Perth 2011 Sailing World Championships sixth day saw the start of the finals series racing off Freemantle, Australia. British contenders endured mixed fortunes as the competition for world titles stepped up a gear.
A fascinating battle for gold medal glory is unfolding in the Finn class where Skandia Team GBR’s European Champion Giles Scott and five-time Finn World Champion Ben Ainslie are currently poised in second and third respectively and are both well within striking distance of the series leader, Pieter Jan Postma with four more gold fleet races to go ahead of Sunday’s double-points scoring finale.
The Dutchman Postma won the only race of the day in the heavyweight dinghy class, with Scott close behind, Ainslie third and all five British Finn sailors finishing inside the top seven.
'[Today] would have been a lot more straightforward if I’d had a decent start but I got my timings all wrong so was on the back foot really, but I managed to pull through half way up the first beat and rounded third,' Scott explained.
'I managed to get Ben but didn’t have enough to get Postma so that was slightly frustrating but second’s still good.'
Ainslie, in the hunt for an unprecedented sixth Finn world title, was complimentary of his key rivals and relishing the competition.
'It’s a very strong fleet, the Finn fleet, and it’s broad in its level of talent. Certainly Giles and PJ are two of the brightest guys out there and are normally up there at the top of the fleet, so I expected them to be doing well.'
'So far we’ve seen reasonably strong conditions and you see some guys in the fleet who like those conditions doing well, and others not so well, so we’ll see what happens for the rest of the week,' said the triple Olympic gold medallist of the predominantly windy conditions in Fremantle.
'I’m one of the smaller guys in the fleet so I do find [the windy conditions] hard at times, but that’s the challenge. You’ve got to be able to perform whatever the conditions are and certainly Giles and PJ are sailing really well at the moment so I’ll have to hope they slip up somewhere along the road!'
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Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell, overnight leaders in the 470 men’s event, will look to bounce back from a disappointing day when they resume gold fleet racing on Friday.
The 2009 World Championship silver medallists could only manage 28th in their sole race of the day after a bad start and a capsize, but are able to discard this as their worst result and so remain in second place overall just two behinds behind the Australian leaders.
'We had a bad start and got caught in the pack up the first beat which actually led to a capsize – silly me keeping the jib cleated – and it was an uphill battle from there,' Bithell explained.
'We caught a few back but nothing too special – but that’s OK. We had a good qualifying [series], we’ll bring our fifth in now, hopefully discard today’s result and look forward to tomorrow. Two more races, breeze on apparently – we’re not phased and we’ll keep going.'
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Nick Rogers and Chris Grube improved their standings to seventh overall thanks to a fourth from their race, with the double Olympic silver medallist Rogers delighted with their result on a 'perfect day’s sailing'.
'It was a really important day for us,' he explained. 'In the results overall we’ve got a bad result already to carry so it was really important that we get generally good strong top ten results.
'I think we overcame one of the small problems we had from yesterday we’re really pleased with a good result.'
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Nic Asher and Elliot Willis also remain in the top ten medal race positions in the 470 fleet, in spite of a bad outing on Thursday, while Bryony Shaw will look to come out fighting after Friday’s layday in the RS:X Women’s event, as she slipped from second to fourth overall following their three gold fleet races today.
Alison Young remains the top British contender in the Laser Radial event, in tenth overall. Skandia Team GBR website