Olympic Test Event – Six medal haul for Skandia Team GBR
by Lindsey Bell on 14 Aug 2011
Weymouth and Portland International Regatta final medal races were held today, Saturday 13 August. Ben Ainslie sealed his Olympic sailing test event victory in style. Winning his final medal race, Ainslie ended the regatta with a 31 point winning margin in the Finn class.
Skandia Team GBR medallists - Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011 © Richard Langdon/Skandia Team GBR
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson ensured a second podium spot of the day for the Brits, winning their medal race in the Star class to take silver and boost Skandia Team GBR’s total medal tally to six at the conclusion of the event.
Silver medals were already in the bag via Nick Dempsey in the RS:X Men’s windsurfing, and Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark in the 470 women’s event, with bronze going to women’s windsurfer Bryony Shaw and Paul Goodison in the Laser.
The triple Olympic medallist Ainslie had all but secured gold even before the day’s racing had begun, needing only to sail a clean race regardless of finishing position, to claim the win.
But for Ainslie, who’s now won back to back events at the 2012 venue having also won the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta two months ago, there was no question of a modest finish.
After rounding the first windward mark in third place, he picked his way back through the 10-boat fleet to beat New Zealander Dan Slater into second place in the race, with Frenchman Jonathan Lobert’s third enough to elevate him to the silver medal position while Dutchman Pieter Jan Postma took bronze.
'I’m delighted to come away with the gold,' said Ainslie.
'It’s been a great week for me personally but from a team standpoint it has as well. We’ve got six medals, which is fantastic and if we can keep that going for next year that will be great for us as a team.'
'The new Nothe course is quite tricky tactically, very shifty, puffy, and for me it was a good race in the end. I started off I think second or third at the top mark and managed to pull through to win which was a nice way to end the week off after it’s been a solid week.
'I am happy with the way things have gone but it is in 12 month's time that counts as that is where you want to be winning so I've got to keep thinking about ways to improve and keep pushing,' he concluded.
Ainslie’s was the only gold of the British team’s six-medal haul, but Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson made it three silvers for the home nation thanks to their Star class medal race victory.
The British World and Olympic Champions started the day in fourth place, needing to beat their Polish and Irish rivals to win silver. They sailed a great race, but were also helped along the way when their rivals crossed the start line too early and found themselves back in ninth and tenth place.
Percy and Simpson took the gun with a comfortable 31 second lead ahead of the second-placed Norwegian boat.
'The important thing to us, more than anything else, was to get a good result on the Olympic waters,' Percy explained.
'We never like getting beaten, but given where we were after six races we were happy to claw back and get the silver.'
The pair suffered equipment breakages during the week, with this event being the last time they will race the boat which they won Olympic gold in.
'The boat has done us proud – she’s won us the Worlds and the Olympics but she’s a bit on her last legs with the mast breakage and the boat falling to bits, but she got through in the end,' said Percy.
'She’s creaking and groaning a bit at the moment and she wants to retire!'
The final day’s action in Weymouth and Portland saw the medal race for the 49er class. Exmouth pairing Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes had a chance of a bronze medal, going into the day in fourth place, but were unable to get in front of the New Zealand crew who they needed to beat by two places if they were to reach the podium.
The duo were disappointed with their overall fourth, but insist that they will learn more from a tough week that they might otherwise have.
'It’s been a pretty good learning experience,' said Rhodes. 'Last cycle we won the test event but we felt we like we didn’t come away from that with as much as we probably have learned from this event.
'I think there will be a lot more lessons from this that we can use to progress and move on a lot more. Our coach has seen a lot of things that he thinks we can work on. In the long run it will be a good thing, we’re not worried.'
'I’m really quite pleased with the team’s performance,' said RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park.
'We had a goal to try and win four medals at this event so to come away with six is fantastic – it could quite easily have been seven.
'We haven’t won as many gold medals as we might have liked, but in terms of setting ourselves up for 2012 to know that we’re medal competitive in this venue, in this environment in six out of the ten events is a fantastic place to be with 11 months to go.'
For the latest news and information from the British Sailing Team at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, visit the Skandia Team GBR website RYA website