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Foto copyright Richard Langdon / Skandia Sail for Gold
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Skandia Sail for Gold created its first 2010 Champions today in three classes, the Skud-18, Sonar and 2.4mR.
it was the Australian pair of Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox that have dominated the class with seven first places and two seconds. The Beijing silver medalists beat the British team of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell into second place – which made it silver in successive years at Skandia Sail for Gold for Rickham and Birrell. We spoke to Daniel Fitzgibbon afterwards, “It’s been a good week for us guys, a long week but it’s been a good week. We’ve done really well we’ve sailed well and Rach [Rachael Cox] and I are getting better and better and we’re doing well. It’s great coming to Weymouth [with two years to go], I’m comfortable in the conditions and we’ve had a great a result going forward to the Games.”
In the Sonar class we’ve had an intriguing, week long battle involving another British crew, but this time up against a Dutch team; Udo Hessels, Marcel van de Veen and Mischa Rossen. They took an early lead, which was dragged back to just a single point by John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stevie Thomas going into the final day. But it wasn’t to be for the Brits, who choose a bad day - Friday 13th - to have a bad day, scoring a seventh and sixth. It left the Dutch comfortable winners, with the Israeli team of Dror Cohen, Benni Vexler and Arnon Efrati just a point behind the Brits in bronze. The 2.4mR class was another week long duel with another Dutch team involved, Thierry Schmitter up against France’s Damien Seguin. The pair had traded the lead all week, and it came down to a single point – Seguin winning it in the final race. The Beijing Gold Medallist, Paul Tingley from Canada fell just short of the podium in fourth.
In the other ten classes, it was also judgment day of a kind. The drop was looming yesterday, and this evening we can see the big names that didn’t make the cut for tomorrow’s medal race. In the 470 Women the Danish team of Henriette Koch and Lene Sommer - who were battling for the ISAF Sailing World Cup - didn’t make it, and nor did Skanida Team GBR’s double Yngling Gold medallist, Sarah Ayton and her crew Saskia Clark. We spoke to Sarah afterwards, “It was a tough day, we were actually doing a really good job, but in the last race I made a really bad decision on the last leg of the last course and we literally went from hero to zero, so that was pretty tough. But the other British girls led the way and did really well so all in all Team Skandia GNR had a good day!”
The Star fleet is star-studded, so there were always going to be big-name casualties – they included the second placed team at this year’s World Championship, Flavio Marazzi and Enrico de Maria. Amongst other notables not to make the cut were George Szabo and Mark Strube, Mark Mendelblatt and John von Schwarz, Xavier Rohart and Pierre Alexis Ponsot, along with Andy Horton and James Lynne. In the Finn, it was Rafael Trujillo, Spanish silver medalist from Athens 2004 who will miss the medal race this time. And there was an equally high-profile casualty in the RS:X Men, with the Beijing Gold medallist and 2008 World Champion, New Zealander, Tom Ashley missing out by a single place in eleventh. No such disappointment amongst the stars of the female boarding world though, in the RS:X Women.
In the 49er it was the British pair, John Pink and Rick Peacock, second at the Worlds in 2009 who won’t make it. And in the Lasers, it’s Spain’s Javier Hernandez, current leader of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, and Austria’s Andreas Gertizer, bronze medallist at this year’s European Championship that will miss out. There was a desperate outcome in the Laser Radials for Tatiana Drozdovskaya from Belarus, who was fifth at the World Championships. She won the last race, but it still wasn’t enough to make the medal race – she was eleventh by a point! Another high profile casualty was the American, Page Railey, who picked up a second black flag disqualification today to end her chances at the podium.
The ten remaining fleets are down to this week’s top ten sailors, and there was some fantastic racing to get down to the medal race teams. In the Women’s Match Racing, we saw a succession of epic battles to get our finalists. None more so than the GBR versus USA match, when Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Katie Macgregor met Anna Tunicliffe, Molly Vandemer and Debbie Capozzi. It was a critical match for the ISAF Sailing World Cup – Macgregor and co. were a point ahead for the tour so far, but defeat would lose them the title. They also started the day 0-2 down, but recovered the -0.75 awarded for damage in an overnight appeal. And that meant they only had to win three races on the trot.
It was a tall order, but they got desperately close, winning two, then getting the lead and a penalty on Tunnicliffe in the third. But the Americans weren’t done yet, clearing the penalty and getting the lead back on the run, and holding it to the finish. Afterwards, we spoke to a disappointed Lucy Macgregor, “The result is hard because we felt like we sailed well, but me in particular, [I] made some mistakes in the last race which I won’t forgive myself for a while. But we do feel like we sailed well, so certainly are disappointed with the final result.”
It was far from the end of the action though, because the French team of Claire Leroy, Marie Riou and Elodie Bertrand were only a point behind Team Tunnicliffe in the ISAF SWC standings. And the French girls progressed to the semi-finals as well, after beating Katie Spithill’s Aussie’s 3 -1. The semifinal line-up saw Claire Leroy on the tiller against the Dutch team of Renee Groeneveld, Annemieke Bes, Brechtje van der Werf. While Anna Tunnicliffe took on the other top Australian team of Nicky Souter, Nina Curtis and Olivia Price. No one really expected the result – a three-nil victory to the Aussies.
So if Claire Leroy went through to the final, she would take the ISAF Sailing World Cup title. The French team went two-nil up before Renee Groeneveld pulled a race back. But Claire Leroy, long-term resident at the top of ISAF’s Women’s Match Race Rankings, wasn’t to be denied and with her crew took the fourth race to go through to the final against Nicky and co.... as ISAF SWC 2010 Champions. Leroy was delighted afterwards, “To win the World Cup is a big surprise for us! We were so happy because as we passed the line our coach shouted that Anna didn’t win her race and we just couldn’t believe we had won the World Cup! We are really pleased, but we still want to win the event.”
The battle lines have been drawn right through the fleets; in the Finn class, the young pretender to Ainslie’s crown, Giles Scott has extended his lead over the fleet and needs to finish eighth or above to take the title in the double point medal race tomorrow. The fight is on for the other medal positions, with just seven points separating Ainslie in second place to New Zealand’s Dan Slater in sixth. Sydney 2000 Olympic Finn bronze medalist, Freddy Loof and his crew Johan Tillander (SWE) have just edged ahead of Ireland’s Peter O’Leary and Frithjof Kleen in the Star class after a commanding performance in the shifty breeze. The Swedish pair are guaranteed a medal of some colour, but are not far enough ahead of Poland’s third placed Matuesz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki to be able to just focus on the Irish team.
In the 470 Men, the medals will either go to France, Australia or Britain, it’s just the order that is still to be decided. The French pairing of Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos have been battling it out with Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS) all week for the top spot. With just two points separating them, the gold medal is likely to come down to whichever pairing beats the other on the water tomorrow. However, third placed Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell are 15 points off the lead and could still take the title if the French and Australians decide to match race each other to the back of the fleet. It’s Japan that is guaranteed a medal in the Women’s 470. Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata scored a 24th in the first race of the day which they discarded as their worst result, and still have an 11 point lead over the America’s Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving.
After a commanding performance in the Laser class yesterday, Australia’s Tom Slingsby’s added a 16th and 19th to his scores to let reigning Olympic gold medallist Paul Goodison back into the game. Goodison knocked in a first and third to leave him eight points adrift of Slingsby going into the medal race. The pair will battle it out for the gold medal. It was nearly dark when the Laser Radial fleet finally stepped ashore and there had been a reshuffle at the top of the leader board with Holland’s Marit Bouwmeester jumping from third back to first. New Zealand’s Sara Winther rose from fourth to the silver medal position and yesterday’s leader, Sarah Steyaert (FRA) dropped out of the top position to third. The points are close, so expect another reshuffle tomorrow.
It’s also too close to call in the RS:X Men’s fleet. Britain’s Nick Dempsey celebrated his 30th birthday today, but wouldn’t have enjoyed his 28th place in the first race of the day. It was his first double-figure score of the week and it let France’s Julian Bontemps finish the day on equal points. Holland’s Dorian Van Rijsselberge is one point adrift of the leading pair. And Spain’s Blanca Manchon cannot finish worse than second in the women’s RS:X fleet, tactics could be interesting as her only challenger to the gold medal is Charline Picon of France – which puts Picon at risk of losing silver if Manchon chooses to be ruthless. There was no one outstanding performance of the day in the 49er class. But Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen have a relatively comfortable 12 point lead over the chasing pack - just 3 points separate second from fourth place though, so still lots to play for…
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