Skandia Sail for Gold: Fresh to frightening on Day 3

Dave Evans and Ed Powys from Great Britain racing in the 49er class on Day 3 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta

The forecasters didn't get the third day of Skandia Sail for Gold wrong, as Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour were battered by unseasonably strong winds. The Skud and 2.4m didn't make it off the dock, but the other 11 Olympic and Paralympic classes did, and took on conditions that were definitely 'top end'.

Weymouth is the venue for the 2012 Sailing Olympics, and this regatta along with the Olympic Test Event in six weeks time, are really the last look at the wind and water at Weymouth, in a regatta environment ahead of the Olympics in 13 months time. This regatta is also the sixth event on the ISAF World Sailing Cup circuit.

The average wind speed on the breakwater read 25 knots throughout the day, with gusts up to 29 knots. There was damage to boats, broken masts and capsizes, stuff that you rarely see from the top Olympic sailors in the world. And it was the Brits who most relished the conditions, leading five of the 13 fleets as the sun began to set on a still windswept Weymouth Bay.

The only Paralympic class to race was the Sonar, and both contests were won by Skandia Team GBR’s John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas, giving them the overall lead. The Dutch trio, Udo Hessels, Marcel Van Veen and Mischa Rossen stayed in second and the French team of Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont Vicary moved up one place into third.

Chris Draper and Peter Greenhalgh and Ben Rhodes from Great Britain racing in the 49er class on Day 3 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, in Weymouth and Portland

The Match Racing schedule was badly disrupted, initially by boat damage and then by the close-to 30 knots gusts howling across the harbour. The gold fleet just managed to sail a handful of races, and it was Australia’s Nicky Souter, Jessica Eastwell and Lucinda Witty, along with Sally Barkow, Elizabeth Kratizig-Burnham and Alana O'Reilly from the USA that kept a clean sheet. Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vendemoer and Debbie Capozzi (USA) and Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor (GBR) are level on one win and one loss each, while both the Netherlands’ Mandy Mulder, Annemieke Bes and Merel Witteveen and France’s Anne-claire Le Berre, Alice Ponsar and Myrtille Ponge are still looking for their first win.

It was the final day of heats for the 49ers, 470s, RS:X and Laser classes before they are spilt into gold and silver fleets. The 49ers waited till very late in the day in an attempt to equalise the number of races that the two flights had sailed but ultimately failed, leaving some of them with six race results and others with seven. The rules state that they go back to the last time they had an even number of races. And that left Italy’s Sibello Brothers top of the heap, chased by Britain’s John Pink and Rick Peacock, and then Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes.

The RS:X Men also sailed this morning, and got two races in before heading home for an early finish. It was Britain’s Nick Dempsey that cleaned up with a phenomenal two wins, pushing him up from fifth to the top of the leaderboard. New Zealand’s Jp Tobin could only manage a second and a fifth and slipped to second, with yesterday’s star performer, Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberge holding his third place.

Ben Ainslie from Great Britain racing leading the Finn class on day 3 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta

By the afternoon the breeze was reaching its maximum and the RS:X Women had some spectacular sailing. It was Israel’s Lee Korzits that had the best day with a first and a second, moving up from fourth to take the overall lead. Spain’s Marina Alabau was displaced into second, with Poland’s Zofia Klepacka moving up above Alabau’s compatriot, Blanca Machon, and pushing the World Champion down into fourth.

Out on the 470 course they also enjoyed testing but exhilarating conditions. In the Men’s fleet it was the 2010 World Champions, Australians Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page that had a stunning day in the breeze, scoring two bullets and driving straight to the top of the scoreboard. Overnight leaders, Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos (FRA) managed one win and a seventh and dropped to third, also passed by Anton Dahlberg and Sebastian Ostlin (SWE), up to second.

Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR) stayed at the top of the 470 women’s leaderboard with a steady performance, scoring a fifth and sixth place. They have a ten point lead over Israel’s Gil Cohen and Vered Bouskila. The pairing from Israel relished the strong winds picking up just four points with a third and first place. New Zealand’s Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie climb up to third.

Max Richardson and Nick Redding from Great Britain racing in the 49er class on day 3 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta

The Laser Men sailed two races early, and it was Netherland’s Rutger van Schaardenburg with a first and second, and Britain’s Nick Thompson with a first and third that dominated the racing today – the former moved up from third to second, but Thompson leap-frogged the Dutchman to go from fourth to the overall lead. The current world champion, Tom Slingsby is now in second.

The Laser Radials were out later than most but not as late as they are used to, sailing two races in tough conditions. It was a virtuoso performance from Ireland’s Annalise Murphy, with straight bullets to take the overall lead. ISAF Sailing World Cup leader, the Netherland’s Marit Bouwmeester was her ever-consistent-self in the breeze, adding another second and third (she got the same results yesterday) to her scoreline to hold second place. Overnight leader, Belgium’s Evi van Acker slipped to third.

Ben Ainslie from Great Britain racing leading the Finn class on day 3 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta

Star and Finn were again sent out to Course Foxtrot – over five miles offshore – where there wasn’t just the wind to contend with but a difficult sea state. The result was damage for some, including four of the Stars breaking their masts. None of the leading contenders suffered that fate, Freddy Loof and Max Salminen (SWE) relished the conditions with a 2,1 scoreline and moved up into second place behind double gold and silver Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt and his Brazilian partner Bruno Prada. Poland’s Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki hold third. The race committee decided not to go for a third race due to the amount of kit breakages in the fleet.

Ben Ainslie (GBR) dominated in the Finn again winning both races on the outer race course. With five races now sailed Ainslie has discarded his seventh place, and is counting three firsts and a second. It is becoming a battle of the Brits for the top place in the Finn, as Giles Scott climbed up to second place with a strong performance in the breeze. Scott is now nine points adrift of Ainslie. Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) lies third on equal points to Scott and first day leader Dan Slater (NZL) falls to fourth. The Finns were also sent in after completing just two of their planned three races, due to the strength of the winds and height of the waves.

Racing continues at Skandia Sail for Gold until Saturday.

Skandia Sail for Gold - Day 3 Leaderboard
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Giles Scott from Great Britain racing racing in the Finn class on day 3 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, in Weymouth

Max Richardson and Nick Redding from Great Britain racing in the 49er class on day 3 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta

Andrew Mills from Great Britain racing racing in the Finn class on day 3 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta

Ben Ainslie from Great Britain racing leading the Finn class on day 3 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta

Andrew Mills from Great Britain racing racing in the Finn class on day 3 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta

Chris Draper and Peter Greenhalgh and Ben Rhodes from Great Britain racing in the 49er class on day 3 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, in Weymouth