Recovering from a major collision mid regatta Britain’s Nic Asher (23) and crew Elliott Willis (24) blasted to a win in the 470 Mens Medal race at the 2008 World Championship on Port Phillip Bay yesterday. It was their second World title.
They won the 2006 470 titles in Rhizho China, on the last run. Australia’s Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page had been leading the medal race and they were on track to win the title. But they were controversially pinged after a dubious R flag change and the title went to the Asher and Willis.
The Britishers were off the circuit with injury problem for four months ahead of the Cascais Worlds and had finished 11th. Coming into this 2008 regatta, they wanted to prove the first time was not just luck.
Their training partners fellow Brits, Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield, the Athens 2004 Silver medallists, had been in better form over the last year. They had won Silver in the Test event in China and they had gained selection in the British team for Qingdao and last week they won the Grade One Sail Melbourne regatta.
Asher and Willis started well, by Sunday they were second overall. Then disaster, a major collision with Australian's Matt Belcher and Nick Behrens in Race 8.
Willis had precautionary X rays, there were no breaks only painfully bruised ribs. The British duo missed three races, but their redress claim was successful. Back on the race course they sailed a nine and a five and were back with a winning chance.
Going into the Medal Race Alvaro Marinho and Miguel Nunes from Portugal were leading on 51 points. Gideon Kliger and Udi Gal from Israel had 54 and Asher and Willis 54.1 (including their three 6.7’s) ahead of Nicholas Charbonnier and Oliver Bausset of France on 60.
Asher tells the story ‘The first part of the regatta was very light and choppy. We had a good qualifying series and that kept us right up there, after receiving redress we were in a position to challenge.
‘We knew we had to try and win the race. We thought we'd see where we were at the top mark and make a decision on the race plan from there.’
Asher continued ‘The wind had built since the finish of the Womens final to 12-14 knots from the south west. At the start, we had a tight lane; we had to tack away for clear air and then came back again left with the fleet. At the top mark we were in the lead. No decision needed, we just kept sailing hard.
‘We had really good pace upwind and down wind speed and we were able to sail quite conservatively and just use our speed. We made big gains up the second beat; we covered the fleet then sailed away from them.’
Down the final run and on the reach the winds topped 20 knots and the British blasted to victory. They finished ahead of LeBoucher and Garos from France, with the Portuguese pairing of Marinho and Nunes third.
Three times World Champions Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page finished fifth, it was their worst ever 470 regatta finishing eighth overall.
Overall it was Asher and Willis ahead of Portugal and Israel. Nick Rogers and Glanfield were eighth.
Asher summed up ‘We are happy to have won our second World title. We are naturally disappointed we won’t be in Qingdao; we are looking to Weymouth in 2012. With the preparation they will have over the next six months we hope to see Nick and Joe on the Podium in Qingdao.
Confidence from his training partners but Nick Rogers was grimacing as he talked about this regatta ‘we ended up ninth, not so flash. We had one very bad day, when we missed a couple of persistent shifts. Overall we have learnt a lot though. Our starting was not up to it, we were too cautious. You need to have punchy starts and we got that wrong.
‘The qualifying races were sailed in light and lumpy conditions like Qingdao, so that was good. Now Qingdao is our focus. Over the next six months our coaches are going to run a series of events in China. Lots of work ahead and the clock is ticking.’