GREAT Britain picked up a huge haul of medals yesterday as the Sail for Gold Regatta brought the third stage of the 2013 EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup to a dramatic conclusion.
The world’s best Olympic and Paralympic sailors arrived at Weymouth and Portland and were greeted with howling winds of up to 35 knots as race officials pondered on what the final day of racing had in store.
The Paralympic 2.4mR, Sonar and Nacra 17 classes didn’t make it off the dock while all racing for the silver fleets in Weymouth Bay were cancelled early on. But the breeze moderated by late morning, with most Olympic fleets able to enjoy some strong wind medal racing in Portland Harbour.
With no racing possible in the high performance skiff class the previous day, the 49er fleet completed two of the three scheduled medal races.
Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern (IRL) took a six-point lead into the final day with the 2012 Olympians scoring a third and second to clinch the championship crown.
The British Sailing Team’s Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign enjoyed a blistering finale, winni- ng both races, elevating them from seventh into the silver medal position.
Charlotte Dobson and Nicola Groves went into the final two 49erFX medal races in pole position, and with Dobson admitting to having a disappointing day out on the water, the British Sailing Team duo finished nine points in front of second place Kate Macgregor and Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) to take their first 49erFX gold medal.
The Brits also scored a 1-2-3 in one of the two new Olympic classes – the Nacra 17.
Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond secured gold after medal racing was abandoned due to the testing wind conditions for the mixed multihull class. Lucy Macgregor and her crew Tom Phipps were second, whilst Beijing gold medallist Pippa Wilson and team-mate John Gimson finished third.
China’s Lijia Xu and Dongshuang Zhang took gold and silver respectively in the Laser Radial, while Nick Thompson (GBR) picked up bronze in the Laser class.
Beijing Olympic windsurfing bronze medallist Bryony Shaw (GBR) picked up her second win of the season, adding to the gold she picked up at the Hyeres Sailing World Cup.
It was Shaw’s fifth podium finish out of the six events she has competed in this year.
Nick Dempsey, the current RS:X World Champion, also overcame Elliot Carney with a medal race win to secure top spot in the RS:X 9.5 event.
Dempsey, a two-time Olympic medallist, said: “I had a pretty bad day on Monday but it’s turned out pretty good in the end and I’m pretty happy with how the event’s gone – it’s been perfect preparation for the Europeans in a few weeks’ time.”
The battle for Finn victory went right down to the wire between the British Sailing Team’s Mark Andrews and Andrews Mills. Andrews entered the double points medal race poised in second, two points off top spot with it all to play for in the final race of the regatta.
With Mills being the victim of a capsize within the first 30 seconds of the race starting, Andrews sailed to an easy victory giving the Scotsman his second consecutive gold medal with the medal race win.
The first classes to be abandoned for the day amid the strong winds were the Paralympic 2.4mR and Sonar events.
With an emphatic two race wins on the penultimate day of the regatta, Megan Pascoe (GBR) continued her winning streak by taking the Sail for Gold crown in front of Paralympic champion Helena Lucas (GBR).
Lucas finished four points behind her fellow British Sailing Team colleague in second.
“It’s really exciting to win Sail for Gold and my third gold of the season,” said Pascoe. “It would have been nice to have raced yesterday because I had quite a nice lead and it would have been good to just finish the job off properly, but I’m happy enough!”
In the Sonar event it was another British team taking gold with John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas (GBR) storming to their third consecutive Sail for Gold Regatta victory.
“It’s great to be back on the podium here at Sail for Gold,” said Stodel, “The team is working well, we’ve got a new coach so everything is now heading in the right direction.”