. We made just two mistakes on the last race and straight away we lost four places.

“But we’ve got quite good boat speed and we can start quite well, so that means we can out ourselves in the middle of the fleet. Once we see something is looking good we can assess whether it’s on the wind shifts or whether it’s something on the course that’s causing that effect, and make our decision as soon as possible as to whether to go into it or not. We try not to put ourselves in a position where we’ve got no options.”

Draper’s teammates and European Champions Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes dropped from third to seventh through a 15,9,OCS, but with just three points separating them from the bronze medal slot, they’re still in with a shot of a podium position.

In the Finn fleet, Ben Ainslie continued his perfect scorecard with two more race wins, but in spite of the dominant display on his Finn comeback he still remains cautious about claiming gold just yet.

“I guess I’m in a very good position, but we still have the medal race and there are a lot of points at stake there, so we’ll see how that goes,” he commented.

Ainslie has yet to sail under the new Olympic medal race format, but feels his “day job” with Emirates Team New Zealand will stand him in good stead on the day. “Most of my sailing at the moment is match racing for the America’s Cup, so perhaps that will help for the medal race because it’s more to do with the rules and is with fewer boats and closer racing.”

In the 470 men’s class, Athens silver medallists Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield started the day in first place after Monday’s race results were thrown out following a protest, and with a 7,17 they managed to stay on top with 15 points between them and the second placed Koreans Kim Daeyoung and Jung Sungahn. “For us we’re just looking to keep a consistent performance, and we had a seventh in the first race, so that was good,” Rogers explained.

Paul Goodison topped the Laser table at the end of their 10 race qualifying series, so will head into Wednesday’s medal race in pole position, but Penny Clark has today assured herself of a medal in the Laser Radial class thanks to a solid seventh from the only race for the fleet.

She will head into Wednesday’s final race in bronze medal position, just four points from silver, but safe in the knowledge that she’s got an unassailable buffer between her and the fourth placed boat. “I went out there with the plan of just doing the best I can to get into the medal race on Wednesday in the best kind of form, keeping myself in with a chance of a silver medal and not letting the guys behind get too close. Everything went according to plan – I had a safe start, played the middle up the first beat, rounded the windward mark in the top ten and managed to hang on to that and finish in seventh. A good day’s work today, I think!”

Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell posted 2,2 from their two races in the Star class, and are now equal on points with Americans Anderw Horton and Brad Nicholl, while there was disappointment of differing kinds for the British women’s 470 and RS:X sailors. Christina Bassadone and Saskia Clark’s chances of a berth in the medal race has slipped further from their grasp with 26,26 and only one race in the series left to try and reclaim some ground, while the windsurfing women saw no racing again as the wind dropped after they had left the shore.

Today (Tuesday) sees a busy schedule on all four courses as race officers try to complete the wind-affected race series’ across the classes. In the Yngling event, Helena Lucas, Annie Lush and Lucy Macgregor are currently in second, while Olympic gold medallists Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb with Katherine Hopson will hope for a good day to see them into the podium positions in time for the medal race.

Final medal races at the 2006 Qingdao International Regatta are scheduled for Wednesday 30 August.