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20 August 2007, 03:25 am
Big Gains And Big Smiles
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Evi VAN ACKER celebrates a fine start in Qingdao

Qingdao International Regatta 2007
Qingdao, China

Breeze on in Qingdao! Lumpy water and 6-8 knots of wind from the southeast made for a lot of smiling faces from sailors from all over the world at the 2007 Good Luck Beijing Sinopec Qingdao International Regatta.
Ben AINSLIE (GBR) got off to a winning start in his return to the Finn, whilst in the two windsurfing events China recorded their best performances so far.

Needless to say there were some big shifts and the current played a major issue at the starts and in calling lay lines. All classes sailed all of the races that were scheduled for the day. The big winners for the day were AINSLIE, Evi VAN ACKER (BEL) with a 1,2 in the Laser Radial, Therese TORGERSSON and Vemdela ZACHRISSON (SWE) who had a 1, 2 in the 470 Women's class and Bryony SHAW (GBR) who had a 1, 2 on the RS:X Women's fleet.

Reigning Olympic Champion Ben AINSLIE (GBR) made another dramatic return to the Finn heavyweight dinghy, posting a win and a second place to top the overall standings. AINSLIE has not competed in the Finn since the Test Event in Qingdao last year, but won the opening race by a comfortable 50-second margin before placing second behind Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED) in race 2.

AINSLIE competed in the 2006 Test Event under similar circumstances, arriving in Qingdao with hardly any practice or competition in the Finn over the previous 12 months (due to America's Cup commitments). Last year he also began the regatta with a win and a second place on the opening day and then went on to blitz the competition with another eight bullets. This year the Finn fleet is larger and strong than 2006, making AINSLIE's performance all the more remarkable, although he did admit to feeling tired after today's opening two races.

Out on the Laser and Laser Radial course the current made things hard to judge. The Laser class had a general recall as the fleet jockeyed for position into the current. VAN ACKER recovered from two mediocre starts by playing the left up the top of the first beat while the fleet was on the right. She went from about 20th to sixth on the first leg and then picked off a couple of more boats on a shifty downwind leg. According to VAN ACKER, her big gain came during the second weather leg when she tacked right on the lay line and others over stood the mark because they had not compensated for the current. During the second race of the day, VAN ACKER had another big gain and went from 24th to second in the race.

Along with AINSLIE, several more of last year's test event winners also established early leads. One of them was his British team mate, Paul GOODISON (GBR), who was the most consistent starter in the Lasers, with 3,4 scores putting him on top of the pile.

On the 470 course, 2006 test event winners TORGERSSON and ZACHRISSON have established themselves in a commanding lead following three races. They attribute their 1, 2 for today to winning the pin end start. Once the fleet flopped over onto port, they were launched. During the second race their big gain came when they were the first among the front pack to gybe. Posting a 2, 1 for the day and second in the regatta were Ai KONDO and Naoko KAMATA (JAP). In the 470 Men's fleet the sailing was tight and there was a lot of yelling as they rounded the final mark with their spinnakers up and sailed the final short reach to the finish. Javier CONTE and Juan DE LA FUENTE (ARG) and Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS) won the first and second races, respectively. With 4,5 score, Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR), another of 2006 test event winning crews, lead the regatta.

Out on the Tornado course Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY (AUS) held the lead from the start of the first race and nearly had a photo finish as they gybed to make the port end of the line and Johannes POLGAR and Florian SPALTEHOLZ (GER) finished more toward the centre of the line. Xavier REVIL and Christophe ESPAGNON (FRA) followed the Aussie's suit and picked their way around the closely located orange and red marks of the Star and Tornado courses to win the second race of the day.

Five Star World Champion teams battled for the bullet in the first race of the series. The smart Swedes, Fredrik LOOF and Anders EKSTROM, stole the lead from Ian PERCY and Andrew SIMPSON (GBR) on the last leg of the race. There was quite a fleet inversion during the second race of the day for the Stars. The winner of the race was Flavio MARAZZI and Christoph CHRISTEN (SUI) in their specially designed boat for these conditions. While MARAZZI and CHRISTEN led all of the way around the course, the boat that gained the most on the run was this year's World Champion team of Robert SCHEIDT and Bruno PRADA (BRA). They finished second in the race and recovered from a 9th around the last mark. Putting in a strong performance in both races, as is their norm, was Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA). They lead the Star class with after 3, 3 scores.

The RS:X sailors had their work cut out for them trying to keep their balance in the swells. The Chinese are in third in both the RS:X Men and RS:X Women's classes. Yuan Guo ZHOU (CHN) opened the regatta with a victory for the Chinese team. ZHOU stole the show with a 38-second lead around the first mark in the men's division and was able to maintain it around the entire trapezoidal course. ZHOU finished sixth in the second race. Tom ASHLEY (NZL) sits atop the leaderboard with a 3,2 for the series so far.

Jian YIN (CHN) had a nearly a 100-yard lead around the first weather mark of the first race but had a difficult time keeping SHAW at bay. SHAW and Allessandra SENSINI (ITA) traded places for the final three legs of the race, with SHAW coming out the victor. Faustine MERRET (FRA) stole the show in the second race by leading all of the way around the course.

Newly crowned World Champions Sarah AYTON, Sarah WEBB and Pippa WILSON (GBR) made a terrific start to lead after today's opening two Yngling races. The British trio scored 2,1 for the day to hold the overall lead one point ahead of Sally BARKOW, Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI (USA). The British and Americans crews finished first and second at the recent World Championships and dominated the opening two races in an 8 knot southeasterly out on course area D. 'We kept our strategy simple, and didn't make any major mistakes,' was AYTON's concise analysis of their day.

Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP) extended their lead with another impressive day in the 49er skiff fleet. The Athens gold medallists posted two second places to move nine points clear of Athanasios PACHOUMAS and Athanasios SIOUZIOS (GRE) at the top of the leaderboard. The Spanish team's consistent start is a big contrast to their performance at the 2006 test event.

revealed MARTINEZ. 'This year, our boat has a better mast. Overall, we are much better prepared equipment-wise.'

Racing continues in Qingdao tomorrow.



Men's 470

Women's 470



Laser Radial

Men's RS:X

Women's RS:X




'Last year, we didn't have a very good boat, and were just coming here to see the conditions and do some training,'

Organizing Committee of the 2007 Qingdao International Regatta
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