Rick Tomlinson Photography / www.rick-tomlinson.com

Drama for Ainslie

But the British Olympic legend still claims Finn victory at the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia Mapfre with a day to spare

Friday April 6th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

Ben Ainslie has won the Finn class at the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia Mapfre, but the British Olympic legend's day didn't go entirely to plan.

The breeze was finally up in Palma and so were the stakes on the last day of the opening series. Today was make or break day for Saturday’s medal race and the first one to break was in fact Ben Ainslie after a pre-start collision in the first race that resulted in a back injury. Despite a 23 point lead he still needed one more race to be in with a chance of overall victory, so heading ashore Ainslie found a spare boat and made it out for the final race to protect his points lead to win the regatta with a day to spare.

Ainslie commented: "It was one of those crazy days and a really strange pre-start incident I think because of the big waves and trying to clear another boat which would have caused me to capsize onto another boat. I injured myself in the process and reasonably damaged my boat, so there was no real chance of continuing in the race in that state so the best option was to come ashore and luckily there was a spare boat lying in the dinghy park that no-one was using. so we just switched the rigs round, came back out and just had to try and get a reasonable race to get round the course."

Ainslie added: “As it turned it out I was not very quick at all [in the swapped boat] but managed to sail reasonably well and had very good speed downwind and I finished third. So it was a bit of an epic day, but sometimes these things are sent to test you and in a way there were actually some good lessons learned from crisis management. In this instance it helped that I had quite a big buffer in the overall points score.

“Really I was just thinking about my equipment long-term, so trying to protect the boat as best I could, so it was really a no-brainer to come in and try and find a different option and do the next race. You do have to make those decisions quite quickly and it’s probably a good thing for us to have gone through now in preparation for the Olympics. The boat is fine really, just a hull deck join issue. My back took a good whack from the boom which was pretty painful. It all happened trying to avoid Zach who was surfing backwards down a wave in pre start.”

With finally some wind to end the week, the sailors had a great race and for the first time this week, Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) was up front taking the race win from Jonathan Lobert (FRA) and Chris Cook (CAN). But despite a fourth in the following race for the second best performance of the day behind Cook, it was too late to make the medal race cut.

For race two today Ainslie had made it back out on to the course, where a big right hand shift on the first beat left Cook well ahead of the fleet. He held on to win the race from fellow Canadian Greg Douglas (CAN), while Ainslie recovered from being on the wrong side of the shift crossed in third. At the final tally today Ainslie's lead was 35 away from Zach Railey.

Zach Railey now has a 14 point margin on third, so barring disaster should take the silver in the medal race. “I had a good day today," he said. "There were some huge shifts on the course and I was up there in the first race and flipped on a big wave on the first downwind dropping to the mid 20s and then getting back to 14th so that was a hard one to take. In the last race the ninth was actually a sold result as many of us were buried by a big right shift and almost all the leaders went left. Chris Cook nailed the righty and was gone. Ben had the best comeback getting to third and I feel good about getting back to ninth.”

In the 2.4mR, Thierry Schmitter (NED) also managed to win the sole Paralympic class racing in Palma, successfully defending his title today in a series in which he has won seven out of the ten races. This is the fourth time in a row that the past Olympic and World champion has won the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre. However, this year the fleet was bigger and the level, despite Damien Seguin's absence.

Schmitter summarised his week: “Today, after four days, the wind and waves finally came through. It was a nice playground for spectacular 2.4mR sailing. And when I am enjoying the conditions, I am also able to win. This is what happen again today in the first race: my 7th first place in a series of 10 races. Quiet souvereign I would say. Even if the World champion, Damien Seguin was not present, these results are encouraging for the coming months and the Paralympic regatta in Weymouth beginning of September. I am already looking forward to compete again in the 2.4mR in Hyères in three weeks time for the next stop of the ISAF World Cup.”

Helena Lucas, the three-time World Championship bronze medallist, capped off a consistent week by claiming silver in the 2.4mR.

“It’s great to get a silver medal here – it just gives you that boost of confidence going into the next regatta,” Lucas commented. “The only person really missing from this regatta is Damien [Seguin], so it’s a really strong fleet and it’s great to go up against those guys and come away knowing I’ve got really good speed in all conditions, so I’ve been really happy with how the week’s gone. Obviously I’d have liked to have been a bit closer to Thierry and given him a bit more of a run for his money. It looked like it was panning out that way at the beginning of the week but he kind of found his stride disappeared off into the distance a little bit but I’m not too worried about it.

“I know I’m going pretty quick against him and he had one of those regattas where he couldn’t really do anything wrong. I’m pretty confident I’m snapping at his heels, and going well all round.”

The wind picked up enough today to allow sailors on the trapeze boats to finally stretch their legs out. It also caused some new faces to come to the top.

In the 470 Women, last year winner's Jo Aleh with Pollie Powrie (NZL) welcomed the breeze, easily winning today's two races, although finished in 14th overall it was still not enough to qualify them for tomorrow's Medal race.

“It was good to stretch the legs today,” said Powrie. “It was good racing for us and more our conditions.” Aleh and Powrie will sail the Spring Cup before heading home for the Worlds and then Sail For Gold. “There are lots of regattas and we need to plan our training as well. For us Palma is a good event to start with after our summer. There are always lots of teams to train with and race so for us it is a good event to come to,” added Aleh.

The lead in the Women's 470 has been changing daily and today Japan's Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata have moved ahead: “ We are in good form and work well as a team. At the start of the regatta our mind was not into racing but now we are well into it. We got the Silver last year but we want to take Gold tomorrow.”

However it is extremely close with the Japan just two points ahead of Giulia Conti and Giovanna Micol (ITA) in second with Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell (AUS) just one more point back.

Britain has two pairs in the Women's 470 medal race tomorrow with Sophie Weguelin and Ainsworth 17 points off the lead in 7th and Hannah Mills and Saskia Clarke in 10th place but out of medal contention. 

In the 470 Men, World no1s Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS) are showing their exceptional form to post two bullets today, moving them a comfortable 14 points ahead of second. “These are more our type of conditions” explained Belcher, “We made some good decisions and took some good shifts, but the Israelis were the fastest out there today.”

Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela (ISR) scored a second and a third place to keep second overall. Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell had an equally good scoreline today, but this only elevated them to 19th, and they won't be in tomorrow's medal race.

In the Laser, Simon Grotelueschen (GER) has taken the lead from Tom Burton (AUS). The winner will be settled tomorrow between the German and Beijing Gold medallist, Paul Goodison (GBR). The German world number 23 is seven points ahead of Goodison overall, meaning the Yorkshireman will have to finish four places ahead of him and keep an eye on the third placed Australian Tom Burton if he’s to add the Palma World Cup title to his win in Miami in January. Nick Thompson dropped to fifth overall after a tough day with 24,27 from his two races, but bronze is still possible,

Despite being the best in the Laser Gold fleet today with a second and a third, Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) didn't make it into the Medal race, finishing in 11th overall.

In the Laser Radial Alicia Cebrian (ESP) consolidated her lead with 3,6 today with a 10 point lead. After Marit Bouwmeester (NED) was black flagged in the final race today, so Evi van Acker (BEL) has moved up to second five points ahead of the World Champion. Skandia Team GBR's Charlotte Dobson and Alison Young have got through to the medal race, but in seventh and tenth places respectively neither are in medal contention.

With high scores, the top ten in the Star class are very tight on points. A disappointing 9,14 dropped leaders Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson but just five points adrift of new leaders Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (BRA) with Mark Pepper and Jim Turner (NZL) in second and Xavier Rohart and Pierre Alexis Ponsot (FRA) third.

Despite the pressure of Olympic selection to represent Denmark at London 2012, Jonas Warrer and Soren Hansen hung on to their lead in the 49er. In fact the Beijing Olympic champion and his crew can get no worse than silver in the Medal Race which looks set to be dominated in numbers at least by the French and British each with three teams sailing tomorrow. John Pink and Rick Peacock are currently in fourth, seven points away from Germany's Tobias Schadewaldt and Hannes Baumann.

A fresh 15-18 knots of sea breeze challenged the sailors for the penultimate day of women’s match racing. 

Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) was the first to punch her ticket for the Finals when she dispatched of Olivia Price (AUS) 3-0 in the Semi Finals.

The other Semi Final went to a 'winner takes all fifth match. Tamara Echegoyen (ESP) received a penalty in the pre-start, but led all the way around the course. She tried to lure Claire Leroy (FRA) into an offsetting penalty at the finish, but Leroy escaped with a green flag and crossed the line first to advance to the Finals.

So tomorrow will see Echegoyen and Price sail for the Bronze medal while Leroy and Tunnicliffe sail for the Gold.

The Medal Races are scheduled to take place from 11.30am to 2pm tomorrow on two race courses: 49ers and Laser Radial will start at 11.30 am, followed by 470 Women and Laser at 12.20am, 470M and Stars at 1.10pm and finally the Finns at 2pm. The Women Match racing will start at 10am.

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