by Lindsey Bell
Light and tricky wind conditions prevailed on day four of the ISAF Sailing World Cup event in Hyeres, with Ben Ainslie extending his lead at the top of the Finn fleet, and Paul Goodison, Bryony Shaw and the 470 team of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark all improving their overall positions on Wednesday (27 April).
Semaine Olympique Francaise
Ainslie notched up his fifth race win of the series in the only race of the day for the heavyweight dinghy class, to gain a 13 point lead over Dutchman Pieter-Jan Postma, while teammate Giles Scott elevated himself back into the podium positions, with a third in today’s race putting him in third overall with two days of the regatta left to run.
After a tough start to their regatta, Skandia Team GBR’s newest 470 women’s team of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark have broken through into the top three spots, with the help of a consistent 12,10 on the water today.
The duo, who are competing in their second World Cup event together following the retirement of Clark’s previous helm Sarah Ayton, were left with a hole in their boat and some big scores on the scoresheet on Sunday’s opening day of the regatta following a pre-race collision with a coach boat.
However, a successful redress claim for average points up until the end of racing today allowed the damage to their scoreline to be negated, barring any further disasters – a scenario which Clark is relieved they managed to avoid.
'It was a difficult start to the week, with the collision setting us back before we’d even done the first race, but we’re happy to have an end to the average points nightmare after today!' Clark explained.
'We don’t have to worry so much about keeping ourselves out of trouble or getting a black flag. We’ve been having to reign ourselves in at the start and be quite strict with ourselves to avoid getting any big scores, but generally it’s been quite a high scoring regatta so being able to be conservative has worked quite well for us.'
The Princess Sofia Trophy earlier this month was their first test for their new partnership – the pair didn’t manage to make the top ten at their first World Cup together, but Clark is confident of the improvements they’ve made since then.
'It’s all going pretty well, we’ve improved on the upwind communication side of things plus we’ve been working on starting well and making the first decision on the track our own, and all of that is starting to bear fruit.'
'It’s a bit of a balance for us [at this event].' Clark continued. 'We’re still very much at the beginning of our partnership and there are still many learning opportunities, but we also want to get the best result we can here.
'Really we’d just like to be going into the medal race within a shout of the medals.'
Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes are poised in fourth in the 470 women’s fleet, with Sophie Weguelin and Sophie Ainsworth in 11th, tied on points with the tenth placed Japanese boat.
After a frustrating start to his regatta, Olympic Champion Paul Goodison hit back in the Laser class today, improving to eighth place from his overnight position of 24th thanks to an 11th and two third places from the three races held. At one stage looking vulnerable for the top ten medal race spots, he’s now 11 points away from the podium positions with one gold fleet race to run tomorrow ahead of the double-points scoring finale on Friday.
Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor continue their confident run in the women’s match racing event, topping the gold group stage to earn a quarter-final bout against the American team helmed by Genny Tulloch. The painfully light winds in the afternoon put paid to the hope of starting the quarter-final round today, but nonetheless Lucy is pleased with how the team’s week is progressing.'
We’re really happy with how it’s all been going this week. We’ve had some really good races – we just made a couple of silly errors in the two races that we’ve lost, but other than that we’re pleased with our speed and our communication on the boat. It’s clicking together pretty well so far.
'We haven’t raced against Genny for ages really – at many of the events the groups tend to end up a bit the same and we race against people we’ve already raced against, so Genny is one we haven’t come across recently. The American boats though are generally quite aggressive on the race course though so we’ll have to try and make sure we don’t get dragged into that.'
A seventh and a fifth for Bryony Shaw sees her advance to fourth overall in the RS:X women’s windsurfing fleet, just three points behind Italy’s Alessandra Sensini in the bronze medal position, while World Champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell maintain their lead at the top of the Paralympic SKUD class, although they did miss out on their seventh straight race win at the hands of compatriots Alex Hovden and Kate Mannerings.
In the 49er event overnight leaders Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign have slipped to third overall with 13,3,29 for their three races today. Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith are sixth.
Megan Pascoe is in second overall in the single-handed 2.4mR Paralympic class, with the Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas in fifth.
The top 470 men’s team of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell, and Skandia Team GBR’s Laser Radial sailors are currently outside of the medal race positions – Patience and Bithell are 13th with Charlotte Dobson the top GBR Radial sailor in 18th, with Alison Young in 20th.
Racing at the French Olympic Sailing Week continues through until Friday 29 April.
For the latest news and information, visit www.skandiateamgbr.com or follow us on Twitter (@skandiateamgbr) for race updates during the regatta.