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23 August 2006, 04:57 pm
Day 3: Defending Gold Medallists Make Their Mark
The 470 fleet head round the mark
The 470 fleet head round the mark
ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

Qingdao International Regatta 2006
Qingda, China

The defending gold medallists in the Tornado and Finn made their mark at the Qingdao International Regatta today, as Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT) and Ben AINSLIE (GBR) claimed victory in outstanding style, and marked themselves out as the sailors to beat.
Day three got underway in fluctuating conditions, proving a challenge for the Race Committee in their goal to set fair race courses. The focus was over in the heavyweight dinghy event who commenced their race series today, with the defending Olympic gold medallist, Ben AINSLIE (GBR) exchanging his America's Cup steed for the Finn.

After a postponement for the Women's RS:X and 49er on Course Area A, and the Laser and Laser Radial fleets on Course Area B, both Laser fleets were sent out onto the race course just before 1330 hours. However, the wind could not settle over in Course Area A, and no racing was held for the 49ers and Women's RS:X.

The 49ers will resume racing tomorrow, when racing is also scheduled for both the men's and women's windsurfer events. No racing was scheduled today for the Yngling, Women's 470 and Men's RS:X, all of whom enjoyed a well earned rest.

Olympic Champion Back In The Groove

The Finn fleet took to the water today for the first day of racing in the Heavyweight Dinghy event. Reigning Olympic Champion and four-time Finn Gold Cup winner AINSLIE was the centre of attention, as he made his long awaited return to the class. Whilst AINSLIE had been on America's Cup duty with Emirates Team New Zealand he has barely set foot in a Finn since September last year, but his record in the class is such (he has finished in the top two in every ISAF Graded regatta he has entered since Spa in 2002) that he still ranks amongst the favourites in Qingdao. And it did not take long for the Olympic Champion to find his feet.

AINSLIE rounded the top mark of the opening race with a sizeable lead, whilst new World Champion and number one in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN) was struggling way back down the fleet. The Olympic Champion went on to take the bullet and followed it with a second in race two to tie for the lead at the end of the day. 'It's good to be back racing and more than anything just to be out there racing with the Finn sailors again,' commented AINSLIE back in the boat park. 'It's hard - after such a long time out of the boat you do a few things wrong but luckily not too many things.'

Whilst many may have predicted AINSLIE gliding round the opening mark in first, the same could not be said of China's Hongquan LI, who followed the Brit round in second place, just ahead of AINSLIE's long time rival Emilios PAPATHANASIOU (GRE). Although PAPATHANASIOU was able to haul in LI to take second, the virtually unknown Chinese sailor held on to third and then crossed the finish eleventh in race two to lie sit in fifth overall on the scoreboard.

Meanwhile PAPATHANASIOU was obviously at home in the light south easterly breeze blowing across the course, getting the better of AINSLIE to win race two and take the overall lead.

HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN was never able to recover from his bad start in the opening race and finished a disappointing 16 in the 18 strong fleet. However, the Danish star fought back in race two, crossing the line in third to jump back up the leaderboard to ninth overall.

On a day in which consistency seemed hard to come by, Johan TILLANDER (SWE) and Gasper VINCEC (SLO) lie tied for third overall, after recording scores of 7,4 and 4,7 respectively.

Europeans Champions Take Control

Newly crowned European Champions Diego NEGRI and Luigi VIALE (ITA) broke the four-way tie at the top of the Star fleet today, posting seconds in both races to move into a two point lead. Acknowledging the challenging conditions in Fushan Bay, NEGRI said, 'Today was a difficult day like yesterday and the day before. The wind was about 6 knots, and we had a very strong current. We managed to take the lead a couple of times, but in the end we finished 2nd, but we are still the leaders. We are very lucky, but I don't know if it will last for long!'

World number one crew George SZABO and Eric MONROE (USA) had a good start and rounded the top mark leading along with Iain PERCY and Steve MITCHELL (GBR). SZABO and MONROE pulled away as the Brits fell back, and had established a big lead over NEGRI and VIALE by the second upwind mark. From there in they sailed on to the bullet, with the Italians second and the second American crew of Andy HORTON and Brad NICHOL (USA) recovering from a bad start to take third.

PERCY and MITCHELL were back to their best in race four winning ahead of NEGRI and VIALE to move into a tie for second overall with SZABO and MONROE, who finished today's race four in fifth. HORTON and NICHOL maintained their consistent form with a fourth place finish and lie fourth overall in the fleet.

Double Olympic Champions Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT) blew away the rest of the Tornado fleet today, posting two bullets to move into an eight point overall lead. The experienced Austrian crew signalled a return to form by winning the recent light wind dominated European Championship in Germany, and today were invincible as Qingdao seemed to bring out their Olympic form. Having lost what seemed to be an untouchable lead yesterday, HAGARA and STEINACHER (AUT) were determined not to make the same mistake twice. In a postponed race two, they held a narrow lead over Francesco MARCOLINI and Edoardo BIANCHI (ITA) by the top mark and just pulled away over the course of the race. Understandably HAGARA was pleased with their results, 'We had a very good performance, despite the difficult conditions. The current is very important. We're not quite used to it, but it's very interesting. Most of the sailors come from Europe and sail on the Mediterranean sea where there's no current at all most time. This is something new for most of the people here. It's quite a challenge.'

Behind them the Italians eventually got the better of a tough scrap with Roland GAEBLER and Gunnar STRUCKMANN (GER) to take second place, with Olympic silver medallists John LOVELL and Charlie OGLETREE (USA) finishing fourth.

Race three brought HAGARA and STEINACHER their second bullet ahead of the number two crew in the World Rankings Xavier REVIL and Christophe ESPAGNON (FRA). LOVELL and OGLETREE came in third to move up to second place overall, two points ahead of REVIL and ESPAGNON.

ALEH Finds Her Form

Her steady improvement in results has rewarded Jo ALEH (NZL) today as she leaps into the lead in the Laser Radial fleet. Clearly finding her form as the regatta progresses, ALEH has posted 9,4,3 and took the gun in today's only race. Breathing down her neck however is Paige RAILEY (USA) who also gave her best performance of the series, finishing just behind ALEH in second, to move her up into second overall. Looking ahead to tomorrow, ALEH commented, 'I definitely hope I can continue to perform well!'

No such luck for Sarah STEYAERT (FRA) who went into today's race as the fleet leader, but a disappointing result of 27 sees her drop down to fifth overall.

Coincidentally the sailors who finished first, second and third today will go into tomorrow's racing in first, second and third overall.

Penny CLARK (GBR) will be pleased to return to the top three of the fleet, claiming the bronze medal position, after a third place finish today.

THOMPSON Shines In The Light Breeze

2004 ISAF Youth Worlds Champion Nick THOMPSON (GBR) was the star of the show in the Laser today, posting 1,2 scores as the rest of the fleet struggled for consistency in the tricky conditions off Fushan Bay.

However with the discard coming into play after race five today, Evagelos CHIMONAS (GRE) retains an impressive twelve point overall lead as he excludes his worst result of the series, a 32 in race five! THOMPSON has had an up and down regatta so far. He thought he had started with a bullet before he was disqualified from race one for a port-starboard incident and then went OCS in race two. A ninth yesterday began the recovery and then today's results means he is back in the running for a spot in the ten-boat Medal Race final, as he currently sits in 13th overall.

Andrew MURDOCH (NZL) had led early on in the day's first race before THOMPSON overhauled him, but a 2,6 day from the New Zealander moves him up to third overall. Olympic bronze medallist Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO) lies second overall, thanks to a fifth in race five today.

Apart from THOMPSON, the other bullet today went to Igor LISOVENKO (RUS), which helps move the Russian up to eighth place overall.

USA Takes The Yellow Jersey

It can all go so wrong so easily, and an OCS for the series leaders in today's race three sees Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) falling from grace. They managed to redeem themselves slightly with a third place finish in race 4, but still languish outside the top three in fifth overall. ROGERS acknowledged their need to hold steady results, 'We've got to make sure that we stay consistent.'

The only crew to hold their position with the top three of the fleet are Spain's Francisco SANCHEZ and Alejandro RAMOS who sailed a cautious but consistent result of 12,13 in today's races to remain in the bronze medal position.

Nicolas CHARBONNIER and Olivier BAUSSET (FRA) have now jumped into the silver medal position, achieved with a solid second place finish in today's opening race three, combined with their worst result of the series, a 14 in race 4. They have sailed safely and consistently and are duly rewarded.

The new team who will be wearing the yellow leader dot when racing resumes in the Men's 470 fleet on Friday are Stuart MCNAY and Graham BIEHL (USA), who converted their position from fourth overall to the fleet leaders after a 13,5 posting.

There was a brief taste of top three success for Gideon KLIGER and Udi GAL (ISR) who found themselves in first place overall after race three, but a black flag disqualification in race four saw that position knocked out of their hands, and they concluded today back in 13th overall.

Race victory in races three and four went to Benjamin BONNAUD and Romain BONNAUD (FRA) and Roy Junhao TAY and Pei Ming CHUNG (SIN).

Schedule for Thursday 24 August

The race schedule for 24 August is:

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