SAILING: Rickham and Birrell chasing ‘one that got away’ at Miami World Cup

CLEAN SWEEP: Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell

CLEAN SWEEP: Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell

First published in Sport

PORTLAND’S five-time world champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell maintained their clean sweep of race wins so far to keep the overall SKUD class lead after a second light wind day at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami.

The duo, Paralympic bronze medallists at London 2012, are this week chasing one of just two regatta titles that have eluded them during their lucrative six-year partnership – the other being Paralympic Games gold – and have made the perfect start to their race series and their Miami medal-winning ambition with three wins from three races so far.

The duo had a low key 2013 season, competing in just the European and World Championships, which they won, after which Rickham took three months off from sailing before returning to the boat just before this week’s World Cup regatta.

“I just think the residual of 2012 kind of caught up with me eventually,” Rickham said of her break.

“Our fleet’s not really up and moving yet, it’s probably just starting to kick off so it seemed like a really good time for me to take a break, step away from the sailing, get a little perspective, spend some time with my friends and family who all seem to think I don’t exist, and just generally enjoy the other things so I can appreciate my time on the water and appreciate sailing a bit more.

“All in all it’s been a good three months and it’s the first time I’ve spent that much time in the UK solidly for the last five years.

“That was quite difficult, staying in the cold that long! But it’s been worthwhile for me – I’ve come back a lot fresher, focussed and kind of knowing a bit more about what I want and don’t want as part of our campaign.”

In spite of their stellar start, Birrell is remaining level-headed about the pair’s prospects for this week’s regatta at this early stage, but admits that the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami is ‘one that got away’.

“So far Miami has been very unkind to us in terms of results – two years ago we were very close, maybe a point or two off winning but other than that we’ve done pretty badly here normally.

“We did do well in our trials here in our first ever SKUD event and made a big step towards [Beijing] selection so it’s not always been horrible to us, but we’re definitely missing the gold medal from here that we could do with at some point!

“Obviously we’d hope to do that this week, but there’s still a lot of racing to do yet and the fleet is doing OK and going quite quickly as well, so it’s not going to be that easy.”

After a long postponement waiting for wind, just one race was possible for the majority of the Olympic and Paralympic fleets on this second day of racing.

Portland’s Giles Scott elevated himself to the top of the leaderboard with a race win from the sole race for the Finn class, while Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre in the 470 women’s class and the island's Megan Pascoe in the Paralympic 2.4mR class also lead their fleets after a race win.

The new pairing of John Pink and Stuart Bithell find themselves at the top of the 49er standings after three races, thanks to a race win in their only race of the day, while Stevie Morrison and Chris Grube are fifth overall.

The women’s RS:X fleet managed two races, with overnight leader Bryony Shaw maintaining her yellow jersey for a second day thanks to a 4, 1 from her two races, with teammate Izzy Hamilton posting two sixth places to sit in eighth overall.

The Nacra 17 fleet also saw two races with Ben Saxton/Hannah Diamond and Lucy Macgregor/Andy Walsh each picking up a third place to end the day in second and fourth overall respectively.

Frances Peters and Nicola Groves were fourth in the only race of the day for the 49erFX class – they’re now in 12th overall, with Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth sixth.

Nick Thompson is the leading British Laser sailor, in eighth place after three races, Portland’s Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield sit in 10th in the 470 men’s event, Hannah Snellgrove is 18th in the Laser Radial.

The Paralympic trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas picked up a third in their sole race of the day to sit fifth overall in the Sonar class.

Racing at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami continues today, with medal races for the Olympic classes scheduled for Saturday, February 1.

For news and results, follow the action at britishsailingteam.com on Facebook or on Twitter @BritishSailing.

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