by Lindsey Bell
42 Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia Mapfre. Ben Ainslie and Paul Goodison claimed gold in the Finn and Laser classes on the final day of racing in Palma (Saturday 9 April) to bring the British medal tally to eight at this third leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup series.
Paul Goodison battles Tom Slingsby in the Laser class - Princesa Sofia Trophy
Ainslie and Goodison’s victories ensured a hat-trick of golds for Skandia Team GBR at this Princess Sofia Trophy, with Olympic and World Champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson having already sealed the regatta title on Friday in the Star class with a day to spare.
Giles Scott captured silver behind Ainslie in the Finn class, with bronze medals going to Nick Thompson in the Laser event, Nick Dempsey in the RS:X windsurfing event and Luke Patience-Stuart Bithell in the 470 men’s fleet to add to Megan Pascoe’s bronze from the 2,4mR Paralympic event on Friday.
After a short delay while the wind conditions built across Palma Bay on Saturday morning, the final ten-boat medal races got underway. The Finn class was the first to start, with the triple Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie enjoying a fourteen point cushion over compatriot Giles Scott heading into the final race.
Ainslie sailed a flawless final to lead the rest of the fleet over the finish line and secure regatta victory by twenty points, with a fourth place in the medal race more than enough to ensure a silver for Scott and book a second British step on the Finn podium.
'It’s been a good week, it was a nice way to end off,' said Ainslie after the medal race. 'It was one of those races where everything went right and that doesn’t happen too often!
'It was a good race today so I’m happy with that, and I’m happy with the week but there’s a long way to go this season and I’m looking forward to the next event.'
Olympic Champion Paul Goodison emerged on top from the fascinating Laser class showdown which saw him, World Champion Tom Slingsby (AUS) and fellow Brit Nick Thompson all effectively level on points heading into the final day. The finishing order between the three on the water today would determine the order of the podium spots and Goodison took the initiative early on, rounding the first windward mark in first place.
He kept his medal rivals firmly behind him for the entire race, finishing third with Slingsby and Thompson in fifth and seventh in the ten-boat race.
'It was going to be whoever was going to cross the line first, so the only real option was to go and win the race,' said Goodison of his approach to the race.
'After getting round the top mark leading it was all a bit easier seeing the guys behind me and from then it was just about making sure I didn’t do anything silly and finishing it off.
'It was a little bit frustrating to get an over the line a little bit earlier in the week, which made it a lot harder going into yesterday but I’m pretty happy with how I’m sailing and to see me delivering under pressure. Fingers crossed for the rest of the season!'
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, already guaranteed gold in the Star keelboat event, finished their regatta with a 37 point margin over the second placed German boat of Robert Stanjek-Frithjof Kleen who won silver on countback over Brazil’s Torben Grael-Marcelo Ferreira.
Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell improved their overnight position from fourth to claim bronze, and so nearly a silver, in the 470 men’s event. The incredibly tight medal race saw the British pair cross the finish line in third, almost level with the French pair Nicolas Charbonnier and Jeremie Mion with the result going in the French pair’s favour, meaning the Skandia Team GBR pair missed out on the silver medal spot by just one point.
Bithell explained: 'The medal race today was very close – they always are – and it was a particular condition that made it even closer. It came down to a very, very close finish to the extent where we put a quick protest in at the end. We thought we might have had the silver medal opportunity but that wasn’t to be.'
Helmsman Patience was over the moon with another podium finish for the pairing after a testing week.
'We’re very pleased to have come away with another medal,' he said. 'That’s our fifth regatta in a row that we’ve come away with a medal so we’re so happy with that, it’s a different place to where we were a year ago.
'It was a difficult regatta,' he continued. 'It was high scoring as Princess Sofia often is and at the end of the day what matters is the finishing place when you cross the finish line at the end of the last race – we’re happy to say that was in a medal position for us.'
Nick Dempsey secured a fourth bronze for Skandia Team GBR in the RS:X men’s windsurfing event, but was disappointed with his medal race performance. He finished tenth in the race to slip from his silver medal position overnight, while Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes were unable to improve on their fourth place heading into the 470 women’s final, having to re-cross the startline after a premature start.
Dylan Fletcher-Alain Sign finished as the best British boat in the 49er event, in sixth place overall thanks to their fifth from the medal race, with Paul Brotherton-Mark Asquith ending their regatta in eighth, Stevie Morrison-Ben Rhodes ninth and John Pink-Rick Peacock tenth.
'It’s certainly been a testing regatta but there have been some good performances this week, and some close battles especially in the Finn, 470 and Laser classes,' said RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park.
'It’s disappointing that some of our sailors haven’t reached their potential this week, having achieved less than they were hoping for here, but overall it’s been a good regatta for Skandia Team GBR with eight medals won including three golds, and shows that we’re still on track and where we want to be.'
Skandia Team GBR medal standings from the 2011 Princess Sofia Trophy, Palma:
Ben Ainslie (Finn)
Iain Percy-Andrew Simpson (Star)
Paul Goodison (Laser)
Giles Scott (Finn)
Nick Thompson (Laser)
Nick Dempsey (RS:X Men)
Luke Patience-Stuart Bithell (470 Men)
Megan Pascoe (2.4mR)