by Lindsey Bell
At the Nacra 17 World Championship, Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond have guaranteed a medal for Great Britain at the first ever World Championship for the new Olympic sailing Nacra 17 class, after a solid penultimate day of racing in The Hague, Netherlands, on Friday (26 July).
Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond - 2013 Nacra 17 World Championship
The British pair is poised in silver medal position, assured of a podium finish, and is just three points behind the French series leaders Billy Besson-Marie Riou. With a healthy 20-point cushion over the third placed Swiss duo Mathias Buhler-Nathalie Brugger, they need only to sail a clean race with no disqualifications to avoid slipping to bronze.
Southampton-based Saxton and Diamond, from Warsash, were second heading in to the penultimate day, and opened up their scoring with a third in the first race, before a postponement to proceedings while a thunderstorm passed across Scheveningen.
After the re-start the British pairing, both 23, made the best of another tricky and light wind race to post a sixth, and close in on the French pairing at the top of the overall leaderboard.
'Today felt like two days almost,' Saxton explained.
'The second race was particularly tricky with lots of place changes, but we did well always managing to stay in the top eight regardless of what was going on around us. We finished sixth in that so we’re happy.'
The young duo have a good opportunity to claim silverware at the inaugural World Championships for this new Olympic class, but with the medal order not yet decided, they are remaining focussed on the job ahead.
'We’re in with a good shot of a medal so I’m buzzing about that – we’ll just try and make it the correct colour tomorrow. That’s the important day!' said Saxton, who transferred into the multihull class after previously campaigning 470s.
'It would be amazing to win a medal at our first World Championships,' Diamond agreed.
'We still have the medal race to go so aren’t exactly sure what’s going to happen but hopefully we can do as we’ve been doing all week!'
There was disappointment for Poole Olympian Lucy Macgregor and Lymington’s Olympic gold medallist Pippa Wilson, who narrowly missed the medal race cut, currently in 1th and 12th with their respective crews Tom Phipps and John Gimson.
'We were 11th going into today, so were really trying hard to get into the top ten for the medal race tomorrow,' Macgregor explained.
'We didn’t have a very good first race today but we were doing much better in the second race, coming third most of the way through and then missed a big left shift so slipped back to tenth. That put us 12th overall, but we’ve just won a protest which I puts us up to 11th.
'It was disappointing not to get into the top ten but it’s been a tough week and we’ve got a lot to be pleased with.'
Wilson reflected on her regatta with Gimson: 'It’s been good for us. I’ve been finishing university recently, so things have just been coming together. We really only came together from Sail for Gold Regatta and we had a little bit of training coming into this event. We haven’t really done an awful lot of racing for the last three years – me especially.
'Today was the first day we’ve really started to feel more comfortable in the boat and getting our head into racing. A few things haven’t quite gone our way, but that always happens, and we have got a lot of things to improve on.
'It’s great to have been here at the World Championships, learning lots and getting involved in the racing.'
Podium Potential duo Rupert White and Nikki Boniface are currently 18th heading into the final day, where there will be one final fleet race for those crews outside of the top ten medal race boats to determine the overall World Championship positions.
Elsewhere, at the Finn European Championships in Warnemunde, Germany, Ed Wright is in the silver medal position heading into the final day of another light-wind regatta.
The 35-year-old sailor, silver medallist at the 2012 World Championship, is seven points behind Slovenia’s series leader Vasilij Zbogar and 19 points ahead of his next-nearest European rival, Pieter Jan Postma, in fourth overall. New Zealand’s Andrew Murdoch is third overall.
Mark Andrews has endured a difficult week with tonsillitis, but will endeavour to improve upon his 13th place on tomorrow’s final day. Andrew Mills is currently 15th, while Peter McCoy remains ahead in the race for the Finn Junior European crown.
Schedule for Nacra 17 World Championship, Saturday 27 July (local time):
1100 – Silver fleet, 1 race
1230 – Gold fleet, 1 race (boats 11-25)
1430 – Medal Race (boats 1-10)
Nacra 17 website