London Olympics 2012 - Massive upsets in the Women’s Elliot 6M class

The Speedy Sheilas, Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty (AUS) competing in the Women’’s Match Racing event at the London Olympics 2012.
Big upsets defined the second day of the quarterfinals of the Women’s Match Racing (WMR) event today at the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy, situated in here in Portland, UK. Eight teams entered the quarterfinals, but only four teams are continuing on to the semi-finals round, which will be contested over the next two days (August 9th and 10th). The winners of this next set of races will advance to Saturday’s medal race, which has the added honor of being the final Olympic sailing class to compete in this Olympiad.

The quarterfinals were raced in a best of five selection series, meaning that each team of women needed to win three races to continue towards their dreams of Olympic Gold. For some teams, today was a case do or die—win or face the cold, hard reality of elimination.

Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty (AUS) competing in the Women’s Match Racing event at the London Olympics 2012.

First up, the Australian team (aka, the 'Speedy Sheila’s) faced their Dutch rivals, Renee Groeneveld, Annemieke Bes and Marcelien Koning. While the Sheilas had maintained a 'picket fence' of bullets during the Round Robin series, their impeccable record was tarnished yesterday when the Dutch drew blood in the second race. Today, Olivia Price and her crew of Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty settled this score, winning their third race and moving on to the next round of competition. Perfect picket fences aside, the Speedy Sheilas are looking solid sailing forward, despite their limited amount of Olympic experience (Price turned 20 just last week!).

Anna Tunnicliffe, Debbie Capozzi and Molly O’Bryan Vandemoer (USA) competing in the Women’s Match Racing event at the London Olympics 2012.

Going into these Games, Americans Anna Tunnicliffe, Debbie Capozzi and Molly Vandemoer were the favorites to take home Gold, having won the 2011 ISAF Worlds in their class (incidentally beating out Team Great Britain’s [Team GBR] Lucy Macgregor and her crew). Unfortunately for us Yanks, the Finnish-flagged team of Silja Lehtinen, Silja Kanerva and Mikaela Wulff proved quicker around the track. The Finns won two races yesterday, before the Americans struck back with a strong win in today’s first race. Ultimately, however, Lehtinen and company took their third win of the series in today’s second race, eliminating the Americans from the Olympic Games.

Interestingly, the Americans and Finns spent much time sparring against each other, prior to these Games. When queried about this, the always-professional Tunnicliffe was pointed out that this pre-Games training was a double-edged sword for both teams—that she knew Lehtinen’s strengths and weaknesses as well as the Finn understood the American team’s prowess. With grace and impeccable sportsmanship, Tunnicliffe acknowledged the team’s next goal is to finish the regatta in fifth place, overall. Stay tuned!

A big upset occurred in the heated battle between Spain and France. While Claire Leroy, Elodie Bertrand and Marie Riou have always been strong competitors on the WMR circuit, the Spanish team of Tamara Dominguez, Sofia Puga and Angela Menendez took three straight wins to advance to the next round of competition.

Macgregor, Lush and Macgregor - Women's Match Racing - London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition

The last big upset took place in the contest between Team GBR and Russia. While Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor entered these Games as an early favorite (many speculated that the finals would come down to a tussle between the Americans, the French and the Brits), the Russian team of Ekaterina Skudina, Elena Siuzeva and Elena Oblova earned the first bullet. The Brits fought back, winning the next two, but then the Russians nailed the final two races to advance to the next round of play.

The next two days will see the Speedy Sheilas take on the Finns, while the Russians will battle the Spanish. The winners of this semifinal round of competition will dial-up against each other on Saturday’s Medal Race, which will take place on the Spectator-friendly Nothe Course.

Please stand by for more news from the WMR class, as it becomes known.