RACING intensified as the Aquece Rio International Regatta reached its halfway point yesterday, with British sailors making steady progress across the board.
Nick Thompson’s was the star performance of the British team on the fourth day of this Olympic Test Event, winning both Laser races held on the Copacabana course, while Portland-based Giles Scott extended his lead in the Finn event with team-mate Ed Wright in third.
The heavyweight dinghy fleet was the last to hit the shore in darkness after their three-race day on the outside Niteroi course.
After a short postponement to the scheduled noon start time on Wednesday, the sea breeze filled in quickly across Guanabara Bay to provide superb racing conditions across five course areas.
The Nacra 17 mixed multihull fleet, racing on the Escola Naval course in the middle of the bay, had an intensive four-race day.
But the British Sailing Team’s world silver medallists Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond seemed to revel in the conditions, posting three second places and a fourth to boost them into overall second after this fourth day of competition.
“It was a cracking day – Rio did well,” Saxton enthused. “We ended up with 10-16 knots of breeze for every race. “The sea breeze came in and it was awesome sailing.
“It was nice and shifty, but also get your head down, go fast and do the simple things well which is what we managed to do.
“Four races of three laps is pretty brutal,” added Diamond, “but that’s exactly what we’ve been training for and the more sailing out here we can do the better for our experience for hopefully next year and eventually for the Games in two years’ time.
“We’re learning to expect the unexpected, but the sailing so far has been amazing,” said Diamond of the 2016 venue.
“It’s a shame we missed the last day, but yesterday and today we had really good breeze. There are loads of race courses so getting used to them has been really important, and making sure that we take that forwards on to the Worlds this year and bring it back for next year.”
Pippa Wilson and John Gimson also improved to sixth overall in the 18 boat Nacra fleet.
Portland-based Luke Patience and Elliot Willis are up to second in the 470 men’s event, with Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark poised third while Sophie Weguelin andEilidh McIntyre 10th in the women’s fleet.
The first medals of the regatta will be decided in the men’s and women’s RS:X windsurfing events today, with Bryony Shaw in the mix for bronze in the women’s event.
She heads into the final double-points race in sixth place, five points from the podium spots, while Weymouth’s Nick Dempsey will be looking for solid final race to finish his regatta on a positive note after enduring a difficult week on the race course.
“This week has been a massive challenge,” admitted the Olympic silver medallist, who made the 10-boat medal race cut in seventh place. “I haven’t sailed particularly well and I certainly struggled yesterday in the really wacky breeze.
"I think I’ve made a lot of mistakes but saying that we’ve learned stacks about the venue.
“It’s been different every race, which is kind of why it’s been so hard to get your head around. It’s all good learning but sometimes it’s painful to take those knocks and be struggling a little bit, but onwards and upwards.
“I just seem to have been scrapping around in the middle of the fleet a lot so today I’d like to sail normally – like I normally sail and not be chasing it all a little bit.
"I want to race well and win the race. I should be able to do that and hopefully I will.”
In the 49er event, Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign are poised in overall fourth, with 6,7 from their two races, while John Pink and Stuart Bithell are just three points behind their compatriots in sixth.
The women’s 49erFX class managed three races, with Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth ending their day in overall fifth and Frances Peters and Nicola Groves in ninth, while Alison Young is currently sixth in what’s an incredibly close leaderboard in the Laser Radial class.
The 470, Laser and Laser Radial events will conclude on Saturday.