At the 43rd Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre, Helena Lucas scooped Great Britain’s first medal in Palma on Good Friday (6 April), with Ben Ainslie also claiming gold with a day to spare after a dramatic penultimate day on the Finn course.
On a breezy penultimate day of racing for the eight Olympic classes competing in Palma, Ben Ainslie’s day took an unexpected turn when a collision on the startline of the first Finn race left him dashing to shore in search of a replacement boat after his sustained damage.
On finding one and switching his own rig into the spare hull, the 35-year-old Ainslie managed to make it back out to the course area in time to start the second race in which he finished third to amass an unassailable 35 point lead ahead of the final 10-boat double points-scoring medal race on Saturday.
'It was one of those crazy days and a really strange pre-start incident I think because of the big waves and trying to clear another boat which would have caused me to capsize onto another boat,' recounted the triple Olympic gold medallist.
'I injured myself in the process and reasonably damaged my boat so there was no real chance of continuing in the race in that state, so the best option was to come ashore and luckily there was a spare boat lying in the dinghy park that no-one was using. So we just switched the rigs round, came back out and just had to try and get a reasonable race to get round the course.
'As it turned it out I was not very quick at all but managed to sail reasonably well and had very good speed downwind and I finished third. So it was a bit of an epic day, but sometimes these things are sent to test you and in a way there were actually some good lessons learned from crisis management.'
Ainslie, who defends his Princess Sofia crown from 2011, was delighted with his performance following a testing winter, during which he underwent surgery for a back complaint.
'It’s a real boost [to win here] after a very difficult period so I’m very happy with the way I’ve been sailing and things in general, and my body seems to have held up reasonably well.
'I’m happy but there’s a lot of work to do yet in the coming months in the build-up to the Games, and I’ll keep pushing to try and get better and be better prepared.'
Ainslie’s Skandia Team GBR teammate Andrew Mills has also made the medal race cut and is within five points of the bronze position,
Helena Lucas, the three-time World Championship bronze medallist, capped off a consistent week by claiming silver in the 2.4mR event – the only one of the three Paralympic classes to be contested at this first European World Cup regatta of the season – with gold going to Dutchman Thierry Schmitter on Friday’s final day for the class.
'It’s great to get a silver medal here – it just gives you that boost of confidence going into the next regatta,' Lucas commented.
'The only person really missing from this regatta is Damien [Seguin], so it’s a really strong fleet and it’s great to go up against those guys and come away knowing I’ve got really good speed in all conditions, so I’ve been really happy with how the week’s gone.
'Obviously I’d have liked to have been a bit closer to Thierry and given him a bit more of a run for his money. It looked like it was panning out that way at the beginning of the week but he kind of found his stride disappeared off into the distance a little bit but I’m not too worried about it,' she continued.
'I know I’m going pretty quick against him and he had one of those regattas where he couldn’t really do anything wrong. I’m pretty confident I’m snapping at his heels, and going well all round.'
Megan Pascoe finished sixth in the 2.4mR fleet, meanwhile in the Laser class, Olympic Champion Paul Goodison will have his sights trained on Germany’s Simon Grotelueschen in the final 10-boat showdown in his bid for gold.
The German world number 23 is seven points ahead of Goodison in the overall standings, meaning the Yorkshireman will have to finish four places ahead of him and keep an eye on the third placed Australian Tom Burton if he’s to claim add the Palma World Cup title to his win in Miami in January.
Nick Thompson dropped to fifth overall after a tough day with 24,27 from his two races, but bronze is still possible, while Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson will be in a tense battle for the podium spots in the Star keelboat class. They’re currently fourth, five points off of gold and with just twelve points separating the top seven positions heading into the final day.
In the 49er event, three Skandia Team GBR crews made it to the final day. John Pink and Rick Peacock are placed fourth, seven points off the podium places, with Dave Evans and Ed Powys just two points two positions behind, and Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes making a late sprint for the medal race spots with 21,1,6 for their day seeing them into them tenth place.
Charlotte Dobson and Alison Young ensured two British boats in the Laser Radial event in seventh and tenth overall, while Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark also made a late surge into the medal race spots thanks to a 2,3 from the day seeing them into 10th place, while Sophie Weguelin and Sophie Ainsworth had a tough day in the stronger wind conditions with two 15th places from their two races.
Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor lost out to Russia’s Ekaterina Skudina in their 5/6th place play off to end their regatta in sixth overall, while a late surge of 1,15,2,3 in the final four fleet from Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell wasn’t enough get them into the 470 men’s medal race after a slow start to the week. They finish 19th overall.
Racing at the Palma World Cup regatta concludes with the final medal races on Saturday 7 April.
Trofeo Princesa Sofia website
by Lindsey Bell
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5:06 PM Fri 6 Apr 2012GMT
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