Sail for Gold Regatta - GBR takes pole position in four classes
by Lindsey Bell on 7 Jun 2012
At the 2012 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, Team GBR sailors are in pole position in four of their respective classes while a further six GBR crews are in medal contention at the halfway stage of the Weymouth and Portland ISAF Sailing World Cup event.
Bryony Shaw, RSX. © Richard Langdon/Skandia Team GBR
There was certainly no shortage of wind on the third day of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, as Britain’s sailors made gains in the 12-18 knots of breeze. Olympic Champions Iain Percy-Andrew Simpson, 2011 Finn World Champion Giles Scott, Paralympic SKUD sailors Alexandra Rickham-Niki Birrell and Sonar trio of John Robertson-Hannah Stodel-Stephen Thomas have all confirmed their places at the top of their respective leaderboards.
British crews also occupy top three spots in the 470 men’s and women’s events, as well as the 49er, Finn, RS:X men’s windsurfing and 2.4mR Paralympic classes at the mid-way point.
Four time SKUD World Champions Alexandra Rickham-Niki Birrell, were the ones to beat in the Paralympic two person keelboat class on Wednesday, adding a further two race wins to the three the duo secured yesterday and cementing their position at the top of the leaderboard as they head into the final two days of competition for the Paralympic classes.
'We had a really good day today and were very happy, although not too happy with our starts as we made it difficult for ourselves coming off the line but it was really tough conditions out there especially in the SKUD. It was so gusty, very shifty with a little bit of rain so to set up your rig in these conditions and to then compete in a really physical race is very tiring,' explained Rickham.
'I’m sure Niki [Birrell] will sleep really well tonight as for the crew it wasn’t just a pull in the main and leave it there, he was having to pull on the ropes a lot and think about everything which was going on due to the massive shifts!
'We have always had a string of silvers at this regatta, which has always been tough to take,' Rickham continued, 'but we are sailing consistently at the moment. To come away after two days winning all races gives us a lot of confidence going into the Paralympics in September.'
The Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas were the second of the British Paralympic boats to top the table after a 3-2 to sit them two points ahead of their closest rivals – the Dutch trio who occupy second.
Stodel, who is the tactician on-board the three person Sonar, explained: 'It was a good day out there, it was massively shifty though; so it was anybody’s game. We got a little bit of luck when we wanted it and we sailed pretty well actually so we did deserve it.'
The trio have been pleased to shake off an under-par start to the regatta on Monday where they posted a 12th in their opening race.
'Monday was just one those days when you come in and say ‘nothing went to plan did it?’! It was just one of those days when we couldn’t do anything right but that is over now and we are improving. We have picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off!' said Stodel.
'The goal for this week is just a medal and to work on the processes for the Games. It is quite tight on timings now, so we have lots to work on when we go into hiding but this is our last check-in for our equipment to make sure everything is right and ready to go.'
Helena Lucas is currently the top placed Brit in the 2.4mR Paralympic event in second overall, on equal points with first, while Megan Pascoe is currently just outside the medals in fourth.
The battle for regatta honours in the Finn class continues as a 2-1 for Giles Scott today sees him leapfrog his compatriot Ben Ainslie to take the overall lead in the heavyweight dinghy class. Ainslie posted a 3-1 to sit eight points off his Skandia Team GBR teammate at the halfway stage, while Mark Andrews and Andrew Mills occupy seventh and eighth respectively.
'To remain on top I am going to keep doing what I am trying to do now by taking each race as it comes and doing as well as possible in each of these. It is always better to have fewer points than more, being out in front is always a nice position to be in. There is pressure to be in front but I can’t say I am losing sleep over it, said Scott.
Ainslie added: 'I had a nice final race to end the day. I haven’t been 100% at this regatta, but to be honest it is a great opportunity to get out on the water and see how the competition is doing and know more about the venue so it is completely worth doing and hopefully I will start to feel better towards the end of the week.
'I’m doing OK, but Giles is doing really well, he certainly has turned the pace up especially upwind in these conditions. I am very lucky that he is my training partner. Having Giles taking me to this level just before the Games is undoubtedly great for me. It was great to have four guys in the top ten at the World Championships and that wasn’t including Giles racing; it is very successful to work as a team and push each other along. Hopefully we are all benefiting from this; I know I certainly am in the run up to the Olympics.'
Olympic Champions Iain Percy-Andrew Simpson entered the third day of the regatta sitting mid table in fifth, however with a 2-1 for today’s efforts the pair have shot to the top with a slender one point lead over Brazilian World Champions Robert Scheidt-Bruno Prada. Percy-Simpson last won the Skandia Sail for Gold crown back in 2009 and narrowly missed out on gold to the Brazilians at the World Championships last month.
The duo have had to endure a mixed bag so far in Weymouth and Portland and although Percy was pleased with their day’s efforts, he knows the hard work is far from over: 'We had a much better day today and found a lot more speed upwind. We are still working on our downwind so managed to get a 2-1 which is positive.
'We’re now half way through the regatta and it all starts again with any number of boats still in the medals,' he cautioned.
Meanwhile, on the 49er racecourse Dave Evans-Ed Powys are in third, with Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes improving to fourth overall thanks to 1-2-2 from their three races. The 2008 Beijing Olympians now sit level on points with their British counterparts Evans-Powys while Dylan Fletcher-Alain Sign made it three GBR crews inside the top five heading into the business end of the week.
A consistent day of 3,3 from their two races was enough to lift Luke Patience-Stuart Bithell into the podium positions in the 470 fleet, while Hannah Mills-Saskia Clark dropped down into third after a disappointing day of 13,14 for the World Champions.
Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor booked their spot in the quarter-finals of the women’s match racing event, topping their round robin group with ten wins from twelve matches, while Paul Goodison has improved to sixth overall in the Laser class with 2,2 on the racecourse today.
Alison Young is fifth in the hotly-contested Laser Radial event, where just two points separate the top six boats, Nick Dempsey is in second in the men’s RS:X windsurfing event, while a premature start for Bryony Shaw in the women’s RS:X event sees her drop to 11th overall.
Racing at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta continues tomorrow (Thursday 7 June) with the 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.
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