Photos: Pedro Martinez / Sailing Energy

Weymouth comes good on Medal Race day

Our impressions from the final day of the last major multi-class regatta before Rio 2016

Sunday June 12th 2016, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

On the fifth and final day of trying, wind speeds at last crept into double figures at the Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland. The breeze held virtually all day, with medal racing for all classes, except the RS:Xes, being held within Portland Harbour. In a week where the schedule had to be thrown out of the window with annoying regularity, the last day of the regatta ran like clockwise - no bad thing given that most of today’s 10 medal races were being broadcast live, over five straight hours, around the world, on television and on the internet.


For the TV producers, there was a slight heart-in-mouth moment when low cloud, that had spent the morning haloing Portland’s upper summit, descended upon the race course making it especially difficult for the 49ers to see the length and breadth of the race track. But, even through this period, the wind remained resolutely at 10-14 knots.

In the brisker conditions, a new set of crews seemed to come to the fore. Progress around the race track also occurred at a considerably faster pace, especially in the high speed classes such as the 49ers, FXes and the Nacra 17s, which were racing fully powered-up.

While most of the fleets were a little down on numbers – this was after all the last major international regatta before the Rio 2016 Olympiad in August - in most classes there was very high quality fleet.

The best performance across all of the ten classes was that of Chinese RS:X sailboarder and reigning World Champion, Piena Chen, who, until today’s medal race, had managed a perfect scoreline across eight races, to leave her on just seven points overall. Chen’s unbroken run finally came to an end in today’s medal race which was won by Britain’s Emma Wilson, ahead of pretender to the Bryony Shaw throne, Izzy Hamilton. Also holding significant leads going into today’s medal races were the Netherland’s Marit Bouwmeester in the Laser Radial, and, holding the batten for their fellow countrymen Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, New Zealand’s Logan Dunning Beck and Jack Simpson in the 49er.

Conversely, competition was impossibly tight in the 470 Men, where Britain’s Luke Patience and Chris Grube were leading going into today’s medal race, but tied on points with Spain’s Jordi Xammar and Joan Herp. Similarly, just a point separated British sailors, Giles Scott from Ben Cornish at the top of the Finn fleet, as was the case in the Laser, where Britain’s Nick Thompson was ahead of Australia’s Tom Burton, while in the 49erFX British leaders Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth were just two points clear of Sweden’s Julia Gross and Cecilia Jonsson.

At the close of play today, the hosts, Team GBR had achieved by far the biggest medal haul of the nations competing. 21 GBR teams made the medal races and of these an impressive 12 team medalled, including a clean sweep in the 470 Women, the top two in the Lasers, silver and bronze in the RS:X Women and 49er and lone golds in the Nacra 17, 49erFX and Finn.

Today’s most vindictive race was certainly in the Laser Radials. Here leader Marit Bouwmeester could only be caught by second-placed Frenchwoman Mathilde de Kerangat, whom she chose to match race for the entire duration of the medal race. She ruthlessly kept her opponent in last place until the very last moment approaching the finish line when she finally let her pass. With de Kerangat safely packed away at this stage, this generous move by Bouwmeester allowed the Frenchwoman to collect bronze rather than the ‘chocolate medal’ (ie 4th).

The biggest race turnaround occurred in the 49ers where Ireland’s Ryan Seaton and Matthew Mcgovern, powered off the start line to lead for the duration of the race…only to cross the wrong finish line (which for all races today was at a tangent, off to port of the start line). By the time the Irish realised their blunder, British crews John Pink and Stuart Bithell and Team GBR’s Rio representatives Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Alain Sign had sneaked into first and second places, enough to collect them the bronze and silver medals respectively.

Less good for Team GBR was the result in the 470 Men, where Luke Patience and Chris Grube attempted to match race their Spanish joint leaders only for both to be outsailed by Croatian World Champions, Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic, who won the Medal race to take the gold.

The best comeback in the medal races was that of French four time World Champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou in the Nacra 17. Along with the Swiss team of Matias Bühler and Nathalie Brugger, they appeared to be OCS at the start and from being last by some margin, they fought their way back impressively to finish second, on the coattails of medal race winners Spain’s Fernando Echavarri (the 2008 Tornado gold medallist) and Tara Pacheco. This move was enough to earn the French the bronze medal.

As a last major race before Rio 2016 in two months’ time, the regatta was felt to be valuable, not just for the racing but also the practice waiting around (as is expected to occur in Rio) and managing one’s stress while doing so. The Weymouth weather may not have co-operated for much of the week, but the regatta once again showed off the valuable asset British sailing has in the London 2012 Olympic sailing venue, the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.


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