The Aquece Rio - International Sailing Regatta 2014 has drawn to a close with the Laser, Laser Radial and 470 honours being picked up on the final day of action.
The Laser and Laser Radial gold medals went the way of Tom Burton (AUS) and Anne Marie Rindom (DEN). Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) made sure of Men's 470 gold whilst Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) clinched the Women's 470 honours.
Racing on the Pão de Açucar race track, a south easterly breeze in between 5-10 knots allowed all the fleets to conclude their racing. The breeze died towards the latter part of the afternoon as the Women's 470 wrapped up proceedings.
Tom Burton (AUS) took a four point lead over Nick Thompson (GBR) into the Medal Race but with the Briton unable take to the course due to injury the Australian had a strong advantage over the chasing pack.
Burton came through in sixth to take gold in the light breeze and whilst on paper the result seems convincing, it was far from that as the Australian explained, "It was pretty tough. I had a really good start and was going good in the first half of the first beat but I got a bit conservative and made a bit of an error and ended up at the back pretty quick. The rest of the race was pretty stressful."
Things could have been tighter for the Australian had Thompson raced which Burton was quick to recognise, "Yesterday I didn't see him in that second race where he got hit but obviously he got hit pretty bad after seeing him today. It would have changed things up so who knows what would have happened."
With the light winds testing the sailors' tactical nous the positions chopped and changed. Francesco Marrai (ITA) took the bullet and was followed by Charlie Buckingham (USA). Both sailors finished fifth and sixth respectively. Rutger van Schaardenburg (NED) came through in third which was enough to push him up from third into silver medal position.
Thompson's advantage was a good one coming into the Medal Race and even though he counted 22 points he takes away bronze. Robert Scheidt (BRA) finished in eighth which was not enough to push him ahead of Thompson.
For Burton and the remaining sailors it has been a good test and offered a glimpse of what will occur in two years time. With a mixed bag of conditions the best Laser sailor will Olympic gold as Burton concluded, "If you're good across the board you'll be good here."
Denmark's Anne Marie Rindom claimed a hard fought Laser Radial gold medal following a fourth in the Medal Race.
Rindom trailed overnight leaders Tuula Tenkanen (FIN) and Evi Van Acker (BEL) by two points heading into the final race and was able to advance up to the top of the podium as she explained, "I was in third position and I could become first. I was really nervous, obviously. I was trying not to be but you can't always do that when you have all the adrenaline going on. I tried to stay out of trouble and avoid contact with all other boats and just sail my own race by focusing on my sailing and speed and it turned out really great.
"I saw that the other girls in front of me got a really bad start so from there it was just follow them and make sure they didn't get ahead of me."
Midway through the race Alison Young (GBR) had moved into gold medal position as she took the lead. Rindom had work to do and with Tenkanen and Van Acker struggling behind her she pushed forward. She moved up from seventh to fourth by the conclusion of the race as Young dropped back a spot.
"It's a huge step for me,"
smiled Rindom. "It's pretty good and a good signal you can sail in the Olympic venue. I think Rio is definitely a hard place to sail. It's so much different to what we're used to in Europe so we're definitely going to have to train here a lot."
Young managed to take silver whilst Van Acker came through in eighth position to hand her bronze. With a ninth place finish Tenkanen dropped from first to fourth overall.
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) brought a 17 point advantage into the Men's 470 Medal Race and whilst they got the job done their ninth place finish was far from their best.
"It was tricky final race,"
admitted Ryan. "We were comfortable with what we had to do in the final race so we didn't really feel any pressure or stress. It was the first time we sailed on that course and we rushed into it a bit. It was nice with some good racing in the fleet and we learnt something new and we'll practice some more on that area again."
Luke Patience and Elliot Willis took a third and walk away with silver whilst Paul Snow Hansen and Dan Willcox (NZL) won the Medal Race to take bronze.
A lot of positives can be taken from the week by the Men's 470 fleet but Belcher knows there is work to do two years out from the Olympic Games, even with an excellent performance, "A lot of the athletes that haven't performed to their expectation here will turn round and say they've got plenty time so they'll be okay. And the guys that did perform get confidence from it.
"It depends on the situation and for us we are really happy to come here and win. We knew if we sailed well we could but it's nice to get a bit of confidence. We've got to spend some more time here and the other athletes will do the same."
Jo Aleh and Polly came out on top in a three way shoot out for the Women's 470 title. Heading into the day Aleh and Powrie were tied on 15 points with Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) and Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (USA).
It was winner take all between the trio and with the Kiwis taking fourth they had sealed the deal. In a fading afternoon breeze the conditions were extremely hard for the Race Committee and sailors' as Aleh explained, "It was a pretty tough race. Sail by the seat of your pants, see what happens and keep hoping it will work out. We knew we had to beat both of them [Mills/Clark and Haeger/Provancha] and be top five if the Austrians won. We always wanted to do well but just had to beat those boats. Pretty early on, as we started we were in the middle of them and kept an eye on them. The Americans dropped back pretty quickly so it was just between us and the Brits.
"Everyone found it stressful. There was a lot happening. When the boys raced before the wind was a little bit more set but the wind had just changed. It was one of the most unstable Medal Races we've done."
Mills and Clark came through in sixth to pick up silver whilst the Americans dropped out of the podium places following a tenth. Austria's Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar capitalised on the Americans misfortune with a fifth, enough to hand them bronze via countback.
Attention now turns to the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championship which takes place in northern Spain from 8-21 September 2014. The Santander 2014 ISAF Worlds is the first Olympic Qualification regatta for the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition. 50% of Rio 2016 spots will be decided in Santander.
Media coverage and results from the Aquece Rio will be delivered by the Rio 2016 team and ISAF through www.aquecerio.com/en/competicoes.php