In a nail-biting, best-of-five match-racing series that went down to the last run of the last race, the Spanish-flagged Women’s Match Racing (WMR) team of Tamara Dominguez, Sofia Puga and Angela Menendez captured Gold, leaving the 'Speedy Sheilas' team of Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty (AUS) to settle for Silver. In the petite finals, the Finnish-flagged team of Silja Lehtinen, Silja Kanerva and Mikaela Wulff Finland beat-out Russia’s Ekaterina Skudina, Elena Siuzeva and Elena Oblova to bring home Bronze.
Conditions on the Nothe course, which is situated just off of the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy, here in Portland, UK, can only be described as boisterous, with a strong breeze and one-meter seas that tested each crew’s heavy-air boat-handling ability more than any other sailing contest of this Olympiad.
First up were the petite finals, which started at noon. Here, the Finnish-flagged team of Silja Lehtinen, Silja Kanerva and Mikaela Wulff Finland beat-out Russia’s Ekaterina Skudina, Elena Siuzeva and Elena Oblova to bring home Bronze. Conditions only built as the day progressed, with puffs tickling 30 knots during the medal races.
For sailing fans, today’s medal race was one of the best contests of this Olympiad, with two equally skilled teams dialing-up and pressing the final results to the last run of the last race. Interestingly, neither the Australians nor the Spanish were favorites to medal (let alone capture Gold), but today quickly proved that speculation can be almost as disastrous as assumption. The RC was forced to fire the starting guns five times before a Gold-medal winner was determined, with a true on-the-water tug-of-war taking place throughout all five contests.
Race one went to Spain, with a tiny Delta of five seconds separating the Spanish stern from the Aussie’s bow. Race two demonstrated the Speedy Sheila’s skills, as the Aussies beat the Spanish by a comfortable margin of 22 seconds.
Race three offered one of the best sporting moments of the entire Olympic regatta. A boathandling duel ensued between the Spanish-flagged boat and the Sheilas, but the girls from Down Under spun into a wild Chinese Gybe. To illustrate how big the seas were (relative to the size of the Elliot 6 Meter’s freeboard), Price was spent overboard. Curtis and Whitty handed the situation beautifully, circling back for their floating skipper and quickly making-up distance, but the Spaniards earned the bullet by a Delta of 1:01.
The Speedy Sheilas bounced back in Race Four, scalping their opponents and leveling the overall score to two-to-two.
The stakes ratcheted to all new levels during the last starting-line Samba, with the Sheilas taking an early and convincing lead. Everything was looking golden for the girls from Down Under until the teams approached the final leeward mark. Both boats were surfing wildly in the steep seas, but then the Spanish-flagged team lured the Sheilas into a foul, thus forcing them to make a penalty turn. While Price immediately executed her 360, the judges deemed it incomplete, meaning that the Sheilas had to sail their final beat with a penalty turn still looming.
The finishing gun fired as the Spanish bow pierced the finishing line, determining Gold and closing-out the sailing section of the XXX Olympics. Once clear of the finishing area, the entire Spanish team took a victory swim, starting what will undoubtedly be a night of fantastic celebration for Spain.
Please stay tuned for more news from the Women’s Match Racing event, including quotes from the medal winners and plenty of racecourse images from today’s medal-race contest.
by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor
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2:09 PM Sat 11 Aug 2012GMT
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