by Lindsey Bell
At the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, the Olympic Test event, men's RS:X sailor Nick Dempsey and women's RS:X sailor Bryony Shaw have claimed Britain’s first medals at after winning silver and bronze in windsurfing.
Nick Demsey of Great Britain in action on his way to a silver medal during the RS-X Mens Class medal race on day ten of the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011
Dempsey went into the medal race at this Olympic test event assured of silver, but gunning for gold after a week of almost neck and neck racing with Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberge, who had a seven point margin over the Skandia Team GBR sailor going into the final day.
With Dempsey needing to put three sailors between himself and van Rijsselberge to grasp gold, the 30-year-old Athens bronze medallist took the fight to the Dutch sailor, forcing him onto the back foot at the start and leaving him to pull his way through the fleet.
At one stage, it looked as though Dempsey had done enough, but the Greek competitor positioned between the Brit and the Dutchman fell in on a tack, and allowed van Rijsselberge to come back and finish the race in fifth just three places behind Dempsey’s second, instead of the four places the Brit needed to clinch gold.
Dempsey lost out on test event gold by a single point, saying: 'I am happy, it’s just a shame I did not win.'
'It is very, very difficult to sail someone down the fleet and then sail yourself back up past everyone and that is exactly what happened. 'I managed to sail him back to last place, so we were effectively ninth and tenth, and then got myself up to second and so that’s all I can ask of myself.'
Van Rijsselberge spoke highly of his British rival. 'It’s always a healthy competition going on between us, so it’s great,' he said. 'It was a really good race. Before the start Nick didn’t really show anything so I didn’t really know what to expect. At the start he was right there mixing it up trying to make it as hard as he could, and he really did. I was really impressed by his skills.'
'This is the most important event of the year for me because this is event that really most resembles the Olympic Games,' said Dempsey of the significance of this Olympic test regatta. 'Really, it’s about winning here, about winning under pressure, in the Olympic format so it has been great experience. The organisers have thrown us a few swerveballs this week and I think we’ve dealt with them quite well.'
Bryony Shaw was buoyed by her bronze in the RS:X women’s event, having pushed into the top three positions for the first time heading into the final day.
The Beijing bronze medallist didn’t enjoy the best of medal races, finishing seventh after falling in on a tack, but it was enough maintain her overall third. 'This is my target regatta for the year, so to medal here I am really, really happy,' Shaw explained.
'There’s a year to go and all the preparation is about board speed, and just making sure again that I am minimising mistakes, getting the experience and reeling in the Spanish and Polish girls.'
'I feel like I am so much better than I was in Qingdao. This is about being an all-rounder in Weymouth, so I feel like I am on track.'
'There has been a real buzz, Skandia Team GBR is really tight, building towards next year and so we always try to emulate this [event] as a full dress rehearsal. It is all about preparing for next year.'
Friday will be a high stakes day, with medal racing for the 470 men, 470 women, Laser and Radial classes, and the continuation of racing in the Finn, Star and 49er fleets who lose their originally-planned rest day after heavy winds disrupted their schedule.
The Star class – still two races short of a full series – managed two late races in Portland Harbour, with a race win and a fourth for Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson boosting them into third overall, while Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes will need two good results from their expected two races on Friday to keep them in touch of the top three spots. The Finn fleet never managed to leave the marina on Thursday.
For Friday’s medal races, Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark will look to protect their overall first in the 470 women’s event, where they hold a narrow one-point lead over the Japanese duo Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata going into the final race. Paul Goodison can’t finish worse than his current position of fourth in the Laser event and will look to push into the podium spots, in the 470 men’s event Nick Rogers and Chris Grube will aim to improve on their fifth place and Charlotte Dobson will hope for a solid Laser Radial medal race to end her regatta with.
Skandia Team GBR squad for the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta:
Laser - Paul Goodison
Laser Radial - Charlotte Dobson
Finn - Ben Ainslie
RS:X Men - Nick Dempsey
RS:X Women - Bryony Shaw
470 Men - Nick Rogers and Chris Grube
470 Women - Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark
49er - Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes
Star - Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson
Women's Match Racing - Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor
Skandia Team GBR website
Weymouth and Portland International Regatta website