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27 August 2006, 01:20 pm
Day 7: The Pressure Mounts
Ben AINSLIE in the fog on day seven at the Qingdao International Regatta
Ben AINSLIE in the fog on day seven at the Qingdao International Regatta

Qingdao International Regatta 2006
Qingdao, China

The first of the Medal Race line ups was decided in Qingdao, China today at the Olympic Test Event.
Whilst the ten Laser sailors who will compete for the medals at the ISAF Grade 2 Qingdao International Regatta on Wednesday are now known, across the other fleets the pressure is mounting. Hundreds of interested locals were again spread out along the breakwater of the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre for the seventh day of racing at the Olympic Test Event, although a postpone ashore meant they had to wait just over an hour beyond the scheduled 1300 start time for racing to get underway. They were not the only spectators getting a grandstand view, as a helicopter hovered above the RS:X and Laser fleets relaying live pictures back to QTV viewers in Qingdao.

When the wind did begin to blow today it was initially very shifty, but became steadier and increased through the day up to around eight to ten knots. As the wind filled in, so the fog arrived, which together with a very strong current, added a further element of intrigue to today's racing.

The 49er, Star and Yngling fleets all had a rest day today, but out on the water there was racing in all eight other classes. As the fleets approach the end of their opening series, all eyes are turning towards the top ten places and who will qualify for the Medal Race. Today Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) proved a couple of good scores can completely turn things around, as he took his place in the Laser Medal Race.

SLINGSBY Shines

Australian star SLINGSBY had a terrific 1,2 day in the Laser fleet today, putting the finishing touches to a terrific fight back after a disastrous opening day in Qingdao. The win and the second place see him climb up from 13th to sixth overall and only ten points off the lead. At the end of the opening series for the Lasers the ten Medal Race contestants have now been decided, with all the big names eventually making it through.

A bullet in the incredibly tight and foggy second race today lifts World number one Paul GOODISON (GBR) up into a tie for the lead with Olympic bronze medallist Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO). Steven LE FEVRE (NED) posted a third place in today's final race to move up to third overall, whilst scores of 25,11 see yesterday's overall leader Maciej GRABOWSKI (POL) drop down to fourth.

"A medal was my goal coming into this regatta and I maybe had to reassess that goal the other day as I wasn't feeling great," said GOODISON, who has lost five kilos through illness since he arrived in Qingdao. "But with how the conditions have been here I could hopefully still end up with a medal of all goes well."

The light winds and strong current experienced in Qingdao throughout the past week have made for some very tricky Laser sailing. In such a high quality fleet mistakes and misjudgements have been proving costly and sailors have been posting high scores across the board. This has set up a fascinating Medal Race, with GOODISON and ZBOGAR leading on 79 points and just 13 points covering the next seven sailors. With scores counting double in the Medal Race and all top four of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings set to compete, everything is set for a perfect Laser finale in Qingdao.

RAILEY Back To Her Best

After a difficult couple of month Paige RAILEY (USA) is looking back to her dominant best in the Laser Radial fleet, posting bullet and a second place in today's two races to move into a comfortable 22 lead with just one race of the opening series remaining. After a virtually flawless first year in the Laser Radial, when she won European, Youth World and World titles and rose to the World number one spot, RAILEY also had a great start to this year, most notably getting the better of two close Medal Race battles with Sophie DE TURCKHEIM (FRA) to win in Hyères and then at the ISAF World Sailing Games in Austria.

Since then though she has endured disappointment at the light wind Europeans in Italy and then the Worlds, where defending the title on her home waters she suffered three yellow flags and was forced to retire from the series.

In the first race on Fushan Bay today though it was back to old times as RAILEY took the bullet ahead of DE TURCKHEIM, with Jo ALEH (NZL) coming in third. RAILEY hit the front again in race nine, this time with Sari MULTALA (FIN) chasing her hard down the final downwind. With the strong current a major factor on the downwind, MULTALA squeezed past RAILEY in the tightest of finishes.

ALEH's third place pushes her above Penny CLARK (GBR) into second overall, whilst World Champion Lijia XU (CHN) had a difficult 10,18 day and remains in tenth overall. The pressure is on for her to post a good score tomorrow in order to ensure she makes the Medal Race line up.

History Repeating

There is a definite sense of déjà vu surrounding the Women's RS:X leaderboard tonight, with the Olympic gold and silver medallists from Athens, Faustine MERRET (FRA) and Jian YIN (CHN), occupying the top two spots.

MERRET did not have a great start in the day's opening race, but battled through the first upwind as the television helicopter hovered overhead. She had built a sizable 30 second lead over Peina CHEN (CHN) by the first mark with YIN in third place, but from there on in CHEN gradually reeled in the leader to take her first bullet of the regatta. MERRET and YIN followed in second and third place, before CHEN undid all her good work in the next race by going OCS.

ISAF Youth Worlds bronze medallist Malgorzata BIALECKA (POL) picked up the win in race six, but still falls from third to fourth overall after finishing ninth in race five. YIN completed her best day yet in Qingdao with a second place, whilst MERRET slipped back to ninth. However with the discard coming into play and Limei SUN (CHN) having a disappointing day, MERRET actually extends her overall lead to four points over YIN, with SUN falling back to third place overall.

MERRET has been impressed by the strength in depth of the Chinese windsurfing team competing in Qingdao. 'I think they are really good in this kind of wind. They are always at the top of their game. It is interesting to see us competing against each other.'

The conditions experienced so far in Qingdao have definitely favoured the lighter sailors in the windsurfer fleets, and the agile frame of overall leader Zhennan FANG (CHN) was soon working its way through the Men's RS:X fleet in their first race of the day. Hong Kong's King Yin CHAN has also been enjoying the lighter winds and took the bullet from FANG, with Julien BONTEMPS (FRA) holding on for third.

CHAN completed a great day on the water with his second bullet in race eight, with double ISAF Youth Worlds gold medallist Lukasz GRODZICKI (POL) following in second. FANG suffered minor slip up with a ninth place finish, but still retains the overall lead, although now CHAN is just two points behind. GRODZICKI lies four points further back and is looking almost certain to line up in his first ever Medal Race this Wednesday.

Chinese 470 Teams Spring Surprise

After only posting one other top ten finish all series, the Chinese team of Yimei WEN and Chunyan YU sprung a big surprise in today's Women's 470 race by taking the bullet ahead of Olympic bronze medallists Therese TORGERSSON and Vendela ZACHRISSON (SWE). Although WEN and YU still look highly unlikely of making the Medal Race down in 24th overall, their bullet combined with the race three win for Xiaoli WANG and Xufeng HUANG (CHN) shows there is plenty of potential for China to work with in the Women's Two Person Dinghy event.

Overall leaders Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA) kept up their consistent scoring with a fifth place, whilst their closest challengers Camille LECOINTRE and Gwendolyn LEMAITRE (FRA) suffered a major setback finishing in 26th.

The disappointing showing from LECOINTRE and LEMAITRE means TORGERSSON and ZACHRISSON move up to second place overall and PETITJEAN and DOUROUX's overall lead increases from three points yesterday to 17 today.

"I think the conditions in Qingdao are changing everyday," explained TORGERSSON after today's race. "So everyday you have to learn a lot of new things - new current and different kinds of wind. Everyday is a new day. In most places in Europe, where we sail, there is not as much current. But it's nice and very good to sail here."

In the Men's 470 fleet, one race was completed but nine boats requested redress which the International Jury granted under Rule 62.1(a), and it was decided to abandon the race under Rule 64.2.

Tornado Change At The Top; AINSLIE Unflappable

Following a near flawless start to the regatta, double Olympic Champions Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT) suffered a major set back today, going OCS in race seven to lose their overall lead. Olivier BACKES and Paul Ambroise SEVESTRE (FRA) seized on the mistake with a bullet to move into a five point overall lead. Xavier REVIL and Christophe ESPAGNON (FRA), who had been tied in second place with their French team mates, came in eighth to move within two points of HAGARA and STEINACHER.

Olympic silver medallists John LOVELL and Charles OGLETREE (USA) remain in fourth place overall after finishing ninth today, whilst the much fancied Australian team of multiple World Champion Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY are perilously close to slipping out of the Medal Race places, as one of three other teams caught OCS with HAGARA and STEINACHER today.

Ben AINSLIE (GBR) added a fifth bullet to his series score in today's only Finn race, fighting through the light but steady wind and increasing fog to extend his overall lead to twelve points. Long time rival Emilios PAPATHANASIOU (GRE) did his best to keep tabs on the irrepressible Brit by finishing in second place to minimize the damage.

AINSLIE described it as the most challenging race to date in Qingdao, and unlike his start to finish win yesterday, this time he had to fight his way past the leading boats. By the second upwind mark he was back in his familiar first place and now holds a perfect score of five points after six races.

PAPATHANASIOU is winning what is increasingly looking like a battle for second place overall, ahead of Johan TILLANDER (SWE), who finished third in today's race six.

Schedule for Monday 28 August

  • Course Area A - Women's RS:X and 49er
  • Course Area B - Laser Radial
  • Course Area C - Men's 470 and Women's 470
  • Course Area D - Finn and Star

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