British sailors are in pole position in five of the 13 classes at the halfway stage of the Skandia Sail for Gold World Cup regatta (Wednesday 8 June). Ben Ainslie has extended his lead at the top of the Finn fleet with two race wins today, while double race wins also on Wednesday for Skandia Team GBR windsurfer Nick Dempsey and the Paralympic Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas have ensured their places at the top of their respective leaderboards. Nick Thompson took control of the Laser class, while a solid day for Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark sees them retain their spot at the top of the 470 women’s fleet for a second day.
The 2012 waters of Weymouth and Portland provided some spectacular and physical racing conditions, averaging 18-22 knots, for third day of competition at this penultimate leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup series, dubbed ‘Big Wednesday’.
Nick Dempsey, Weymouth local and winner of the RS:X World Championship title when it was held at this venue two years ago, provided a windsurfing masterclass out in Portland Harbour. He won both of his races to take the overall lead on countback, with New Zealander Jon Paul Tobin tied on points but currently with fewer race wins under his belt.
Dempsey, 30, was buoyed by his performance today after what he deemed as disappointing outing on Tuesday.
“It’s been absolutely beautiful today – the sun’s shining, the wind’s blowing. We had two cracking races this morning and I got two first places so I’m very, very happy with that,” he explained.
“It was much better after yesterday which was hugely frustrating and disappointing. I made some massive mistakes so it was really nice just to go out there and execute what I was hoping I could do yesterday.”
Dempsey is keeping a close eye on Tobin and Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberge, who he deems among his main rivals for the top podium spot this week.
“JP from New Zealand is flying, and so as normal is Dorian, so I’ve had some great races with both of them already this week. They’re the two that are going really quickly, so it’ll be a good race with them this week.
“Hopefully we’ll get some lighter winds and it will mix it up a little bit,” Dempsey continued. “If it’s just windy like this then it’s kind of just the three of us that go round together and the points are not going to be that big. Hopefully we’ll get some light winds, mix it up and maybe get some big scores for those boys but who knows. It’ll be nice to get a bit of everything.”
The triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie earned two further race wins today to create a nine point margin between him and the second placed sailor, Skandia Team GBR teammate Giles Scott, who boosted his overall position from fourth to second with the help of a third and a second from his two races today. Ed Wright, Mark Andrews and Andrew Mills have maintained a strong British presence in the top ten
Meanwhile the Paralympic Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas were the third British boat to ensure a perfect scoreline on this third day. Their two race wins were not without some drama, though, as helmsman Robertson explained.
“Conditions today were pretty full on. On the first run of last race we broke the whisker pole, so Steve was having to hold the jib out downwind and that was a bit of a mission!
“Steve was a legend today – well, he’s a legend all the time really, but even more so today!”
The Sonar trio have a four point lead over their nearest rivals – the Dutch World Champions – while no racing was possible for the remaining two Paralympic classes. The 2.4mR and SKUD sailors didn’t leave the dock today so SKUD World Champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell retain their second place overall, with Helena Lucas currently the top placed Brit in the 2.4mR event in tenth overall.
Nick Thompson has assumed the top spot in the single-handed Laser class, with a first and a third boosting him into first overall from his overnight position of fourth. It’s tight at the top, though, with the Skandia Team GBR sailor tied on points with Dutchman Rutger van Schaardenburg and just one point ahead of the Australian World Champion Tom Slingsby. Olympic Champion Paul Goodison remains in the hunt, currently in eighth place.
“I’m not looking too much at the overall results at the moment, I’m just trying to take each race as it comes, but it’s a good start which is what I need really,” said the world silver medallist Thompson.
“Pretty much everyone that’s here racing is taking this event incredibly seriously – the game is raised quite a bit here and you can tell that people are feeling the pressure. For myself, it’s about trying to not let that get to me and just trying to focus on each race as it comes and go from there.”
A consistent day of with 5,6 from their two races was enough to keep Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark on top of the 470 women’s table, while Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes advanced to fifth overall with the help of 4,9 and the ability to now discard their disqualification from race one.
The leading British boats in the 49er fleet have remained unchanged, with John Pink and Rick Peacock still in second, and Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes four points behind in third.
Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor, already assured of a spot in the quarter-finals of the women’s match racing, had mixed fortunes in their gold group matches, winning against Anne-Claire Le Berre’s French crew, but losing in a gripping photo finish across the line to Nicky Souter’s Australian team.
Elsewhere, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson have improved to fifth overall in the Star class, Charlotte Dobson is fifth in the Laser Radial and Bryony Shaw up to fifth in the women’s RS:X windsurfing event, while Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell are the leading Skandia Team GBR crew in the 470 men’s event, currently placed sixth overall.
Racing at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta continues until Saturday 11th June. For the full line-up of Skandia Team GBR sailors in action and the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, and the latest news and information from the British camp, visit www.skandiateamgbr.com or follow us on Twitter (@skandiateamgbr).