by Lindsey Bell
Weymouth and Portland International Regatta's penultimate day has witnessed more medal glory for Britain’s sailors with silver for the women’s 470 pairing of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, and Paul Goodison winning the final medal race to take bronze in the Laser class.
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, 470 Women
Having amassed a ninteen point lead in the Finn class with two race wins on Friday, it would take a disastrous medal race for Ben Ainslie to claim anything other than gold on Saturday’s final day, while the Skandia Team GBR Star crew of Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, and the 49er duo of Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes are both within touch of the podium positions.
The British team achieved their regatta medal target of four with a day to spare at this Olympic dress rehearsal, with Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark taking the first of the day’s podium spots for the home nation.
After a strong regatta which they’d led from day one, the duo had their points gaps whittled down to just one ahead of the double points-scoring finale, meaning that they needed to stay just one place ahead of second-placed Japanese pairing of Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata to retain gold.
But the Japanese pair got the better of the GBR crew at the start of the race, and although Mills and Clark fought back hard, they couldn’t get past them and had to settle for silver.
'It was really close. We did some circling with the Japanese girls pre-start and we went in on equal points so whoever beat who was going to win,' Clark explained.
'We didn’t do the last circle with them because we didn’t think we had enough time to get back into the start so we left them to do the last circle. The Japanese went off to the right in that first beat and we couldn’t cross the boat inside us to follow them out there and that was it there and then really.
Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills, 470 - Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011
'We kept getting back right to them but just needed another boat length to actually call starboard on them or get them.
'We put them under pressure all the time, but we just didn’t have enough that last little boat length to really nail them.'
The duo, who have had a rapid rise to the podium, winning four medals out of the five regattas they’ve contested since teaming up in February, couldn’t hide their disappointment at letting gold slip from their grasp.
'It’s a bit of a strange emotion at the moment because it is a silver medal, it’s in the Olympic venue,' Clark explained. 'I’m sure if you said to us coming into this we were going to get a silver medal we’d have taken it and not bothered sailing! But now we both feel pretty gutted.'
'We want to make sure we do everything we can this winter to make sure we’re not in this position next year.'
Clark’s partner Paul Goodison claimed the second of the day’s spoils for Skandia Team GBR with a race-winning performance in the Laser final to time his run to the podium with perfection after a slow start to his regatta.
The Olympic Champion took bronze, with gold going to the Australian World Champion Tom Slingsby, and silver to Dutchman Rutger van Schaardenburg.
'Today the worse I could have done fourth overall and the best I could have done was gold,' Goodison explained.
Paul Goodison, Laser - Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011
'Without being too complicated and trying to make three boats finish in certain positions I figured the only thing I could realistically be in control of was my result, so the only thing was to go out for the win and I managed to do that.
'Unfortunately, Tom and Rutger did a little bit too well to keep me off the top spot, but that’s just sailing.'
'I need to start a little bit better,' Goodison continued.
'At both this regatta and Sail for Gold Regatta I had a slow start which just left me with too many points to catch up. Both regattas I’ve finished really well and been strong at the end but I need to get the beginning bit sorted otherwise it might not be gold next year.'
Friday saw the final medal races for the 470 men’s and Laser Radial classes. Nick Rogers and Chris Grube finished eighth in their medal race to finish their regatta in fifth overall, while a fifth in the medal race couldn’t improve Charlotte Dobson’s standing in the Laser Radial event. She ends her regatta in ninth place.
Skandia Team GBR’s Finn, Star and 49er sailors advanced on their penultimate day of competition.
Ben Ainslie needs only to sail a clean medal race tomorrow to be given gold ahead of Dutchman Pieter Jan Postma.
'Tomorrow is another good opportunity to learn a bit more about the venue on the medal course which is now under the headland, and is by all accounts a pretty tricky place to sail. It’ll be nice to finish off with a good show and try and learn more about the venue,' the triple Olympic gold medallist explained.
Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes narrowed the margin between them and the third placed New Zealand crew of Blair Tuke and Peter Burling in the 49er class, with just five points now standing between the British pair and the bronze medal, while Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson will be in a nail-biting final race for the Star class.
Gold is already assured for Brazil’s Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada, but the battle for silver and bronze is still on, with Ireland’s Peter O’Leary and David Burrows, Poland’s Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki and Percy and Simpson all effectively equal heading into the final race.
Medal races are due to kick off at 1200 for the 49er class, 1300 for the Star class and 1400 for the Finn class.
Skandia Team GBR website
Weymouth and Portland International Regatta website