After five days of racing and a final race in light and shifty breezes, RYA Team GBR has won six medals at SPA Regatta

After five days of racing and a final race in light and shifty breezes, RYA Team GBR has won six medals at SPA Regatta.

Gold medals went to Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell in the Star, Ben Ainslie in the Finn, Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks in the 49er and Leigh McMillan and Mark Bulkeley in the Tornado. Bronze medals were won by Laser sailor Paul Goodison, and Yngling sailors Shirley Robertson, Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton. Both Percy/Mitchell and Ainslie dominated their respective classes and won the regatta with a day to spare.

In the Star class world champions Percy and Mitchell consistently posted results in the top ten to win by a margin of seventeen points from double Olympic medallist Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira of Brazil. Bacardi Cup winner Peter Bromby of Bermuda, sailing with Lee White, finished in third place overall.

Percy commented, “We are very happy with how we have sailed this week. We have had good boat speed and it is really pleasing to win this regatta for a second time, especially with all the top sailors competing this week.”

World champion Ben Ainslie scored four firsts and two fourth places throughout the week to win with a day to spare from the 1996 Olympic silver medallist Sebastien Godefroid of Belgium, Olympic gold medallist Mateusz Kusznierewicz of Poland finished in third place overall. Fellow British sailor Andrew Simpson finished in thirteenth place overall, two places in front of team mate Chris Brittle.

Ainslie commented: “I am really happy with my performance this week. I sailed well in the heavy airs at the beginning of the week, which is good as I sometimes struggle in those conditions.”

A 12th place finish in the final race ensured Team GBR sailors Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks the gold medal from Chris Nicholson and Gary Boyd of Australia. World ranked number one sailor Rodion Luka and George Leonchuk of Ukraine finished third. Fellow British sailors Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith just dropped out of the medals on the final day finishing in fourth place overall with team mates Alister Richardson and Peter Greenhalgh finishing eighth.

Draper said: “We have had a very good week. It is a shame not to get the full final series in, but we sailed against all the top sailors in the qualifiers and are happy with how we are sailing. Some of the old faces in the class were back for this regatta and it was a good test to see how we went against them.”

Leigh McMillan and Mark Bulkeley put in an fantastic performance during the week to take the gold medal in the Tornado class – their first ever grade one event win, and first regatta win by British sailors in the Tornado class for some 15 years.

On the final day they managed an eleventh place finish in the light conditions, leaving opponents Mitch Booth and Herbert Dercksen of Holland to cross the line in 15th place. This secured the gold for McMillan and Bulkeley and left the 1996 Olympic silver medallist with the silver medal.

A delighted McMillan commented: “We have been working really hard recently on a few aspects of our sailing and the boat seems to be going quicker as a result. We are really pleased to have won our first grade one event, especially as all of the top guys in the class were present. We now look forward to the Europeans in a few weeks time and hope to be able to repeat this result.”

In the three women Yngling class, Team GBR sailor Shirley Robertson sailing with Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb dominated the class in the heavier conditions. Unfortunately the team could not match this performance in the light winds and dropped to third place overall, a good result considering it was the first time this combination of crew had sailed together. Americans Betsy Alison, Lee Lcyda and Suzy Leech took the regatta win from Dorte Jensen, Helle Jespersen and Rachel Kiel of Denmark who finished second.

A bronze medal also went to Paul Goodison in the Laser class who sailed a good series, scoring seven of his results inside the top three. Six times world champion Robert Scheidt of Brazil won the class with a day to spare, but the format of the regatta meant that Goodison did not have a real chance to race Scheidt, which was slightly unfortunate for Goodison as he had beaten Scheidt the week before at the Dutch Nationals. European champion and world silver medallist Karl Suneson of Sweden finished second overall.

Although no medals were handed out to the British sailors in the 470 class, there were some encouraging performances. Helena Lucas and Jenny Heeley had a great day halfway through the regatta, posting their best result in the class and scoring a second and two first places, at the end of the week they finished ninth overall, with team mates Christina Bassadone and Katherine Hopson eleventh.

In the men’s fleet RYA Development squad sailors Mark Plummer and Oliver Hawkley, sailed a good week adding a race win to their score line to finish seventh overall. Performance squad team mates Graham Vials and Bevis Field finished ninth and Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield tenth.

Mistral sailor Bryony Shaw was the only British windsurfer to make the trip to SPA as it was just after the Europeans. Shaw put in a steady string of results to finish in sixth place overall.

RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park commented, “I am really pleased for Leigh and Mark, they sailed a fantastic regatta and made the jump to the top of the fleet. It will be interesting to watch them as they go in to their European championships in two weeks time.”

He continued, “Ben and Iain continue to dominate their respective classes and both put in awesome performances at this regatta, and I am also sure that Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks are pleased to win this event having lost the Pre-Olympic place after a couple of disappointing results at regatta’s earlier in the year.”