by Lindsey Bell
Rolex Miami OCR 2011 - Britain’s sailors claimed their first medals of the Miami World Cup regatta on Friday (28 January), with gold going to the Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas, and bronze to Skud duo Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell, as the Paralympic classes wrapped up their race series.
John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas, Sonar - Rolex Miami OCR
Skandia Team GBR has 15 boats across all nine of the Olympic classes they’re competing in heading into Saturday’s final day of this Rolex Miami OCR, with 12 boats currently in medal-winning positions.
John Pink and Rick Peacock have cause for early celebrations as they ensured victory in the 49er class with a day to spare, with teammates Paul Brotherton-Mark Asquith and Dave Evans-Ed Powys all but guaranteeing a clean sweep of the podium spots in the skiff event.
After the disappointment of a race disqualification on Thursday lost them their overall lead, Paralympian Sonar crew of Robertson, Stodel and Thomas came out fighting and picked their way through Friday’s three races into the gold medal position with 5,2,3 on the board. They took gold by six points over the French team helmed by Bruno Jourdren, with bronze going to the Dutch World Championship-winning crew helmed by Udo Hessels.
Said Stodel of their victory: 'It’s very pleasing, considering we had a stressful night last night with a DSQ added to the board. We went into today wearing red bibs, in bronze position, so we had a lot on but we sailed really well today.
'This is certainly a good start to the season. Everything we’ve been working on over the winter – all the ‘mental toughness’ stuff we’ve been working on has been paying off.
'Our confidence has come back, we’re working really well together and sailing well as a team,' Stodel concluded.
Skud World Champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell also had to pull back through the fleet to secure their bronze, after starting the day in fourth overall. A second and two third places from their three races was enough to see them claim the third podium spot after a testing week.
'I can’t be disappointed with the fact that we’ve actually got a medal,' explained Rickham.
'I’m disappointed because they’re both competitors that we’ve been jousting with for the last year or two and Dan, who won, we’d just beaten in Melbourne so we were hoping to keep that ball rolling.
'But we can’t be too disappointed – it’s a medal, and some people don’t have them!'
In the third Paralympic class, the 2.4mR, Megan Pascoe and Helena Lucas, ended their regattas in fifth and seventh place respectively.
The battle for Finn glory continues, with Skandia Team GBR’s three contenders finishing in the top three in both of the fleet’s races on Friday, as well as occupying the top three spots heading into the final 10-boat showdown. Giles Scott holds on to the lead, but Andrew Mills claimed the best of the day’s results with a 2,1 seeing him into second overall, just one point ahead of teammate Ben Ainslie.
'It was quite a tricky day with some good 15-20 degree shifts but I seemed to have some good pace and managed to hold it all together,' Mills surmised.
The British men’s 470 crews had a tougher time on Friday, but still hold on to the top two spots heading into the final day. Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell have a four point edge of teammates Nic Asher and Elliot Willis, who lead the Australian World Champions by a similar margin.
Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes bounced back from a black flag disqualification in their first race of the day to maintain their second place overall, six points off the French series leaders, while Sarah Ayton and Saskia Clark also make the medal race cut in ninth place. Hannah Mills and Katie Archer had the best of the day’s results with 1,4,1 but it wasn’t enough to boost them into the missed the medal spots, they missed out by one point.
The Laser finale looks set to be a tense one, with Olympic Champion Paul Goodison, Swede Rasmus Myrgren and Argentinian Julio Alsogaray all effectively tied for the lead in the double-points scoring medal race, and Skandia Team GBR’s world silver medallist Nick Thompson snapping at their heels in fourth.
Nick Dempsey needs to get one board between him and the leading Dutchman Dorien van Rijsselberge to clinch gold in the RS:X men’s windsurfing event, with Bryony Shaw in a strong position for silver in the women’s event.
There was disappointment for Lucy Macgregor, Mary Rook and Kate Macgregor when they lost out 3-0 to USA’s Anna Tunnicliffe in the semi-finals of the women’s match racing event. They’ll fight it out for bronze against another American team, helmed by Sally Barkow, in tomorrow’s play-off
Alison Young will be the sole GBR representative in the Laser Radial medal race, qualifying in ninth.
The Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta – the second leg of the 2010-11 ISAF Sailing World Cup series – concludes on Saturday 29 January with the medal races scheduled from 1100 (local).
Skandia Team GBR website