The Radial fleet got the day's Medal Racing underway and although TUNNICLIFFE came in last in the Medal Race, her 11-point cushion going into the race was enough for her to hold on to gold. TUNNICLIFFE's only rival for gold was Jo ALEH (NZL) and the American engaged the Kiwi in a ferocious tacking duel up the first beat and from there never let her out of her sight.
'I went into today's race with my primary goal being to slow Jo Aleh down as much as possible, and I succeeded in doing that,' revealed TUNNICLIFFE.
She continued, 'My start did not go as well as I would have hoped, but Jo had a slow start as well. I worked up behind her, and started forcing her to tack out. I forced Jo to sail at a slow pace, and she had no momentum at all during the first upwind. I ensured that we stayed far enough from the rest of the fleet that she could not catch up at all. Although Joe managed to make up some room on the downwind side, I worked up behind her again and continued to carry out my plan.'
Next up were the Lasers in what proved to be another incredibly close finish as Paul GOODISON (GBR) just held on to win gold by 3 seconds. The British skipper, also a winner at last year's test event, held a five-point lead going into the race but almost saw that overturned as Rasmus MYRGREN (SWE) made a charge for gold. The Swedish skipper had to put at least two boats between him and GOODISON to win gold and crossed the line in fifth.
GOODISON and Maciej GRABOWSKI (POL) both had poor starts, and although they made up some ground, MYRGREN was in the gold medal position for much of the race. However the applecart was upset on the last leg.
MYRGREN had moved from eighth around the third weather mark to sixth at the bottom of the trapezoid and he managed to squeeze past Andrew MURDOCH (NZL) to take fifth at the finish by 6 seconds, meaning GOODISON had to cross the line next, in seventh, to hang on to gold.
The final four boats all rounded the last mark within 7 seconds of one another, with the GOODISON in eighth behind Bruno FONTES (BRA). As these four gybed away from the spectators on the breakwater toward the spectator boats near the finish line, FONTES fouled as he tried to gybe into the right side of the finish line, dropped two places and GOODISON just edged it by 3 seconds ahead of GRABOWSKI to hang on to the gold medal by a single point. In the battle for bronze, GRABOWSKI's eight was just enough to hold off World Champion Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) by the same margin, after the Australian finished just 8 seconds behind race winner Michael LEIGH (CAN).
'It was a pretty stressful race out there today,'
said a relieved GOODISON, whose victory is a timely boost after he missed out on the medals at the recent Worlds in Cascais. 'This regatta has given me a lot of confidence for next year,' he said. 'The competition here in Qingdao is part of GBR's Olympic selection process. Maybe my performance here will help me get selected to come back next year. I am also confident that after doing well twice in the unique Qingdao conditions, I will be successful in next year's Olympic Regatta.'
The Yngling Medal Race brought this year's competition to a close in Qingdao and was all set to be another fascinating contest between Sarah AYTON, Sarah WEBB and Pippa WILSON (GBR) and their archrivals Sally BARKOW, Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI (USA).
The Americans and the Brits have been the two leading teams all season long and Medal Race showdowns between the two have become a familiar feature of this year's Yngling racing. Qingdao looked to be no different as they spent the last three minutes of the starting sequence engaged in classic pre-start match racing tactics. The Americans tailed and trapped the Brits. With 30 seconds remaining, the Americans were midway down the line with the Greek boat to weather of them the Brits were on top of the Greeks. No one was in their lee, so the Americans bore down, gained speed and crossed the line powered up. But they had misjudged their start, falling foul of the tide and crossed the line early.
With the Americans scoring 22 points for their mistake, they fell out of the medal places as Renee GROENEVELD, Bes ANNEMIEKE and Marije KAMPEN (NED) moved up to silver, whilst Ekaterina SKUDINA, Diana KRUTSKIKH and Natalia IVANOVA (RUS) passed the Brits on the final run to win the Medal Race and claim bronze. AYTON, WEBB and WILSON never looked in danger as the played the course perfectly to finish second in the race and overall winners by nine points.
Looking ahead to next year, AYTON was in a confident mood, 'We are very pleased and very excited. We have had a great year, and are on a roll. One win leads to another, and we want to carry this momentum into the Olympics next year.'
Reflecting on past nine days, AYTON said that adaptability was a key ingredient in the team's success, 'You have to be ready for anything in Qingdao; you never know what will happen next. It is very important that sailors are flexible and on top of their game at all times.'
With five gold medals and a silver, the Brits leave the 2007 test event as the masters of Qingdao again. The big question now is can they repeat the feat in 2008?