Portland ace sets pace in Hyeres regatta

OUT IN FRONT: Portland’s Alison Young in the Laser Radial class

OUT IN FRONT: Portland’s Alison Young in the Laser Radial class

First published in Afloat News

Portland’s Alison Young held on to her lead in the Laser Radial class on the second day of the French World Cup regatta.

And on a good day for Dorset sailors, Poole’s women’s match racing trio of Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor kept a clean sheet in their opening five round-robin bouts in Hyeres.

Young’s scorecard now reads three race wins and a second from her four races so far in the women’s single-handed fleet to give her a slender one-point lead over Australia’s Krystal Weir, while Weymouth’s Charlotte Dobson is currently poised in sixth overall with six and nine from Monday’s two races.

The Macgregor sisters and Lush secured a clean sweep of five wins from five matches to kick-start their 2011 title defence in the Elliot 6m women’s match racing event, overcoming Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen (DEN), Stephanie Hazard (NZL), Olivia Price (AUS), Tamara Eche-goyen (ESP) and Claire Leroy (FRA) to currently sit joint first with USA’s Anna Tunnicliffe, who also boasts a 100 per cent record from her five matches.

Meanwhile, Portland’s Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell lead the two-person Paralympic SKUD class on countback over the Australian duo of Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch, each with two seconds and two race wins after four races.

After starting the first of the day’s three races with a second, Skandia Team GBR’s four-time world champions Rickham and Birrell managed to pull through from the very back of the fleet in their second race after crossing the startline early and having to return. They went on to win that race, and then the third race of the day after a brief return to shore and a change of course area.

Birrell said: “Alex and I had a good day – there was around 12-15 knots, maybe a bit more at times, but a bit more manageable than Sunday which was a bit hairy on our course.

“We made some errors on Sunday, which got us a second and put us on the back foot yesterday, but we got the boat on some really nice settings and got some good boat speed against everyone.”

The duo, whose place in Para-lympicsGB was confirmed last summer, were last in competitive action at the Rolex Miami OCR in January, and are looking forward to checking in with the rest of their fleet.

Although they are eying the podium spots and a defence of their 2011 Hyeres crown, Birrell is in no doubt as to where the pair’s priorities lie.

He added: “The most important thing for the whole year is to make sure we get the best result possible at the Paralympics. That is the aim, to win the Paralympics in Sept-ember.

“Here, we’re just trying to take every race as a learning opportunity as we don’t do so many races against everyone, so we’re trying to make the best of every opportunity that’s here and not get too stressed about the overall result.”

Skandia Team GBR’s four 49er crews got their regatta underway after a day confined to shore on Sunday due to the strong wind conditions. Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes end the day in second overall after four steady races of one, seven, two and one, with John Pink and Rick Peacock in seventh, Dave Evans and Ed Powys in 15th and Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign in 18th overall.

Iain Percy and Sherborne’s Andrew Simpson have an overall position of second to show for their three races and eight hours on the water, post- ing scores of two, five and four, while in the 2,4mR event, Helena Lucas is third and Portland’s Megan Pascoe fifth.

The 2012-selected Sonar trio of Portland John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas’ day tailed off after a strong start to their three races – they’re fourth overall with one, three and 12 for their day, while Skandia Team GBR’s development squad sailors of Izzy Hamilton and Alex Mills-Barton are holding their own in their respective RS:X Women’s and Laser events. They are 14th and 20th overall after four races.

Start times for today’s races have been brought forward to 0900hrs for the majority of classes, with predicted building breezes potentially due to result in an early halt to proceedings.

Racing at the French Olympic Sailing Week in Hyeres continues until Friday.

* Follow the action on Twitter @skandiateamgbr for ace updates during the regatta.

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