Racing at the Sail for Gold Regatta 2014 got underway on 2 June as a south-westerly 8-12 knots greeted the sailors competing at this third stage of the EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup in Weymouth and Portland.
Sailors contesting eight Olympic and two Paralympic classes completed the full schedule of shorter 30 minute races, which were split into morning and afternoon sessions across two course areas in Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour.
The RS:X windsurfing class were the first to leave the shore and the first to return with World #2 windsurfer Bryony Shaw controlling the women's fleet with a striking three race wins on the opening day of the regatta.
"It was tricky racing out there today with a lot of pumping which is pretty physical for the windsurfers but I'm really pleased with my three race wins and overall performance,"
"We have got some of the boys racing out there with us on the 8.5 rig this week who will be pushing us hard and we have also got a visitor from Spain - Blanca Manchon - who is a world class sailor and who will be definitely keeping me on my toes."
Shaw continued, "Sail for Gold is a great venue for sailing, we have got great facilities and the fact that we are competing on home turf and that the legacy from 2012 is still alive and kicking is great - plus it's just always nice to be back in Weymouth and Portland racing."
In the RS:X 9.5 event, World Champion Nick Dempsey tops the billing with two race wins and a second but faced stiff competition from the current ISAF Youth Worlds champion Kieran Martin, who continually tussled for the top spot with the Olympic silver medallist across today's three races.
"Considering I haven't windsurfed for three weeks due to university commitments it's great to come away with a two-one-two. The conditions today were ideal for me to be honest, light winds with a little bit of planing downwind at times which is what I always do well in,"
explained the 18-year-old Martin.
"It was great to beat Nick in the second race, coming into the regatta I always thought I would do okay but to beat GBR's best windsurfer is a great confidence boost. The third race was also really tight between us both, especially towards the end of the race but Nick just had that little bit of extra power to get planing which gave him enough to get over the line ahead of me."
Yukio Makino and Kenji Takahashi sealed two race wins and a fifth to take an early lead in the 49er class. The Japanese sailors, who finished 18th at London 2012 and seventh at last year's Sail for Gold Regatta, hold a three point cushion over the British Sailing Team's Nic Asher and Fynn Sterritt who end their day in second.
Asher, a double World champion in the 470 class, scored a sixth and two seconds and having set the early marker for the GBR boats was content with his day, "It was a good day for us out there today. We had very tricky conditions out in the Bay under the Nothe and it was quite hard to know which way to go but we were quite quick and ended up with a solid day."
With 15 boats on the start line, including entries from Brazil, Belgium, Switzerland and current leaders Japan, Asher is expecting a good battle across the remaining four days of competition.
"It's always going to be a competitive fleet when you've got the British 49er fleet here competing. You've got three or four of the GBR boats who are in the top ten in the world on their day but the Japanese boat certainly made us all look a little bit silly in the first two races of the day. There is a good competitive fleet here so it's going to be a tough week of racing."
Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz picked up two race wins and a third to top the 49erFX leaderboard ahead of British pairings Charlotte Dobson-Sophie Ainsworth and Frances Peters-Nicola groves who sit tied on eight points apiece.
The Dutch duo finished fifth at the inaugural 49erFX World Championships in September 2013 and have since posted top five finishes at the ISAF Sailing World Cup events in Hyeres and Palma, and at the first leg of this EUROSAF series in Lake Garda, Italy.
Bekkering said, "We had quite a nice day today, it started off with some light breeze in which we were quite fast and then the breeze picked up towards the end so we had a nice sail. We didn't really have any expectations coming into this regatta but it's always nice to start the first day off like this."
"It's not a big fleet here this week but the British teams are really fast in the breeze and will provide some good competition along with the Irish boat. For me it's the first time sailing here in Weymouth and Portland and it's a great venue - we really like it here,"
Nacra 17 sailors Lucy Macgregor and Andrew Walsh got their regatta off to a promising start posting a second, third and two race wins. The British pair, who finished 16th at the second leg of this EUROSAF series in Medemblik two weeks ago after suffering a mast breakage, hold a two point cushion over Pippa Wilson and John Gimson in second. A false start penalty in the final race of the day put paid to Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond's hopes of an early lead after opening their account with two race wins.
Finn heavyweight Giles Scott once again demonstrated his pedigree with an almost unblemished scorecard. Three race wins and a second leave him top of the pile with Mark Andrews clinching the other race win to sit three points off his GBR teammate. Andrew Mills, competing in his last competitive regatta for the British Sailing Team after announcing his retirement, sits third.
In the compact but talented combined 470 fleet, Luke Patience and Elliot Willis dominated proceedings with four race wins while British Sailing Team Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre sit second ahead of Podium Potential sailors Jess Lavery and Megan Brickwood.
Helena Lucas has taken the early advantage in the 2.4mR with two bullets and two thirds to give her a slender one point cushion over Australia's Matt Bugg. Megan Pascoe also notched two bullets but closed her day with an unfavourable sixth place to leave her third overall.
"It's a good place to be but there is a long way to go yet,"
expressed the Paralympic Champion Lucas.
"It's great to have Matt Bugg here from Australia and Niki Birrell - a five time SKUD World champion - who was starting to find his feet towards the last race today and we have also got some of the able-bodied sailors here as well so it's quite a competitive fleet and no doubt will be a fantastic week of racing."
The British Sailing Team's Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas are on track for their fourth straight consecutive Sail for Gold title with a clean sweep of race wins.
Racing is scheduled to start at 10.30 on Tuesday 3 June with an average 8-12 knot forecast in store.
The Sail for Gold Regatta, organised by the RYA and the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, is part of the four-stage 2014 EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup series.
For the full list of results and further information on the Sail for Gold Regatta 2014 please visit the event website www.sailforgold.co.uk