RYA Competitions Manager David CAMPBELL JAMES explains the importance of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta heading towards next year's World Cup. "This week has been a tremendous success, we have seen over 300 sailors successfully competing without any problems. The aim of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta becoming part of the ISAF World Cup is to create a lasting legacy of World Class sailing in the UK. We aim to double the number of sailors competing at the event next year, meaning that there could be at least six hundred sailors in the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta 2009, we also want to bring sailing to the masses with up to one thousand competitors watching the races from the shore side," he said.
With sailors from 15 different countries competing, the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta is a truly international event. The British team, six of which recently represented Great Britain at the Beijing Olympics, won four out of the nine classes after the final day's Medal Races. The Medal Race, a newly introduced dimension to Olympic sailing, sees the top ten competitors sail one final race, for double points. The tension on the water was clear to see, as even sailors who had dominated the field all week, could lose out by having a bad race.
Stephen PARK, RYA Olympic Manager, commented on the importance of this year's Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, "This is the first international sailing event of the new Olympic cycle and the first opportunity for the international sailors to compete on what will be the race courses for 2012. Also they have the chance to see the fast pace of the work on the venue and what the new Olympic venue look like," he said.
Giles SCOTT (GBR) proved his credentials as a potential Olympic star of the future by winning the Finn Medal Race by two boat lengths, SCOTT, who is a former Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship gold medallist and secured his place in the Skandia Team GBR performance squad earlier this year, has dominated the heavyweight dinghy racing all week but explains it'll be a big task competing against triple Olympic gold medallist Ben AINSLIE for the Finn spot at the London 2012 Olympics.
"Weymouth is a great place to sail, the conditions have been good all week which has made for some great racing, and this is the first step in my quest to represent Team GBR at the 2012 Olympics. To get the chance to compete in my home waters on such a big stage is something no one would want to miss, however it's going to be a battle to qualify with Ben [Ben AINSLIE] and Ed [Ed WRIGHT] both going for the same spot," SCOTT said.
In the Men's 470 class Nic ASHER and Elliot WILLIS (GBR) had to finish within four places of nearest rivals Pablo SANTURDE DEL ARCO and Abelardo QUEVEDO (ESP) to guarantee gold, after a competitive start Elliot and Willis managed to build a comprehensive lead over the Spanish pair and eventually finished second in the Medal Race with SANTURDE DEL ARCO and QUEVADO fifth, these results secured the Skandia Team GBR pair gold. Fellow British pairing Luke PATIENCE and Chris GRUBE took bronze position.
The 470s women had an international feel in the Medal Race with Swedish pair Lisa ERICSSON and Astrid GABRIELSSON winning to secure a silver medal, the 470s title however went to Spain's Berta BETANZOS and Tara PACHECO who, thanks to a superb performance all week, only had to finish the Medal Race to secure the title. There was disappointment for Skandia Team GBR pairing of Hannah MILLS and Katrina HUGHES, they had been in the top three positions all week but due to a poor Medal Race (finishing seventh) ended the week in fifth place overall.
"We are delighted to come to Britain and win the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta especially as it's the venue for the next Olympic Games. It's been a fantastic week and we are looking forward to coming back and defending the title next year," said Spanish champion BETANZOS.
The 49er fleet has been dominated by Skandia Team GBR sailors throughout the regatta and the Medal Race was no different. Stevie MORRISON and Ben RHODES (GBR) got off to a great start and had a commanding lead heading towards the first mark, they then decided to take conservative approach on the first beat as the wind became shifty which allowed the rest of the fleet to gain. But they were able to keep their lead all the way round to win the Medal Race and take gold. Fellow Brits Dave EVANS and Simon HISCOCKS held on to silver with a third place finish in the Medal Race while John PINK and Rick PEACOCK (GBR) finished in fifth place meaning they just hung on to bronze.
MORRISON said a very positive impression had been made amongst the competitors in Weymouth for the first time, "It's been a really enjoyable week and reminded us what sailing us all about. The Olympics for us was a massive disappointment and to come back to home waters with fantastic sailing conditions was a real bonus. It's a superb set up here, we have been talking to the international sailors and they are really impressed with academy and how the event has been run."
In the Laser Radial class Chinese sailor Lijia XU had reasons to be relaxed ahead of the Medal Race as she had already wrapped up the title a day earlier, however she showed no signs of this and dominated the race to take another victory, she finished 27 points ahead of silver medal winner Charlotte DOBSON (GBR). Andrea BREWSTER (GBR), who had performed consistently all week, was unable to make up ground on DOBSON, finishing the Medal Race in third place to take bronze on the podium.
XU, who won a bronze medal on her home waters at the Beijing Olympic Games, says she is already into her preparation for 2012, "To win a bronze medal at my home Olympics was fantastic, however we must now plan towards 2012 which gives this regatta extra importance in my schedule. I have been looking to gain experience here - learning the currents and wind change, the conditions have been much better than Qingdao and winning here is a big boost."
In the Laser class Lymington-based sailor Nick THOMPSON (GBR) put in a cautious display in the Medal Race, eventually finishing in eight place, however due to a dominating the fleet during the rest of the week THOMPSON only had to finish Saturday's race to claim gold. He now has his sights firmly set on representing his country in the 2012 Olympics.
"To win the Skandia Sail for Gold title for the second year in a row proves that my campaign is on track. To represent my country in any Olympics would be amazing, but with the 2012 Olympics being based in home waters would make qualifying extra special, hopefully I will have that opportunity," THOMPSON said.
The closest class of the week was the RS:X 8.5m with the top three positions only separated by one point heading into today's medal race. In near perfect windsurfing conditions sixteen year old Ali MASTERS (GBR) took all the plaudits claiming silver after finishing second in the Medal Race one place ahead of Bryony SHAW (GBR), Spain's Blanca MANCHON took gold after crossing the line first in a tight finish.
MASTERS explained his week and what it would mean to compete in the Olympics, "I've had a great week, it's great to be competing at this level. It's important to get to know the place and I'm hoping competing at this regatta will be a big advantage for me. I'd love to be at 2012 because it's not very often you get the chance to compete in an Olympics in your own country, but we will have to see as there are lots of good British windsurfers more experienced than me."
Completing the day's racing was the RS: X 9.5m class. Britain's Nick DEMPSEY had to finish first and hope that Israel's Shahar ZUBARI didn't get better than an eighth position. ZUBARI stayed close to DEMPSEY all the way round the course eventually finishing in fourth place with DEMPSEY one place ahead in third. This assured the Israeli gold, with Chinese windsurfer Aichen WANG claiming bronze to complete the podium places.
Results - click here