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SAILING: Fourth medal for Portland's Megan
6:00pm Sunday 25th May 2014 in Sport
PORTLAND’S Megan Pascoe and the SKUD duo of Alexandra and Niki Birrell have added to British 49er fortunes at the Delta Lloyd Regatta in the Netherlands to claim a hat-trick of gold medals for Britain at the close of the EUROSAF Champions Cup series event.
Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign had opened the medal tally on Friday evening, claiming gold in the 49er event, with John Pink and Stuart Bithell ensuring a British one-two in the class.
But Saturday’s final races in the remaining Olympic and Paralympic classes in Medemblik yielded five more medals for British sailors at the second leg of the EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup, including a dominant win for Rio 2016 hopeful Pascoe in the 2.4mR event.
Such was Pascoe’s lead that she didn’t need to sail the second of the two scheduled races on Satur-day to defend her 2013 Delta Lloyd crown, amassing five race wins from the nine races in the five-day series to extend her podium run to four events this year, of which she has won two.
The island sailor admitted that her run of form is a welcome confident boost in the build-up to Rio 2016, where she hopes to race at her first Paralympic Games.
“It's really, really promising. It's my fourth medal of the year. Retaining my title at Medemblik is really nice. It’s an amazing place and I seem to really like it. I always go practising at Frensham Pond before I come here, to get used to the shifts. So I am really excited about this.”
“Medemblik is always tricky, always shifty. You have to understand that anything can happen,” the Portland-based sailor ex-plained of racing on the IJsselmeer.
“I had a bit of luck, managed to go from fifth to first down the last run which probably shouldn’t have gone my way, but it did.
“Sometimes you just have to hold on to your hats and hope everything is going to come out right.”
It was so nearly a British one-two in the 2.4mR event, with Paralympic champion Helena Lucas poised in second after the penultimate race of the series before a false start penalty in the final race saw her fall out of contention for the podium spots.
She ended her event in fifth.
If Pascoe cruised to her victory, then five-time world champions and Paralympic bronze medallists Rickham and Birrell were made to scrap it out to maintain their winning streak in the SKUD event.
The duo, who train at the Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy, claimed a hard-fought victory over Italian sparring partners Marco Gualandris and Paolo Bergmaschi, to remain unbeaten in the class since the 2012 Paralympic Games.
But Birrell knows the competition in the SKUD is continuing to build towards Rio, and with August’s IFDS World Champion-ship in Canada providing the first country qualification opportunity for the 2016 Games.
“Megan Pascoe smashed the 2.4s, but we had to fight a little bit harder for ours. It’s really good to see the European fleet really developing, with the Italians, the Dutch and the Spanish. All the boats are flying round and going a lot quicker than a few years ago,” he explained.
“It’s great that we got all 10 races in, though Friday was a bit long, but it’s all good. And it’s obviously nice to win in the end.”
Portland’s 2012 Olympic silver medallist Luke Patience claimed his first medal – a silver – with new crew Elliot Willis since they joined forces in the 470 men’s event in late February.
John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas ensured a medal in each of the three Para-lympic classes with silver in the three-person Sonar event, while there were landmark podium finishes for British sailors in the Olympic Classes.
The cup will wing its way to Weymouth and Portland for the third stage of the series – the Sail for Gold Regatta – from June 2-6.
Gold – Dylan Fletcher/Alain Sign, 49er Megan Pascoe, 2.4mR Alexandra Rickham/Niki Birrell, SKUD
Silver – John Pink/Stuart Bithell, 49er Luke Patience/Elliot Willis, 470 Men John Robertson/Hannah Stodel/Steve Thomas, Sonar
Bronze – Anna Burnet/Flora Stewart, 470 Women
* Full results can be found at deltalloydregatta.org
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