Skandia Sail for Gold 2011 started on a flat note with most classes being postponed ashore waiting for the wind. When it finally arrived the Finns got just one race in with Dan Slater (NZL) taking the gun from Ben Ainslie (GBR) and Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO).
Most of the fleet had waited for this moment all year and they were made to wait just a little but longer for the British weather to sort out its priorities. The early grey day gave way to a typical south coast summer's day with bright sunshine and 8-10 knots breeze. But it was 17.30 when the Finns finally got their start away.
At the first mark Ben Ainslie (GBR) was leading followed closely by Dan Slater (NZL) and then the former double world champion, Jonas Hogh Christensen (DEN). It was tough racing with Slater closing the gap on Ainslie on the second run, before taking the lead when Ainslie went for the wrong gate. Slater then managed to hold him off to take first place. The current European Champion Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) finally took third with Hogh Christensen dropping to fourth.
Slater commented, 'It was a one way track with heaps of tide. To be honest I was lucky to pop out after the start and then it was really hard for people to pass after the first bottom mark rounding because of the current. I passed Ben at the bottom of the second run. Jonas was with us as well but he was third most of the time.'
Many of the sailors are feeling the pressure of the regatta as several federations are using it as a selection process for either or both the test event this August and the Olympics next year. One of those is Spain, and the favourite to win selection is Rafa Trujillo (ESP) the 2004 Silver medalist and 2007 World Champion. He said, 'It is a great opportunity to learn the race course and keep measuring myself against other Olympic rivals. I am really motivated to see what I can achieve here.
Last year in these waters I had my worst regatta of the year ending up 15th. Since the end of Hyeres I have been working hard in the gym and hope to change my progress this season into a positive.' However, the Spaniard didn't get off to the best start with a 16th today. 'My race was a little flat. I didn't take the first shift to the left and then I lost any chance to get back any places.'
The new World No 1 is the silver medalist from the 2008 Olympics, Zach Railey (USA). For him and the other USA sailors there is a change in the selection process this time around with results from Sail for Gold and the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Perth this December being combined to select the team for 2012.
Railey said, 'Knowing this process my main goal for this event will be to put as many boats as possible between myself and the other USA Finn sailors, my main competition coming from Caleb Paine and Luke Lawrence. This event is the first step in a three step process we have been working towards for quite some time so there are a lot of nerves and excitement, all at the same time.'
'I think that switching to an international trials system is a huge step forward in the way we select the Olympic Team. The regattas they are using are two of the most important regattas this year so all the top sailors will be at the events and they will get to see who sails best against all the top athletes in the World. I am 100% behind the new trials selection procedure.'
Railey placed fifth in today's race while Caleb Paine (USA) placed 24th and Luke Lawrence (USA) placed 29th. 'It's a solid start to the regatta, but it was a long day.'
Racing continues until Friday with the medal race for the top 10 on Saturday 11th June. Results after day one:
1 NZL 1 Dan SLATER 1
2 GBR 3 Ben AINSLIE 2
3 CRO 524 Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC 3
4 DEN 2 Jonas HØGH-CHRISTENSEN 4
5 USA 4 Zach RAILEY 5
6 GBR 41 Giles SCOTT 6
7 GBR 88 Mark ANDREWS 7
8 FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT 8
9 GBR 11 Ed WRIGHT 9
10 SLO 573 Vasilij ZBOGAR 10 Event website