by Lindsey Bell
On the final day of racing for the Paralympic classes at the Miami OCR, Britain’s sailors won two silver medals, with their teammates in the Olympic classes guaranteed at least three more from Saturday’s medal race deciders.
Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (SKUD) - Miami OCR 2012
Just two weeks after reaching the podium at their World Championships in Port Charlotte, Florida, Skandia Team GBR’s world title-winning SKUD duo of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell and the Sonar team of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas ensured they continued their medal-winning ways in 2012.
Rickham and Birrell missed out on gold at this Rolex Miami OCR – the second leg of the World Cup series – by just one point to the Australian duo of Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch, but helm Rickham insists they were happy with their performance at a venue which has proved tough for them in the past.
'We’re happy with everything – this is pretty much the worst venue for us! We seem to suffer here every year so to come away with a silver is quite a big step forwards,' she explained.
'We just missed out on the gold, normally we’re fighting just to get the bronze so we leave here really confident and happy with our winter’s work. We’ve had a really long, tough winter working extremely hard and going to more events than most people, and I think it’s paid off and it’s showing that that work’s been good.'
'We’ve learnt tons and at the Worlds as well – it was a much closer Worlds for us than it has been in the last few years, so I think all in all it’s more about what we’ve learnt from these events than the actual winning, though we always like to win!' Rickham concluded.
Gold in the Sonar event went to the Dutch trio, helmed by Udo Hessells, with Robertson, Stodel and Thomas five points behind after the ten-race series.
'We’re pretty chuffed with this week’s performance,' said Robertson. 'We set ourselves goals every day to try and put ourselves under a bit of pressure and I think we achieved the goals every day and just missed out on gold by a few points so it’s been good progress.
'The Sonar fleet is really tight – there are probably seven, eight, nine boats that can win races and it’s who can string it together that week to make the podium. The Dutch guys were fourth or fifth at the Worlds and then went on to win here so it just goes to show how close it can be and that we’re probably the team that’s most consistently up there.'
John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas (Sonar) - Miami OCR 2012
The 2.4mR Paralympic class also concluded racing today, with Skandia Team GBR’s Megan Pascoe finishing fourth, and Helena Lucas fifth.
After a near-flawless week in which he counts only race wins on his scorecard, Nick Dempsey has almost assured himself of gold in the RS:X men’s windsurfing event. The Athens bronze medallist and 2009 World Champion has amassed an 18-point lead going into the 10-boat double points-scoring finale on Saturday.
Skandia Team GBR teammate Elliot Carney and the third and fourth-placed Argentinian and Norwegian sailors are the only ones who can theoretically beat him, but with silver or nothing at stake for those three tomorrow, Dempsey’s reign at this World Cup regatta looks certain to finish on the top step of the podium.
The women’s match racing trio of Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor also guaranteed themselves at least a silver medal when they overcame Finland’s Silja Lehtinen in their nail-biting semi-final on Friday.
First blood went to the Skandia Team GBR sailors, but Lehtinen then pulled two matches back to leave Macgregor’s team fighting for their survival – and survive they did, winning the final two contests in the best-of-five encounter to book themselves into the final against Australia’s Olivia Price, who overcame USA’s Sally Barkow in her semi-final.
'For the past few knockout stages we’ve taken it to five [matches], so we’re definitely getting our money’s worth but it’s great practice for the Olympics and that’s all we’re worried about!' explained Kate Macgregor.
'Olivia’s been doing really well – we haven’t actually raced her in a knockout, we’ve only raced her when she’s been crewing so it’s going to be a new challenge. I think tomorrow is meant to be quite light winds so it will be different that’s for sure – we’ll be doing our best to win gold but we’ll also be trying to take as much as we can from the racing tomorrow.'
Gold in the Laser class will be a straight duel between Olympic Champion Paul Goodison, and the Brazilian Bruno Fontes who are both tied on points going into the final day and with clear air between them and the third-placed David Wright of Canada. But things are less clear cut in the 470 women’s event.
With two race wins for the Dutch series leaders Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout and 6,7 for Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark from their two races on Friday, the British pair are now 12 points off of the gold medal spot and are one of three teams who could win silver tomorrow.
Development squad sailors Sophie Weguelin and Sophie Ainsworth have also made the 10-boat medal race cut in sixth overall, while in the 470 men’s event Ben Saxton and Richard Mason go into the final race in ninth.
In the Laser Radial class, the podium spots are out of reach for Britain’s sailors, but Alison Young and Charlotte Dobson will head into the medal race in fourth and fifth respectively. Young had the best day of the fleet on Friday with two third places.
Nick Dempsey (RS:X Men) - Miami OCR 2012
Medal race schedule – Saturday 28 January
0900 – Women’s Match Racing Final and Petit Final
1100 – RS:X Men (Course A); Laser Radial (Course B)
1140 – RS:X Women (A); Laser (B)
1220 – 49er (A); Finn (B)
1300 – Star (A); 470 Women (B)
1340 – 470 Men (B)
The Miami OCR is the second stage of the ISAF Sailing World Cup.
Skandia Team GBR British Sailing Team website