Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta 2012 medal race day was held in Weymouth, Great Britain, today, Saturday 9th June. One storm had passed, but another was brewing and the drama was just beginning.
There were ten classes and thirty medals to decide, and not one of them was a certainty. After a week of tumultuous weather, the sun finally came out and the wind moderated to a perfect 15 knots for the opening races, building to a fresh 20-22 knots for the final medals. The action took place on two courses, one inside the harbour and the other under the Olympic spectator site on the Nothe.
Laser – Harbour course: Tom Slingsby was the man to beat, five-points ahead of Germany’s Philipp Buhl in second place. But by the time the fleet had reached the top mark, Slingsby had just one man in focus and that was Britain’s Paul Goodison. The Brit was fifth coming into the medal race, but with a real chance of still taking silver. Goodison, the Beijing Laser gold medallist, had a plan, he wanted the pin end, won it and headed off to the left-hand side.
At the first windward mark it was Slingsby first – Goodison one boat length behind. The pair pushed each other down the run extending away from the fleet, then on the second beat Slingsby, who is unbeaten on the 2012 Olympic racetrack, covered Goodison. He kept it up for the rest of the race and leaving Goodison vulnerable to the pack behind and as the wind pushed the fleet together on the final run, Tom Burton and Andy Maloney slid past on the line. The result gave Burton the silver behind his countryman, and left Philipp Buhl in bronze. Goodison had to settle for fourth.
470 Men – Nothe course: Current 470 World Champions, Belcher and Page have been dominant in the 470 class throughout the week. Their main rivals for gold were the British pair of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. Off the start-line it was the Brits that got the initial jump, controlling the Australian pair up the first beat and rounding the windward mark just ahead. However Belcher and Page managed to squeeze low round the mark getting inside, from there the Australian pair sailed away to win the medal race in convincing fashion. Patience and Bithell held second to give themselves the silver medal, while bronze went to the New Zealanders Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders, who finished the medal race with a solid fourth.
Laser Radial – Harbour course: This has been one of the tightest fleets all week, and going into the medal race three sailors were separated by the narrowest of margins and any one of Lijia Xu, Alison Young or Sari Multala could have taken gold. But it was the Netherlands Marit Bouwmeester that got the best start, unfortunately the Dutch sailor was in an uncustomary sixth place heading into the medal race, and then got a penalty coming into first windward mark. The overall leader, Lijia Xu then hit the windward mark and put herself out of contention, after a tight layline call and a shift saw Xu hit the windward mark. Her penalty turn set her back from fourth to ninth.
Britain’s Alison Young was just one-point off Xu going into the medal race, rounded the windward mark in second to get a grip on gold. It was one she didn’t relinquish before the finish. Only Ireland’s Annalise Murphy beat her, and her fabulous final race pulled her up into bronze medal position. In third on the water behind Murphy and Young was Finland’s Sari Multala, and that was enough to get her the silver. China’s Lijia Xu’s ninth place in the medal race dropping her down to fourth and out of the medals.
470 women – Nothe: The Kiwi pairing of Jo Aleph and Olivia Powrie looked like they would be left to sail their own race, nine points ahead of their nearest rivals, the French pair of Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron. There was still a big fight for silver and bronze with just four points separating the French from current world Champions, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark in fourth. A bad start for British pair – when their tiller extension broke moments from the start – meant they trailed the fleet as they headed up the first beat. But the French race wasn’t going to plan either, rounding the windward mark in ninth.
The British pair recovered better than the French, and it looked like silver was between them and the Brazilian pair of Martine Grael and Isabel Swan – the two boats equal on points coming into the medal race. But on the final gybe coming into the finish line Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan (USA) – sixth coming into the medal race – grabbed the win on the line. It pushed them up to silver, leaving the Mills and Clark to win their battle with the Brazilians and take bronze.
49er – Harbour: By now the wind was blowing 19 knots with gusts of 23, and the French pair Emmanuel Dyen and Stephane Christidis sailed a perfect medal race – the led from start to finish, with an impressive 300m gap at the finish. They were second behind Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen going into the medal race and the point’s difference meant that the Aussies had to get fourth or better to keep gold. Seventh at the top mark, they had time to make ground on the three lap windward leeward course and grab the fourth they needed by the finish. It left the French in silver.
Fighting it out for the bronze were the British crews – three made it into the medal race. Steve Morrison and Ben Rhodes, the British representatives at this year’s Olympics were in sixth place coming into the medal race. They stayed clean and finished second on the water, but it was not enough to beat their training partners, Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign, who grabbed a sixth place on the water and the bronze medal.
RS:X Women – Nothe: One of the star performers at Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta this week has been Poland’s Zofia Noceti-Klepacka, only counting firsts and second places going into the medal race, she had a 17-point lead over Spain’s Marina Alabau – who was in turn 15-points ahead of third. Noceti-Klepacka again showed the fleet the way home winning the medal race in impressive fashion and keeping gold. Marina Alabau also had a solid grip on the silver and an eighth place on the water was enough to get her the medal.
Behind the top two though the points were tight, just two points separating Olga Maslivets (UKR) in third from Alessandra Sensini (ITA) in fifth. After a four lap course, the final podium place went to Lee Korzits from Israel who finished second in the medal race, one place ahead of main rival Maslivets who dropped to fourth overall.
Star – Harbour: Next up were the heavyweights in the Star class – reigning Olympic champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson had a slim one-point lead over their main rivals, four-time Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt and his sailing partner Bruno Prada. The Irish and Canadian crews were just a couple of points back.
Off the start line, the leading pair headed left, but it was the right that paid. A port and starboard incident up the first beat meant the Brazilian duo had to do penalty turns, and it demoted them to the back of the fleet.
With O’Leary and Burrows in second at the leeward gate the Irish were now in pole position for gold, with the British and Brazilians fighting to hang onto silver and bronze. On the second beat, Scheidt headed right whilst Percy opted for the left again. At the top mark, Brazil had pulled up to sixth with the two-time British gold medallist two places adrift in eighth.
There was now a potentially mast-breaking 20-23 knots of breeze on the race course, and Scheidt and Prada surfed their way into fourth, while the Irish team had dropped to third. But it wasn’t enough, gold went to Ireland’s Peter O’Leary and Davis Burrows, while Scheidt and Prada took silver, with Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson having to settle for bronze.
RS:X Men – Nothe: Frenchman Julian Bontemps held an eight-point lead heading into the medal race, the Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberge his closest rival. The RS:X boards flew round the four-lap windward leeward course, reaching speeds of 25 knots, and it was van Rijsselberge who took control, winning the medal race. And with Bontemps only finishing fifth, it left the pair on 31 points a-piece, the tie break going to Dorian van Rijsselberge with his medal race win. It gave the Netherlands the gold medal, France the silver, and Britain’s Nick Dempsey took the final podium position with a third in the medal race.
Finn – Harbour: Giles Scott, the young pretender to Ben Ainslie relished the windy conditions Weymouth and Portland had provided this week. The only blot on his near perfect scoreline has been a 21st on the first day before the breeze kicked in. With no racing on Friday, Ainslie seemed to have lost his opportunity to match race Scott to the back of the pack to make his 21st count, instead Scott went into the medal race with a 12 point lead.
Ainslie got the better of the start, but Scott’s clearing tack put him on the right side, and left Ainslie struggling to get back in the pack. With Scott blasting through to second on the run, Ainslie made an uncharacteristic error, capsizing at the leeward gate. Scott continued his great form to win the medal race and take the gold. Now it was all down to Zach Railey and Pieter Jan Postma to get over five places between themselves and Ainslie to deprive the triple Olympic gold medallist of silver. In the end, Postma was closest finishing fifth, but Ainslie still took silver by just one point.
Match Racing: The Women’s Match Racing was forced to make an early start with quarter finals, semis and the final all still to sail. They began at 08:00 and the action was constant from there. In the quarter finals it was the Russians, Ekaterina Skudina, Elena Oblova and Elena Siuzeva that beat the Spanish team of Tamara Echegoyen, Angela Pumariega and Sofia Toro by two races to nil; Clarie Leroy and her French team of Elodie Bertrand and Marie Riou took down the New Zealanders, Stephanie Hazard, Jenna Hansen and Susannah Pyatt by another two races to nil. While the American team of Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vendemoer and Debbie Capozzi beat Finland’s Silja Lehtinen, Silja Kanerva, and Mikaela Wulff also two races to nil, and finally Australia’s Olivia Price beat Lucy MacGregor two races to one.
Onto the semi-finals with barely a pause for breath and this time it was Olivia Price’s Aussies that beat Ekaterina’s Russians – again, the score was two races to nil; while Claire Leroy and the French took down Anna Tunnicliffe’s American’s two races to nil. It meant a France versus Australia final, and it was Price that beat Leroy two races to nil, leaving Tunnicliffe to take the single race Petite Final and the bronze medal from Ekaterina Skudina.
Britain still topped the leaderboard at Skandia Sail for Gold with four golds, three silvers and four bronze medals. But Australia and The Netherlands are also right up there, we will know this summer if the British team can retain the top sailing nation slot. Lets hope the British summer makes an appearance.
Next year’s Sail for Gold Regatta is scheduled for the 10th to the 14th June 2013, forming part of the newly formed European Sailing Cup.
Quotes: Tom Slingsby – AUS – Laser: Feeling really good, the medal race couldn’t have gone any better for us, Australia 1 and 2, so we’re really happy and it looks like I have the best training partner in the world heading into the Olympics.
I am unbeaten here in Weymouth, but it doesn’t really mean anything going into the Games, although it’s a good confidence boost. I’m still trying to jump to another level in the next month and a half to make it really hard to catch me; if I don’t keep on improving then they will catch me. I’m going to go back and work hard and hopefully jump that other level.
Since 2008 results wise it isn’t that different but the venue for me is. The sailing definitely suits me (in Weymouth and Portland), the strong winds and big waves and a bit of everything with the conditions, where as China was just really light and Goodison was the best in the light air, but hopefully this time I can knock him off!
Goodie is a champion and when champions are doing well and they have a bad event they go, they work on the problems, and they come back stronger. I know he will be coming back a lot stronger at the Olympics so I need to make sure I keep working hard and keep a gain on him.
On today’s medal race: I thought If I’m going to stay in first place and Goodie was in second, as soon as he dropped back into second, first place can slow you down and then you never know – the pack can catch you! I just wanted to stay ahead of second and it happened to be Goodie, so I just was covering second place. I do think people will probably read a bit into it but it wasn’t personal to Goodie, there’s nothing to read into! I was in first place, just covering second place.
Paul Goodison – GBR – Laser: A very frustrating race – Started off well, built up a good lead with Tom (Slingsby) at the front which was all quite easy but he then employed some ‘Team Racing’ tactics where he was more interested in trying to sort his mate out and slow me down which I was annoyed at. At the end I made a bit of a mess of it on the finish line so I’m quite frustrated now coming back to shore.
It was windy, quite shifty but great racing conditions today. The real positives looking forward are the fact that I sailed a reasonable regatta but I made quite a few mistakes. The big positive is that there is only going to be the one guy at the Olympics who beat me today and he won’t have his mate there in August to help him!
It’s going to be a tough fight between Tom [Slingsby]and me at the Olympics and I think it will come down to who sails best on the day, we’ve got just under 50 days to go to put the effort in and work hard. I’m pretty wound up at the moment after what happened today between us and I think that is now going to focus my attention and make me train harder and get better in time for the Games.
Malcolm Page – AUS – 470 M: This is our first win in Weymouth, we’ve had a few close calls and quite a few silver medals so far, but looking at our whole year it has been phenomenal, the best preparation you could ever ask for and it’s great to be in this situation.
Definitely keen to keep up this level – I’m sure we’ve got some reserve to go yet, the plan is that we haven’t picked a fight yet, obviously we’re getting towards the top of the hill, but we’ve got a few weeks to go so really looking forward to the time ahead of us.
Mathew Belcher – AUS – 470 M: Such a great day for the Australians – we have a fantastic team and have been building that for the last four years as a close unit. The last three world championships has shown the 49ers, Laser and 470s have come away with it, so a huge achievement and we’re using the motivation of each other -hopefully Nath (Outteridge) can do the same!
Achieving a win on British water has meant we really have the target on our back now, I was the defending gold medallist from Beijing so when we teamed up we knew we would have that responsibility, for us and Australia. But certainly with the worlds a few weeks ago coming away with three wins in a row, we just couldn’t ask for more. We’re working hard and we couldn’t be better prepared – we just need to keep it up that’s all!
Stuart Bithell – GBR – 470 M: It was a shifty race out there today, nice breeze and quite flat which we haven’t had all week. It feels brilliant, we took a little bit of a gamble earlier in the year to pull out of a few regattas and make this one the focus, so it’s nice to come away being successful!
Luke Patience – GBR – 470 M: It was an exciting race – offshore and shifty at the Nothe with some good breeze. The Aussie boat just extended away in the first part of the race and were gone, the Croatians then caught up and it was more of a three way battle. We needed to try and get a boat in between us and the Aussie boat, and the fact that we were first and second at the windward mark by quite a long way meant it was going to be very difficult to do!
Overall were happy and it fills us with confidence with just under 50 days to go until the Games.
We are certainly getting closer to the Aussie’s and have a few secrets up our sleeves which we will be working on between now and the Games. We can certainly take confidence away from this regatta.
Stuart and I are great buddies and were enjoying this journey together – it’s a great hoot, but we will definitely mean business come August. We cannot wait for the Games to begin now –Wish it was tomorrow!'
Ali Young – GBR – Laser Radial: It was quite tight up the first beat, I just took the shifts and rounded the windward mark in second and it was just a case of keeping the main girls behind me.
It’s a great confidence boost in terms of my preparation for the Games; I’ll just look to build on a few things between now and August.
I’ve had a great programme and have been working hard with my coaches, so now I’ll just continue to build on my performance. There are certainly a few little things which we need to tweak from this regatta, so we will be working hard ensuring everything is ready to go in August.
It’s a good result, you always aim to do your best and if you best mean that you win then it’s pretty cool! I would certainly like to think I can produce the same performance and result at the Games. The fleet is very competitive with it being extremely close between a few of the top girls, so no doubt the racing in August will be very tight all week.
Annalise Murphy – IRL – Laser Radial: I went out today knowing that I had to have a really good race and one of the girls in the top three had to make a mistake for me to win a medal, so I went out there and sailed as hard as I could and managed to get ahead on the first beat, then just pulling away from the fleet. It did mean I couldn’t really effect what was going to happen in the race, so when I finished I just had to wait and see what happened and the Chinese girl finished eighth which meant I finished third overall, so I’m delighted.
To win a medal at the Olympic venue is brilliant and a huge confidence boost for the Olympics in August, anything could happen then but it’s definitely a good stepping stone.
This year has been hard and I’ve really had to step up my game, as the girls I’m racing against have got a lot more dominant. I’m going to have to work pretty hard over the next couple of months but I’m really looking forward to it! Jo Aleh – NZL – 470 W: Today’s racing has just proved we are on track for the Olympics, but it was so good to sail here in the conditions again and to have the time here before the Games.
The class is wide open though, we’ve all been sailing hard this year and we’re all up there. We’ve got a great team; we’re all working really hard and can’t wait for the next few weeks.
We have been in Weymouth for three long and great weeks for this event, and it’s been a windy one. We’re looking forward to a few days off to recover! It’s been great racing but hard work and long days.
Amanda Clark – USA – 470 W: We’re super thrilled, it’s been a great regatta and the race committee has done a wonderful job. We did lose a bit of racing with the strong gale yesterday but what a great medal race to finish off the racing.
We’re a relatively young team so it’s just been part of our game plan, to keep moving forward and get some strong results, assert a little bit of our ability on the race course and we’re really looking forward to the Olympics it’s a great competition.
Racing the Brits – they’re world champions now, they’re doing so well. Both our teams came together at the same time – February 2011, they came together and Sarah and I came together so it’s awesome racing them.
Nathan Outteridge – AUS – 49er: That medal race was a bit closer than we probably would have liked, we did a great job of coming back through the fleet from ninth at the first mark to get back to fourth. We knew we had three laps and we just had to keep chipping away and we got there!
It’s been a really good year for us, we’ve just come back from the worlds in Croatia where we won and to then win here, this is probably the most important event of the last three years so it’s good to get gold in Weymouth just before there Games.
This is definitely one of the strongest teams Australia has brought to a Games, we are extremely strong, and also great friends. We live in the same house and its great having team mates doing well around us.
Iain Jensen – AUS – 49er: It’s been one of those weeks where it’s been pretty windy and we didn’t get a full series in, so it was a bit disappointing we didn’t get to do much racing, and we only get to race against the top boats on one day – today. It was a bit tricky but we managed and that’s five in a row for us now in Weymouth so it’s perfect prep for us and the Olympics.
You definitely haven’t seen everything of us yet, we’ve still got more training to go, and we still know there’s rooms for improvement, but at the moment we’re still the team to beat and we’re going to make sure we are going to step it up again for the next event.
Zofia Noceti–Klepacka – POL – RS:X W: I’ve enjoyed it so much this week, the first day was the lightest, but overall I like it when it’s windy conditions. There has been a little bit too much, especially Friday! But it’s been a lot of fun, good training and I’m so happy I’ve won the competition.
The top three of us are good friends, but also tight competitors, it’s so close to the Olympics Games and everyone is so focused on training hard. I have fantastic training partners in the fleet and we are really good friends off the water.
I think I know Weymouth well now, I was here last year for three months, and now focussed on increasing my physical strength, but there is more to learn! I know I like sailing here, and I like Portland. I will be here until the games training hard and will fight for the gold medal in August.
Peter O’Leary – IRL – Star: It’s big wind today, but good racing. Two of the guys in front of us got stuck into each other.
We’ve based ourselves here for a long time so as this is our last regatta before the Olympics which are here at the venue in Weymouth so it’s been great for us to realise and familiarise ourselves with what’s to come with the conditions here. It’s great to win.
The last 3-4 months we’ve been progressively working on our equipment and technique. We’re back here at the end of June for more training.
Robert Scheidt – BRA – Star: It was a tough race, the first beat we had a collision, which put us in last place, but we had a good recovery and finished fourth so we’re happy with that. It’s been a long week, a lot of strong winds for this big event, but it’s been a good test and good preparation for a few weeks’ time.
Iain Percy – GBR – Star: It was a shorter week with seven races compared to the usual eleven which was a shame in our preparation for the Olympics. We had a few issues at the beginning of the week with our set up so got that sorted and started to come back but didn’t have many races to do the catching up.
We went into the medal race with a narrow lead but came off worse after a big smash from picking the wrong side of the beat and we generally have to sharpen our strategy, although the course we raced on isn’t going to be the course in the used in the Olympics for our class so we were caught out with our lack of knowledge.
We always enter a competition to try and win, the notebook was out every night trying to make improvements and it’s all irrelevant as it’s what happens in a month. There is something a lot more important happening this year that we want to try and win which we can start worrying about now.
A lot of good things have come out of this week and were still very confident in the lead up to the Games, yet we were very scrappy today and it wasn’t an impressive display of racing so there is still a lot of work to be done.
Dorian Van Rijsselberge – NED – RS:X M: It’s been an interesting week; a couple of mistakes by myself and couple of little shockers but in the end we kept it together and today was a beautiful day out there. I knew what I wanted to do today – go the left side of everybody and start racing my race and not caring too much about the other people. I need to step things up big time though, going by the scorecard, I’m showing a lot of inconsistencies still so not quite super good yet but I’ll get there.
Nick (Dempsey) is certainly one of the favourites, and with Weymouth being his home grounds we’re always looking for him over the other guys. He’s doing well and I need to watch him.
Olivia Price – AUS – Match Race: Were really excited to win here of course, it’s always good to get a win but to have it here at the Olympic venue is really special. We had a really long day, we started at 8am and had to get through quarter finals, semi-finals and finals and finally got off the water at 2.30/3pm so it was obviously a long day but we really enjoyed it.
Being part of the Olympic team is like being part of a family, it’s really nice having everyone down on the dock to see us and cheer when we come in, we all do it for one another, there’s a lot of team spirit it’s something we’ve been building up for over the last few years and a really positive team.
Nina Curtis – AUS – Match Race: Everyone’s starting to show what they are capable of now, the pressure is defiantly building, we are just taking one step at a time and this is a good step for us in the right directions. It’s shown to the fleet that we mean business and it’s good to have this one on the board.
Giles Scott – GBR – Finn: It was good, quite an interesting medal race and its nice to be able to pull through in the end and win. Ben had a bit of a mishap at the bottom mark and capsized which allowed me to just focus on my race. I’ve had consistent firsts and seconds all weeks so I couldn’t really hope for much more, obviously being able to end the week winning the medal race is a nice feeling.
Overall Ranking top 3 Womens Match Racing 1st AUS Olivia Price, Nina Curtis, Lucinda Whittly 2-1 2nd FRA Claire Leroy, Elodie Bertrand, Marie Riou 1-2 3rd USA Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandemoer, Debbie Capozzi 1-0
Laser Class 1st – AUS Tom Slingsby – 26 points 2nd – AUS Tom Burton – 43 points ? 3rd – GER Philipp Buhl – 43 points
470 Men 1st – AUS Mathew Belcher, Malcolm Page – 14 points 2nd – GBR Luke Patience, Stuart Bithell – 19 points 3rd – NZL Paul Snow-Hansen, Jason Saunders – 28 points
Laser Radial 1st – GBR Alison Young – 26 points 2nd – FIN Sari Multala – 28 points 3rd – Annalise Murphy – 36 points
470 Women 1st – NZL Jo Aleh, Olivia Polly Powrie – 32 points 2nd – USA Amanda Clark, Sarah Lihan – 52 points 3rd – GBR Hannah Mills, Saskia Clark – 53 points