As athletes departed Skandia Sail for Gold on Thursday afternoon, the storm was growing to its peak and overnight, it blasted Weymouth and Portland with winds in excess of 50 knots. Waves broke over the famous Chesil Bank, the rain poured down and the venue was cleared in case of flooding. What a welcome to the British summer!
By Friday morning the wind had not abated calling an early end to the Paralympic regatta. The other classes had longer to wait, but at 14:30 racing was called off for the day for everyone. The silver fleets and those that didn’t make the gold fleet cut for the medal race joined the Paralympians in packing up. Tomorrow, the top ten in each Olympic class will race for gold, silver and bronze.
The Paralympic regatta was always due to finish on Friday; all three classes were completed with six races and one discard. In the Skud, the British four-time world champions of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell dominated with a string of five consecutive wins, to take the gold medal with a five point advantage from the Qingdao bronze medallists, John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit. The 2008 silver medallist Daniel Fitzgibbon and his new crew, Liesl Tesch took the bronze, another three points behind.
The British Skud duo had never won the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta, Niki Birrell commented, 'It feels fantastic to finish the regatta with a gold medal here in Weymouth and Portland. We came here wanting to win this event and we have done so, that’s great! Obviously we want to win the Paralympics in September so the overall result here wasn’t as important as the Games, but it’s still great to have won!'
In the Sonar’s it was another British team taking gold – John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas took the win from the Dutch trio, Udo Hessels, Mischa Rossen and Marcel van de Veen. There were just two points in it, with Canadians, Bruce Millar, Logan Campbell and Scott Lutes in third, seven points adrift of the Dutch.
Steve Thomas commented, 'I was quite disappointed actually that racing got cancelled, it would’ve been good to get more practice in before the Games. We had an average start to the regatta but we improved on the second day and we wanted to continue with that through the week. It was a pretty tough competition, all the guys here are going to be at the Games, it was a strong fleet, everyone sailed well.'
Mischa Rossen, from the Netherlands Sonar, reflected on the week, 'Well, it’s been a very wet week but we had a lot of different winds which was good. We’re pleased with our second place finish but a bit disappointed, we really wanted to get out and try and beat the Brits today! We were only two points behind them so we did have a good chance, but we learnt a lot and we have a few things that we can take away and work on back home.'
Helena Lucas came desperately close to completing a remarkable British hat-trick in the Paralympic classes. Lucas had pulled up to tie-level with the Netherlands Thierry Schmitter on Wednesday, but Schmitter had the advantage in the tie-break thanks to a first place score. And with no more racing, Lucas was left ruing a lost opportunity, but consoled by a silver medal. 'I’m obviously happy with the silver medal but at the same time a little frustrated as I was so close to the gold.'
Both Schmitter and Lucas may be pleased to have beaten gold and silver medallist Damien Seguin of France – one of Paralympic sailing’s most be-medalled individuals. Seguin had to settle for bronze on this occasion, four points behind the lead pair. Thierry Schmitter said, 'I’m thrilled to have won, it’s a shame that we only got to sail three days when we came here to sail five, but the weather you can’t control and the good thing is that I finally won this regatta. The lesson is that you have to be good at every race and not wait until the second half of the regatta to get into the lead.'
While most of the dock talk at the gale-bound Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy was about the upcoming Olympics, plans are already in place for a post-Olympic future. In 2013 Sail for Gold will be part of the European Sailing Federation’s new European Sailing Cup. The rest of the circuit will be Garda Olympic Week, Italy; Delta Lloyd Regatta, The Netherlands; Kieler Woche, Germany and Semaine Olympique Française, France, with Sail for Gold currently scheduled for the 10th to the 14th June 2013.
Looking ahead, there is lots of anticipation for the Medal Race day tomorrow, all the classes are still wide open, some are desperately tight, no-one is guaranteed gold and very few are guaranteed a medal. The action starts early for the Match Racing Women – the intention is for them to begin at 08:00 BST, and they have plenty of sailing to do; quarter finals, semis and finals still to be raced. The rest of the classes start at 10:00 with the Lasers up first.
Skandia Sail for Gold 2012 - Day Five Results
470 men – after eight races with one discard
1st AUS Mathew Belcher, Malcolm Page – 12 points?
2nd GBR Luke Patience, Stuart Bithell – 15 points
3rd NZL Paul Snow-Hansen, Jason Saunders – 20points
470 women – after eight races with one discard?
1st NZL Jo Aleh, Olivia Polly Powrie, 26 points?
2nd FRA Camille Lecointre, Mathilde Geron 35 points
3rd BRA Martine Grael, Isabel Swan 39 points
Finn – after seven races with one discard?
1st GBR Giles Scott – 7 points?
2nd GBR Ben Ainslie – 19 points ?
3rd USA Zach Railey– 29.3 points
Star – after 6 races with 1 discard ?1st GBR Iain Percy, Andrew Simpson – 14 points ?2nd BRA Robert Scheidt, Bruno Prada – 15 points ?3rd IRL Peter O’Leary and David Burrows – 17 points
Laser – after 8 races with 1 discard
1st AUS Tom Slingsby – 24 points
2nd GER Philipp Buhl – 29 points?
3rd Tonci Stipanovic – 35 points
Laser Radial – after 8 races with 1 discard?1st CHN Lijia Xu – 21 points
2nd GBR Alison Young – 22 points
3rd FIN Sari Multala – 22 points
RS:X Men – after 8 races with 1 discard
1st FRA Julien Bontemps – 21 points
2nd NED Dorian Van Rijsselberge – 29 points
3rd GBR Nick Dempsey – 37 points ?