Was there ever really any doubt? Ben Ainslie's march back to the top continues with his third successive ISAF Sailing World Cup victory. Defeat was never going to be an option for him this week and, apart from a few minor mishaps from the Olympic champion, most of the fleet seemed to realise this fairly early on. In winning Skandia Sail for Gold he was also selected for the GBR place at the Olympic test event next month, and is steering a steady course that ultimately only seems to have one outcome.
If Ainslie's goal was to put no doubt in the mind of the British selectors then he did a first rate job. Five race wins puts him head and shoulders above the rest of the fleet and but for a different decision he could easily have gone into the medal race in an unassailable position. As is was he had to leave the match racing against against Giles Scott (GBR) until the final day and did enough damage to ensure that Scott finished at the back of the fleet, though he did get past Ainslie, who finished last.
Second placed Giles Scott sailed an incredible regatta under immense pressure and should now be considered one of the very best Finn sailors in the world. He has done his apprenticeship, graduated with honours and is regularly producing the kind of form that creates world and Olympic champions. However, when it really counts and the pressure is one, Ainslie has always produced the goods. Scott is getting closer but both his wins in the past year were almost lost after average medal race performances, and he only secured silver today by one point. That is something he needs to work on.
Third placed Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) sails well under pressure and this week was a no pressure event for him and he still managed third, and almost secured the silver, treating the week more as training than about getting results. The 2009 and 2010 European Champion is not quite firing all cylinders yet, and had a few unlucky moments this week, so you can bet he will be back stronger and faster. If you are confident and want to place bet then have a look at this betting sites to learn about how you can bet on sports and sports betting.
World Champion Ed Wright (GBR), by his own admission, didn't have the best week. But they were his conditions in the main and he should have, could have, done a lot better. Weymouth is proving to be a tricky venue, especially in offshore winds, and that is catching out many experienced sailors. But he is strong when the chips are down and recorded yet another medal race win today. Wright has undoubtedly won more medal races in the past few years than any other sailor in the fleet.
The medal race actually produced the battle everyone had expected to see on Friday. Ainslie took the fight to Scott and both were late for the start. Ainslie then sat all over Scott until they were far out the back.
At the front Andrew Mills (GBR) initially led from Wright, Dan Slater (NZL) and Zach Railey (USA). Wright took the lead on the first downwind and never let it go. He needed Kljakovic Gaspic to be at least six boats back to take the bronze, but the Croatian hung on to finish fifth. At the back Ainslie and Scott were having a real battle downwind and up and finally Scott got the better and powered off. But it was too late and as more boats finished ahead of him, dreams of gold disappeared in the breeze.
Wright won from Railey and Mills to leave the overall positions unchanged from last night. All that effort and nothing changed except the points each took home.
Ainslie said, “It’s been a really tough week physically with strong winds so I’m really pleased to have come out on top. We’ve got a huge quality in the Finn fleet, especially in the British team with Giles and Ed Wright in particular sailing very well. It’s been hard work, I won’t hide from that fact. It was one of the toughest events I think I’ve ever done physically.”
“Giles was the only one who could beat me and in terms of our Olympic selection trials that was a pretty big deal. I sealed the regatta win and it worked out OK. It’s always quite tense with those match races, it’s never easy and Giles sailed very well and put up a good fight. It’s a tough situation that we only have one spot per class.”
Scott commented, “It was all stacked against me. 16 points is a massive deficit, especially when I was the only one who could beat Ben. I’d be lying if I said I was pleased with silver. I came here to win and unfortunately wasn’t able to do that. Ben sailed a fantastic week and sailed well again today.”
Slater summed up his regatta, “I think most are happy the regatta has come to a end as it's been really tough with lots of wind and long freezing cold days on the water with a course area five miles from the shore. However it was good, but tough sailing, and I enjoyed most of the racing. I had really good first beats but there is still some work to do downwind. I'm now looking forward to a few weeks off.”
With a blend of good days and bad days, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist Zach Railey couldn't replicate the form that won him silver in Hyeres. But he is impressed with the venue. “Weymouth and Portland are really great. Wesettled well into the town and are getting to know the people, restaurants, and things to do. It seems like a lot of people vacation here and there are lots of activities outside of sailing like biking and fishing in the area. The town really seems to have embraced hosting the Sailing Events and it's great to see and be a part of looking toward 2012.”
On the competition, he added, “Everyone seems very focused and going about business as usual. They are all is very professional and really pushing hard on the water as this event means a lot to many of the sailors here.”
Most of the sailors have been totally focussed on just two things this week– selection trials for the test event and/or the Olympics as well as learning the vagaries of Weymouth Bay and its tricky winds and currents. We asked what have they learned so far about Weymouth...
Slater said, “There were not too many lessons for the future out on our course as we won't be there for the Olympics, so you just take each day as it happens.” Railey's take was, “I think we have really seen how cold it can be on the water here. That is going to be a factor I think even in July and August.” Ainslie agreed, “I have learnt more about the different courses and that it's cold.” Kljakovic Gaspic was more practical. He replied, “Good fish and chips!”
The sailors have a week off before the final event in the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Cup begins in Kiel on June 19th.
Results after medal race (medal race positions in brackets):
2nd GBR 41 Giles SCOTT 56 (9)
3rd CRO 524 Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC 57 (4)
4th GBR 11 Ed WRIGHT Ed 63 (1)
5th DEN 2 Jonas HOGH-CHRISTENSEN 76 (7)
6th NZL 1 Dan SLATER 77 (6)
7th FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT 78 (5)
8th GBR 85 Andrew MILLS 93 (3)
9th SWE 11 Daniel BIRGMARK 102 (8)
10th USA 4 Zach RAILEY 103 (2)
Event website: www.skandiasailforgoldregatta.co.uk