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23 August 2007, 02:44 am
Perfect Medal Race Day
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Elsie RECHICHI and Tessa PARKINSON celebrate their gold medal

Qingdao International Regatta 2007
Qingdao, China

Great Britain and Australia led the way as eight gold medals were decided in fantastic conditions for the Medal Races at the Qingdao International Regatta.
The breeze kicked in today in Qingdao with 15-18 knots sweeping across the courses for today's eight Medal Races. Great Britain ended the day with three gold medals and a silver, whilst the Aussies picked up two golds, a silver and a bronze. France also claimed four medals, all of them bronze.

The breakwater is set up ideally for watching windward-leeward courses that run parallel to the prevailing wind direction, in short, a great vantage point to watch the Medal Race and it turned out to be a great day for watching them too. Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED) won silver in the Finn and summarized things nicely, 'Today was a perfect day. The wind was perfect, blowing at around 15 knots, and the waves were big.'

When sailors turned the corner out of the marina they were surprised by the heavy winds and the waves. Some sent their coaches back in to get their hiking boots, hiking shorts and spray tops. As the day went on the wind came up and the current started to rip in the opposite direction of the wind making for tall rollers that broke over spectator boats by the end of the day.

Sailors had to adjust everything for today's sailing. The rollers and whitecaps were strong enough for the RS:X sailors to catch air while they zipped around the starting area. Everyone else tightened down their rigs and powered up for racing. Mental attitudes also changed. Sailors focused on the medals at stake and were less concern about sunstroke and heat exhaustion. Spectators even wore jackets.

On the outer courses the Yngling, Laser and Laser Radial fleets all completed the final races of their opening series and will line up for their Medal Races tomorrow, starting at 13:00 local time.

The 49ers got things underway today with an incident-packed race which would set the scene for the fantastic action to come. Stevie MORRISON and Ben RHODES (GBR) won gold after a great fight back in the 49er Medal Race. The World Champions were down in eighth at the last mark and in danger of missing out on the podium completely, but stormed down the run, picking up four places to take gold. Olympic Champions Iker MARTINEZ and Xavi FERNANDEZ (ESP) led around the course to win the Medal Race and take silver, whilst Peter HANSEN and Soren HANSEN (DEN) won bronze.

Whilst the Spanish were streaking away at the front, behind them the breeze was causing a good deal of consternation in the fleet with several crews taking a dip in the water. MORRISON and RHODES did manage to stay up and a good first beat saw them recover from a poor start and round the top mark in fourth. With the HANSEN brothers back in tenth, it looked like the Brits had the race under control, but they dropped back through the fleet on the run and were down to eighth before they fought back on the final run, helped by a couple of capsizes at the front. This also allowed the HANSEN brothers to make up a couple of places, but in the end they were a distant eighth place.

Reflecting on the past eight days in Qingdao, MORRISON felt the team still had a lot to improve upon, 'We made a lot of mistakes in this competition, and are surprised that we came out on top. Nevertheless, it feels great to win the gold. Hopefully, this is a good sign.'

Following the 49ers on area B where the two RS:X fleets were the big home hopes lay. However Chinese hearts sank as Tom ASHLEY (NZL) blitzed his way around the RS:X Men's Medal Race course to win the gold medal. ASHLEY even had time to remove a plastic bag caught on his board to take the gun with a 19-second advantage over Julien BONTEMPS (FRA). China's big Yuan Guo ZHOU (CHN) took a seven-point lead into the race but was clearly struggling in breezier conditions and eventually finished ninth, still good enough for him to take the silver medal. BONTEMPS' second place finish ensured he completed the podium.

The fleet got a fairly even start with ASHLEY heading out to the right side. He and BONTEMPS had a clear speed advantage in the 15-knot breeze and cleared out on the rest of the fleet to finish first and second.

'I had an awesome race today. The breeze was perfect out there for me, and my equipment performed very well,' said a delighted ASHLEY.

ZHOU admitted that the conditions had been his undoing, 'The wind was pretty strong today, which is something I am not used to. My biggest problem in this race was that, technically, I am not up to par with the other competitors. I did not have a lot of pressure on me today. The course wasn't a big problem. My start was OK, but I started to fall behind about three minutes into the race. I still have a lot of preparation work to do if I want to compete in next year's Olympics.'

Things went from bad to worse for the Chinese as Jian YIN (CHN) dropped from third overall to fifth in the women's fleet, whilst Bryony SHAW (GBR) won Great Britain's second gold medal of the day.

The spectators in Qingdao were treated to an enthralling Medal Race with the two legends of women's Olympic windsurfing, Barbara KENDALL (NZL) and Alessandra SENSINI (ITA), battling neck-a-neck for the gun. KENDALL won the day, but SENSINI's second place and Jessica CRISP's (AUS) third helped them jump up into the silver and bronze medal positions respectively, as both Faustine MERRET (FRA) and YIN struggled in the breezier conditions. SHAW however took them in her stride, coming in a comfortable fourth to win the gold.

'I had a lot of fun out there,' said SHAW. 'The wind seemed to be blowing at a constant 15 knots, which allowed us to sail fast. It was unbelievable. I put in a lot of work for this regatta, and have had an up and down year. Winning this event has given me a boost in confidence, and I look forward to hopefully being here next year.'

The wind built up to 20 knots for the final Medal Race on area B, perfect conditions for the Tornado fleet. Austria's double Olympic Champions Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER had excelled in the lighter conditions during the opening series, but the breeze today did nothing to stop them wrapping up gold with a third place in today's Tornado Medal Race. Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY won Australia's fourth medal of the day as they came in behind the Austrians to take the silver.

Reigning World Champions Fernando ECHAVARRI and Anton PAZ were a little off the pace in the opening series, but in today's stronger conditions the Spaniards found their form. They led around every mark to take the gun, although the fast-finishing Xavier REVIL and Christophe ESPAGNON where only a few seconds behind. The French crew revelled in the breeze and their second place secured them the bronze medal.

World Champions Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS) bagged Australia's first gold of the day with a consummate performance in the 470 Men Medal Race. The Aussies looked perfectly at home in the wind and the waves typical of the home country and cruised to the gold medal. Last year's test event winners Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) came in second to take silver, whilst Alvaro MARINHO and Miguel NUNES (POR) grabbed the bronze after Gidi KLIGER and Udi GAL (ISR) capsized on the final run.

In the following race on area A, Elsie RECHICHI and Tessa PARKINSON (AUS) bagged the gold in the closest finish of the day. Ruslana TARAN and Olena PAKHOLCHYK (UKR) held the lead going into the day but their mid-line start on port set them behind they entire fleet and they never recovered.

This left RECHICHI and PARKINSON and Ai KONDO and Naoko KAMATA (JPN) battling for gold as two of the leading five boats that approached the line. World Champions Marcelien DE KONING and Lobke BERKHOUT (NED) had held a narrow lead for most of the race but were pipped on the final run by the fast finishing Ingird PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA). For the French this was enough for the bronze medal, whilst the gold to be decide just a few seconds behind them as Australia, Japan and Israel approached the line.

'We were using every muscle in our body to pump and push as hard as we could,' revealed RECHICHI and in an incredibly tight finish they prevailed, crossing the line 4 seconds ahead of KONDO and KAMATA, but crucially with Nike KORNECKI and Vered BOUSKILA (ISR) between them. This left the Aussies and Japanese tied on 52 points, with the RECHICHI and PARKINSON taking gold thanks to their superior Medal Race performance.

AINSLIE Triumphs

Ben AINSLIE (GBR) completed a second remarkable comeback to the Finn class by winning gold in today's Medal Race, Great Britain's third gold medal of the day. AINSLIE had a terrible start and was last at the top mark, but battled back to seventh to win gold by eight points.

AINSLIE had a commanding 11 point lead going into the Medal Race and Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC (CRO) could only win if he put at least five boats between him and the Brit. The Croatian was looking good until his capsized a couple of hundred yards from the finish line to fall out of the medal positions. With the Croatian's capsize went any gold medal threat to AINSLIE and he crossed in seventh to secure overall victory. KLJAKOVIC GASPIC's error also set up a drag race down the run for silver between Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED) and Peer MOBERG (NOR). The Dutchman got the gun and the second step on the podium, whilst MOBERG collected the bronze medal.

'This regatta has given me a great boost in confidence,' said AINSLIE just before heading off to the Medal Ceremony. 'I am very happy with my performance this week. I sail very well right now, but still have a great deal of room for improvement.'

The Stars were the final fleet out on the water for their Medal Race. Robert SCHEIDT and Bruno PRADA (BRA) added the test event title to the Gold Star they won at the recent ISAF Sailing World Championship in Cascais.

Iain PERCY and Andrew SIMPSON (GBR) headed for the pin at the 1 minute horn and from there had a great first beat to established a winning lead. SCHEIDT and PRADA rounded in fifth and made the bold move of gybing early on the top of a wave, surfing down the backside and passing Hamish PEPPER and Carl WILLIAMS (NZL), who had been tied for second with them going into the day.

It proved to be the key moment of the race, with the Brazilians holding off the Kiwis from there and moving up to second by the finish. Hamish PEPPER and Carl WILLIAMS (NZL), the 2006 World Champions, won silver after finishing fourth in the Medal Race, whilst Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA), 2005 World Champions, finished seventh in today's race, falling from first to third overall and the bronze medal.

The gold medal in Qingdao completes an amazing year for SCHEIDT and PRADA, who have now well-and-truly thrown down the gauntlet ahead of the Brazilian Star trials, where they will face on Athens gold medallists Torben GRAEL and Marcelo FERREIRA (BRA).

And Tomorrow...

After today's two Laser races Paul GOODISON (GBR) holds on to the overall lead with 3,12 scores. Rasmus MYRGREN (SWE) had a even better day with 6,3 scores moving him into second overall, five points behind GOODISON.

In the single Laser Radial race, Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA) recovered to sixth place after capsizing; a result good enough to give her an 11-point lead going into tomorrow's Medal Race. Jo ALEH (NZL) remains second overall and is TUNNICLIFFE's only threat for gold, whilst Tina MIHELIC (CRO) and Evi VAN ACKER (BEL) look set to fight it out for bronze.

The highlight of tomorrow's races looks set to be the Yngling Medal Race with Sally BARKOW, Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI (USA) just one point ahead of Sarah AYTON, Sarah WEBB and Pippa WILSON (GBR). The American and British crews have been impossible to separate all regatta long and finished 3,2,1 and 4,1,2 respectively today.

Results

49er

Men's 470

Women's 470

Finn

Laser

Laser Radial

Men's RS:X

Women's RS:X

Star

Tornado

Yngling

Aussie Winners

Organizing Committee of the 2007 Qingdao International Regatta
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