It was the last day and school was almost out. All the lessons had been cancelled, except for twelve girls from the lower fourth who'd been made to stay and do extra lines...
And so, while everyone else partied, the Women's Match Racers finally finished what they had started two weeks earlier. It was finals day, on the final day of the 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition. Sailing for gold or silver were Australia’s Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty, up against Tamara Echegoyen Dominguez, Sofia Toro Prieto Puga and Angela Pumariega Menendez of Spain. The bronze would go to either Russia’s Ekaterina Skudina, Elena Syuzeva and Elena Oblova, or Finland’s Silja Lehtinen, Silja Kanerva and Mikaela Wulff.
Conditions were perfect with a 20-25 knot easterly breeze blowing across open water onto the Nothe Course. It kicked up some great waves for surfing and set the tone for all the drama that followed. The action started in the very first race of the petite final, with Lehtinen and crew trailing all the way round and then surfing past the Russian team in the last couple of hundred metres to take the first win.
Ekaterina Skudina won the next one, dominating the pre-start for a second time, but on this occasion closing out the win by about 12 lengths. The third race was a repeat of the first, again the Russian team won the pre-start, but Finland surfed around them on the final run to go to match point. The fourth race was the most controversial, with both boats desperately close to the line at the gun, and Skudina picking up a penalty. Lehtinen led all the way around to get the third win, and then had to wait for a Russian protest for redress to be heard over the start, but it was dismissed and Finland took the bronze.
The final was a fantastic display of sailing. Almost unbeaten in two weeks of racing, Olivia Price and her Aussie crew were favourites, but Spain quickly redressed any psychological disadvantage with the first win. Price immediately levelled it in the second race, and then looked to take the lead as she surfed past Echegoyen on the first run of the third.
The Aussies took off out of a gybe, but didn't have a chance to get the spinnaker pole on the mast and the over-rotating sail rolled them into windward. And then Price got washed over the side. It was a better swimming performance than any they managed in the pool, and they continued to finish the course... but it was still 2-1 to Spain.
The fourth race was relatively straight-forward, with Price showing composure way beyond her 20 years to come back from the wipe-out, winning the start and leading all the way round. And so it went to a decider.
Spain dominated the final pre-start and controlled the first beat beautifully to lead at the top mark. But once again the surfing conditions made it perfect for attacking moves downwind. Price rolled Echegoyen, but the Spanish kept their composure, gybed away, found some space and some waves and came back at the Aussies on starboard. The only way into the lead was around the Spanish bow and Australia gybed to port and went for it. It wasn't even close, and the Australians picked up a penalty and it was game over. Gold to Spain, their second of the Games, both from the Women's events.
It was a great performance, and it pushed the previously dominant Team GB down into third on the medal table; their one gold and four silvers ranking behind Australia's three golds and one silver, and Spain's two golds. The British can point to a medal in five classes, which no one else achieved, but at the end of the day it's all about gold.
And so, the curtain closes on the Weymouth Olympic regatta - waves, sunshine, wind. Some might be asking questions about the British performance, but no one is asking questions about the wisdom of having the sailing here, or the job that the organisers have done. It's been a fantastic regatta, and Sailing Manager Rob Andrews and his team should be rightly proud of themselves.
On to Rio..
by Mark Chisnell
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6:33 PM Sat 11 Aug 2012GMT
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