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30 August 2006, 01:20 pm
Day 10: The Perfect Ending
The Tornado fleet heads downwind with the Media Centre and breakwater in the background
The Tornado fleet heads downwind with the Media Centre and breakwater in the background

Qingdao International Regatta 2006
Qingdao, China

All eleven Medal Races were completed at the Olympic Test Event in Qingdao today, with a fresh south easterly breeze blowing across Fushan Bay and plenty of excitement for the mass of locals gathered out on the breakwater overlooking the action.

Great Britain picked up four gold medals, whilst the hosts China won four medals led by Zhennan FANG's (CHN) victory in the Men's RS:X.

The 49ers got the Medal Race action underway on a Course Area A positioned right in front of the harbour wall, providing a genuine close up view for the spectators who had gathered to watch the final races of the ISAF Grade 2 Qingdao International Regatta. Over the past ten days the Organizers have sold 40,000 tickets to the spectators areas and on the on the final day 8,000 people came to watch the Medal Races.

Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR) gave Great Britain the perfect start to the day with a controlled performance in the 49er Medal Race giving them the gold medal.

Next up on Course Area A, FANG (CHN) provided the crowd with a home victory in the Men's RS:X event, and the scene was set for a perfect end to the racing in China.

World Champions Take The Spoils

The 49er Medal Race began in ten knots, with World Champions Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR) holding a three point lead over Emmanuel DYEN and Yann ROCHERIEUX (FRA). With third place Rodion LUKA and Georgiy LEONCHUK (UKR) out of gold medal contention, DRAPER and HISCOCKS never let the French pair out of their sight. The Brits took control of the race, and as the 49ers rounded the top mark and headed right in towards the harbour wall, the local spectators were given a masterclass in controlled skiff sailing.

In a final attempt to rid themselves of their British shadow, DYEN and ROCHERIEUX headed off right on the downwind to the finish, but the gamble did not pay off and they crossed in tenth and last place, three behind the Brits.

At the front LUKA and LEONCHUK had a close battle with Peter HANSEN and Soren HANSEN (DEN), but just piped them to second place in the race and the bronze medal.

AINSLIE Adds A Final Flourish

In the opening race out on Course Area B, Ben AINSLIE (GBR) added a final flourish to a remarkable comeback performance in the Finn, winning his first Medal Race in typically emphatic fashion. With the strong breeze giving hiking conditions for the second day running, AINSLIE again proved that - despite a year virtually without even stepping into the Finn - he is still the man to beat in the class.

Emilios PAPATHANASIOU (GRE) came in fifth to secure the silver medal, whilst World Champion Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN) was third in the race and the overall standings. AINSLIE now returns to America's Cup duties with Emirates Team New Zealand and expects another similar layoff from the Finn circuit, but with such a dominant display in Qingdao - nine bullets and two seconds in the eleven races - the Olympic Champion has once again proved he is the benchmark in the class.

Olympic Champion Shows Her Class

Athens gold medallist Faustine MERRET (FRA) went into today's Women's RS:X Medal Race only needing to keep tabs on Limei SUN (CHN) to secure victory, but instead she marched to overall victory with a start to finish win.

From the gun MERRET shot off left on the opening upwind, sailing straight out to the breakwater and leading by the time she cut in towards the top mark. Meanwhile SUN had opted for the right and found herself relegated way down the standings and in danger of losing her silver medal.

Buoyed by the support from the nearby supporters she fought back strongly on the downwind, as MERRET stretched her lead and Athens silver medallist Jian YIN (CHN) fought with Malgorzata BIALECKA (POL) for the bronze medal spot.

By the finish MERRET was a clear winner, with YIN getting the better of BIALECKA to leapfrog her into the bronze medal position, whilst SUN came in seventh and had done enough to hold on to silver.

Gold For China

Following the thrill of watching 49ers zip around the race course, the crowd gathered on the harbour wall were in for an even bigger treat. The Men's RS:X fleet lined up for the start of their Medal Race with Zhennan FANG (CHN) holding pole position and a six point lead over double ISAF Youth Worlds Champion Lukasz GRODZICKI (POL).

From the start Hong Kong's King Yin CHAN surged into the lead and had the race wrapped by the midway point. Meanwhile GRODZICKI had his work cut out, trying to put pressure on FANG and also attempting to hold off the challenges of Aichen WANG (CHN) and Feng HE (CHN).

For a competitor with such limited experience of international competition, FANG was certainly playing it cool, keeping an eye on his closest challengers before making his move on the final downwind to slip in sixth ahead of WANG and GRODZICKI to take the gold medal. CHAN's bullet was enough to lift him up the leaderboard to take the bronze medal, whilst HE crossed in third to complete a fantastic one-two for the hosts.

France Takes Tornado Honours

Olivier BACKES and Paul Ambroise SEVESTRE (FRA) won the all French battle for top honours in the Tornado, providing a fitting finale for the spectators watching the action on Course Area A. After BACKES, sailing with crew Laurent VOIRON, missed out on the medals in Athens by a mere three points, the experienced Tornado helm took a year out before returning to the class with SEVESTRE this year. Victory in Qingdao is the first for the new pairing and was completed in the tightest of fashions as they went into the Medal Race just one point behind the world number two crew Xavier REVIL and Christophe ESPAGNON (FRA), a stage set for a victory shoot out.

Aussie duo Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY (AUS) have a terrific record in Medal Races and were runaway winners in the seven to eight knot westerly breeze. but it was too little to late and they finished the series in sixth overall. Behind them 2000 and 2004 Olympic gold medallists Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT) came in fifth to ensure they kept the bronze medal, leaving the French to do battle for the gold.

A poor first beat saw BACKES and SEVESTRE round the top mark in last, but from then on they kicked into a higher gear. REVIL and ESPAGNON struggled to respond and by the time they were back at the top mark were staring at the stern of their team mates. BACKES and SEVESTRE made no mistake on the final downwind, converting their lead into seventh place and the gold medal, whilst REVIL and ESPAGNON dropped further back to finish ninth in the Medal Race and second overall.

Dutch Win In Yngling

After a slightly off day by their standards in yesterday's penultimate day of racing, Mandy MULDER , Brechtje VAN DERWERF and Janneke HIN (NED) wrapped up their event by taking the finish gun and with it the gold medal. After a great start the Dutch team posted their fourth bullet of the series and completed a convincing overall win.

MULDER, who only started helming the Yngling last year, will be delighted with the team's performance on Fushan Bay. The Dutch Yngling teams have shifted personnel right through the year in an effort to find the top team to compete in Qingdao in two years' time and this combination has stated their case emphatically.

Great Britain claimed the silver medal with Helena LUCAS, Annie LUSH and Lucy MACGREGOR (GBR) sailing another very strong race to finish in second place close behind the Dutch. The racing between the top finishing boats in the medal race was tight, but with the top three boats on significant points margins going into the Medal Race, it was more a question of sailing conservatively to secure their respective positions.

They opened the series with a bullet, placed in the top three throughout the regatta and today took the bronze medal position, an outstanding series for the Chinese team of Xiaqun SONG, Xiaoni LI and Chuanshuang ZHANG. The trio only started sailing the Yngling five months ago, and the Qingdao International Regatta is only their second appearance at an international event, after a finish of 33 at the Yngling World Championships in La Rochelle, France earlier this year.

Their teammates Ru WANG, Fei DU and Yang GAO also qualified to the Medal Race and finished the series in seventh overall.

Swedish Pair Take 470 Gold With Medal Race Bullet

Olympic bronze medallists Therese TORGERSSON and Vendela ZACHRISSON (SWE) won a downwind race to the finish to knock Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA) off the top of the Women's 470 leaderboard and take the gold medal.

TORGERSSON and ZACHRISSON went into the Medal Race eight points behind leaders and ISAF World Sailing Games winners PETITJEAN and DOUROUX and three back from European Champions Stefanie ROTHWEILER and Vivien KUSSATZ (GER). However with the French and German teams getting stuck in a battle further down the fleet, the Swedish team snuck ahead of Brazilians Fernanda OLIVEIRA and Isabel SWAN to take the gun and claim only their second ever ISAF Graded event victory.

PETITJEAN and DOUROUX looked to be well in control of the fleet two days' ago, but a bad gybe 100 metres from the finish of yesterday's race in heavy airs saw them post a 17, and again they struggled in today's Medal Race. With the whole fleet close as they headed towards the finish, the French pair were unable to make up the two places they needed to hold on to gold and eventually crossed one behind the Germans in seventh place. They still hold on to silver, whilst ROTHWEILER and KUSSATZ take bronze.

Brits Take Gold And Bronze

Athens silver medallists Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) completed a terrific return to the 470 fleet today, posting a fourth place in the Medal Race to take overall victory. The pair have spent a long time away from the circuit since Athens, just competing in the Europeans and Worlds last year - where they finished second on both occasions - before their return to the class this year was delayed by injury. In Qingdao they have shown no signs of rustiness, fighting back from an early black flag to win by 25 points.

The man that stood one step lower than them on the Athens podium, Kazuto SEKI (JPN), took a confidence boasting bullet in the Medal Race with crew Shoichi YANAGAWA to finish in sixth overall, and will next be heading off to Rizhao for the 470 Worlds next week.

Korea's Asian Sailing Champions and multiple Olympians Daeyoung KIM and Sungahn JUNG will also go to Rizhao on the top of the game after taking the silver medal in Qingdao, although they were unable to put pressure on the leaders during the Medal Race.

ROGERS and GLANFIELD's British team mates Nic ASHER and Elliot WILLIS made the most of the Medal Race ahead of Nicolas CHARBONNIER and Olivier BAUSSET (FRA) to take the bronze medal.

Laser World Number One Comes Good

Paul GOODISON (GBR) proved why he is number one in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, cruising to an impressive Medal Race win to secure victory in Qingdao. GOODISON went into the race tied on points with Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO), who beat him to the bronze medal in Athens two years ago. However the Brit has been on a hot streak of late and after recovering from illness last week looked back to be right back in his stride out on Fushan Bay today.

With the pressure on, the world number one was infallible, starting well, leading up the middle through the first beat and then extending on the downwind. With the wind dropping off to around five knots as the race progressed he was able to consolidate his lead and never looked like letting victory slip.

GOODISON was delighted with the victory and saw it as an important step towards success in Qingdao in two years' time. 'I think it is really great to win in a venue that you are going to be sailing in. Just psychologically that you know you can beat all the other guys in these waters. It is a really good sign.'

Whilst GOODISON controlled the race, ZBOGAR was taking more risks and playing the angles, but the strategy never paid off and he ended the race last on the course.

With ZBOGAR falling back, Steven LE FEVRE (NED) climbed up to the silver medal position after finishing fourth in the Medal Race. It is a terrific result for the young Dutchman, better known in the Laser Radial class and making his first appearance at an ISAF Graded regatta in the Laser. Andrew MURDOCH (NZL) had a great downwind and got the better of a very tight finish to the Medal Race to come in third and grab the bronze medal on countback from ZBOGAR and Maciej GRABOWSKI (POL).

ALEH Holds Off CLARKE

Assured of the gold medal going into today's Medal Race final, Paige RAILEY (USA) was still keen to get off the line and show her form. But, she was just a bit too keen and it wasn't until RAILEY was some way up the opening windward leg that she realised her error of being on course side (OCS) at the gun and returned to re-cross the line.Even by RAILEY's demanding standards, she found herself in a position from which it was impossible to recover and went onto finish the race in last position and with it added 20 points to her scoreline.

Behind RAILEY, the battle was for the silver and bronze medals with Jo ALEH (NZL) and Penny CLARKE (GBR) head to head. Assured of the bronze medal, CLARKE's goal was to outsail ALEH for the silver, but ALEH had a different plan. ALEH knew she just had to finish within one boat of CLARKE to keep the silver and she delivered her goal faultlessly tailing CLARKE throughout the race, to finish in seventh with CLARKE in sixth.

For both ALEH and CLARKE, their performance at the Qingdao International Regatta must rank as career bests. CLARKE who only started campaigning full time this year, has rapidly demonstrated her talent, most recently claiming the bronze medal at the Europeans in Italy.

Victory in today's Medal Race went to Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA). TUNNICLIFFE put in some excellent results and claimed the most bullets in the series, but these were interspersed with double-digit results which held her back from the podium places.

Two of China's three entries in the Laser Radial fleet qualified to the Medal Race, and today they placed second and third, giving Xiaoying SHEN seventh overall and the recent winner of the Laser Radial Worlds, Lijia XU ninth overall.

USA Takes Star Gold

The Star fleet wrapped up their series today with the leading three crews assured of a podium finish, but just the medal colour undetermined. The remaining teams in the fleet chose not to take to the water, but watch the colour of the medals unfurl

The order of the boats across the line was the order of the medals claimed, with Andrew HORTON and Brad NICHOL (USA) taking the gun and the gold medal, Iain PERCY and Steve MITCHELL (GBR) coming in second place for the silver and George SZABO and Eric MONROE (USA) third and the bronze.

For PERCY and MITCHELL they were close to the gold, having taken the overall lead yesterday, but a second place today left them one point adrift of the Americans.

Speaking after securing the gold medal, a victorious HORTON gave his feedback on the Medal Race format, 'This is the third medal race we have done and we really like medal races. We like sailing close to the shore. Today was a very short race, which didn't take very long. Maybe today it was one hour at the most and it's a lot of boat handling pulling the sails in, turning the marks, the windward mark, the leeward mark... the Star has a lot of it. So we like that! And it's exciting because it's very fast!'

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