It was a clean sweep for Team GBR at the Medal Races for the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.
The tension on the water was clear, not just because of the battles to win the various classes but because every competitor's goal is to represent their country at the Olympic Games. As of next year, all eyes will be on Weymouth, the venue for the 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition.
With sailors from 16 different countries competing, the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta was a truly international event. The British team, many of which have already been selected to represent Great Britain at the Beijing Olympic Games next year, dominated proceeding on the final day's racing. The competition which has been strong all week, especially from the likes of Sweden and France, saw some extreme conditions, outstanding performances and hard lessons for many on the water.
Sunday saw the classes line up to take part in the Medal Race.
The 49ers saw a closely fought battle between John PINK
and Simon WHEELER
, and world #1 crew Stephen MORRISON
and Ben RHODES
. The two British teams pushed each other hard on the race course, as the conditions saw the crews powering along in 15-18 knots of breeze. The fast pace was too much for several crews who saw their masts fall under the pressure, having to limp back into shore empty handed.
'Pinky', often does well in the light winds - a fact acknowledged by current World Champion MORRISON. "He hasn't quite hit the heights on the international stage but in a smaller event in England he is quick and hard to beat," he said. "He sailed a great day on Saturday and punished us for the mistakes we made. In a smaller fleet, there were too many points to realistic catch up in the final race. The weather has been frustrating this week. We've only done four fleet races whereas normally we would be doing 12 fleet races and then a Medal Race."
There was disappointment for former world #1 Laser sailor Paul GOODISON
(GBR), who was pipped to the post by fellow Brit and Olympic training partner Nick THOMPSON
. At just 21 years old THOMPSON put in a faultless race, and whilst the win over his team mate is welcome, he has his sights set further ahead to representing Britain at the 2012 Games.
After racing THOMPSON commented, "It was fantastic to win the gold medal, it has been a great competition, we've seen some extreme heavy weather conditions that have pushed us all hard. Both Paul and I have been underweight since competing in China, and it has often been a problem for me to bulk up, making racing in these conditions very challenging. But it is great to take the gold medal, and I wish Paul every success in China next year, hopefully I will have the opportunity to represent Britain here in Weymouth in 2012".
The 470 Women saw the British crew Christina BASSADONE
and Saskia CLARK
, who after a bad start off the line made ground on the first beat, by the end of the race, the British crew has a comprehensive lead to secure gold overall. Sweden's Therese TORGERSSON
and Vendela ZACHRISSON
took silver and Henriette KOCH
and Lene SOMMER
from Denmark finished in the bronze medal position.
"We were a bit faster than the Swedes in the breeze and they were a bit faster than us in the light stuff. We'd won the first race every day so when we found out that it was going to be an early race on Sunday, we knew we would have a great chance of winning,"
commented, British Women's 470 sailor CLARK.
and Joe GLANFIELD
(GBR) ruled over their rivals, Nic ASHER
and Elliot WILLIS
(GBR), in the Medal Race in the 470 Men class . As the wind increased, ROGERS and GLANFIELD experience showed, and although finishing second in the medal race, it was enough to secure the gold medal overall. Whilst Briton's top two teams fought it out at the top, Germany's Lucas ZELLMER
and Heiko SEELIG held onto the bronze medal.
Showing their tactical skills in the Tornado were world #6 pairing Leigh MCMILLAN
and Will HOWDEN
, the conditions were perfect for the catamaran to show its full potential. After a short regatta, just five races for the fleet in total, silver went to ROB WILSON
and Mark BULKELEY
and bronze to Andrew WALSH
and Edward BARNEY
, making a clean sweep for Britain in the Tornado class.
"I am very happy to win overall and felt I could have won the Medal Race but we wanted to cover Andrew Walsh to be sure of winning the class,"
said helmsman, MCMILLIAN.
The battle of the heavyweight dinghies was won by world #3, Ed WRIGHT
, who produced an awesome display both mentally and physically. WRIGHT sailed a tactical race against the Swede Daniel BIRGMARK
, who has been vying for the lead all week. Another outstanding performance was seen from Giles SCOTT
(GBR), the sailor who recently moved up from the youth squad, showing that with WRIGHT and double Olympic gold medallist Ben AINSLIE
(GBR) the future for Team GBR is very healthy indeed. He sailed well the Medal Race, to walk away with the bronze medal overall.
"It was great to win here as I haven't done much sailing for a while and I felt that I was fast but kept making silly mistakes. Luckily, I managed to not make those mistakes today and had a clean race against Daniel. I do like sailing down here it is a really good place to race,"
The Laser Radial Medal Race was one of the closest of the day, with a tussle between Brits Laura BALDWIN
, Penny CLARK
and Elizabeth VICKERS
, who started the day with just two points separating the trio. But it was BALDWIN and CLARK who match race all the way round the track, with CLARK the eventual victor.
In the RS:X Women, Bryony SHAW
(GBR) walked away with gold ahead of her nearest rival Spain's Blanca MANCHON
, both had been fighting for the top spot throughout the week, with SHAW sealing the deal today.
"It was really nice wind out there for me. I was second in the Medal Race and I was very pleased to pass a few people in the race to win second over all. I like racing here and really want to try to get back here in 2012, the competition with Bryony has been great and it is fantastic to have someone to push you out there on the water, "
Completing the day's racing was the RSX Men's fleet with Britain's Nick DEMPSEY
leading the pack and being the only windsurfer to lay the first top mark. All other sailors had to tack up to the mark, never touching the commanding lead of DEMPSEY. This performance assured the Briton the gold medal, but Fabrice HASSEN
(FRA) who had performed consistently all week, failed to make ground falling back into bronze overall.
Whilst the top international sailors battles it out on the water, 150 RYA youth and junior squad members descended on Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. To join some of Britain's top Olympic athletes; Ben AINSLIE, Iain PERCY and Sarah AYTON. The day was intended to offer a unique insight into the Olympic classes programme for Britain's young talent.
Results - http://www.skandiasailforgoldregatta.co.uk/pages.asp?id=8941