by Matt Carter
On the first day of racing at the 2012 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, Britain’s sailors got off to a solid start with 470 crews Hannah Mills-Saskia Clark and Nic Asher-Elliot Willis, 49er pairing Dave Evans-Ed Powys, and 2.4mR sailor Megan Pascoe making the most of the light and fickle conditions at the 2012 sailing venue.
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark
Weymouth and Portland served up light wind conditions for this first day of the ISAF World Cup event, leading to the majority of classes coming back ashore for a lengthy delay until late afternoon when the breeze eventually built to allow racing to get underway.
In the 470 women’s event, newly crowned 470 World Champions Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark continued their form with 4,1 to put them in first overall, while Development Squad duo Amy Seabright and Eilidh Mcintyre lay ninth.
Clark commented: 'It was quite a frustrating day with a lot of sitting around but once we were out racing we did very well. We were quite conservative at the start as we didn’t want to relive our [black flag] drama at the Worlds, however we raced very well and just picked of boats all the way throughout the races which lead to two great results and a solid start to the regatta.'
'Our focus is most definitely to learn more about Weymouth, the Olympic environment and the team environment. Learning the lessons which we need to learn for two months’ time when competing at the Games is our main aim.'
Dave Evans and Ed Powys lead the charge for Skandia Team GBR’s Skiff fleet today with a dominant 1,1,3 elevating the pair to the top of the leader board at the end of day one.
'It was a long day and it’s only three races so far, but with the forecast what it is for the rest of the week, from previous regattas we’ve learned to just try and get the results in and don’t expect it to be a six day regatta. It was a good day for us today – we were good out of the start, and once you’re in front in the lighter winds it’s a lot easier so we made our lives easy today.
'We quite like the windier conditions usually – it’s a lot easier, a lot less stressful, so today was good for us. We’re happy!' enthused Evans.
Selected Team GB sailors Stevie Morrison-Ben Rhodes are currently in fifth with a consistent score line of 6,4,4. Fletcher-Sign finished the day in eighth after two seconds and a 13.
Skandia Team GBR 470 sailors Asher-Willis, who have had a six month absence from the water due to Asher suffering health problems, confirmed there calibre with a 2,3 in the yellow fleet today, while 2012 representatives Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell also had a steady start to their regatta with a race win followed by an 11th.
Racing in their first regatta since the Perth World Championships in December, Asher is delighted to be back on the water: 'It feels very good to be back on the water racing again – it’s been a long time! The racing today was just as I remember 470 racing in 6-8 knots – quite tricky, really close but very enjoyable! '
'It was a good day today racing at the top of the fleet, our aim for the week is to finish in the top three. I feel a lot better now, everything seems to be back to normal again so there’s no reason why we can’t finish the week with a medal. We’re sailing well and we’ve got good speed which is key.'
'Having only sailed together for five days since December, we are certainly looking forward to the bigger breeze which is forecast for the rest of the week where we can hopefully stretch our legs a little,' concluded Asher.
Bryony Shaw revelled in the light conditions on the RS:X course posting a 3-3 to sit her in second behind Poland’s Zofia Noceti-Klepacka. Skandia Team GBR Development Squad sailors Claudia Carney and Izzy Hamilton lie 23rd and 24th respectively after today’s two races.
'I was really happy with how I was going in the light winds; I was a bit shy on both start lines as I was very wary of getting an OCS. It wasn’t very punchy but I managed to hold my lane and play the shifts pretty well. In both upwinds I was inside the top seven and I think my down winds were my real strength today – they really pushed me through the fleet.
'A couple of things that need work on are my port speed up wind and putting a bit more power into the pumping which are a couple of nice bits to work on between now and the Games,' said the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist.
With the breeze expected to pick up over the next few days, Shaw has every confidence in the stronger winds.
'I’m very comfortable in both light and breezy conditions, I would say the girls who were at the top today are the all-rounders of the fleet and it showed today, so it’s just whether the big girls who might be counting high scores today can pull it out the bag later in the week or whether us all-rounder’s can hold on when the breeze picks up!'
In the male RS:X fleet, Nick Dempsey kicked off his regatta with 5-8, leaving him in third overall while fellow Performance Squad member Elliot Carney resides in sixth after 6-17 for today’s efforts.
In the heavy weight Finn class Mark Andrews leads the charge for Skandia Team GBR with a third in the only race of the day. Triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie got his regatta off to a steady start with a fifth, while Andrew Mills sits in eighth and Giles Scott had a disappointing start posting 21.
In the Laser Radial fleet, Charlotte Dobson and Alison Young occupy 13th and 14th respectively, Paul Goodison opened his regatta series with a seventh in the Laser class while Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson finished the day in 12th after only one race in the Star fleet.
Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor won three out of their four opening round robin group bouts in the Elliot 6m women’s match racing event, losing at the hands of Finland’s skipper Silja Lehtinen in their opening race of the regatta.
In the Paralympic classes, Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell sit third in the SKUD class, while John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas posted a twelfth in the Sonar class. Megan Pascoe opened her account in the 2.4mR event with a race win and a second to sit equal first with Dutchman Thierry Schmitter, with Helena Lucas in seventh overall after 13-7 for her opening day.
Racing at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta continues tomorrow (Tuesday 5 June) with Paralympic classes (2.4mR, SKUD and Sonar) finishing on Friday 8 June and medal races for the 10 Olympic Classes scheduled for Saturday 9 June.
Skandia Team GBR website