Andrew Murdoch (NZL) opened his first return to Weymouth since the 2012 Olympics with a great performance to lead overnight from Jonathan Lobert (FRA) and Giles Scott (GBR) at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Weymouth & Portland.
Back in 2012 Murdoch placed fifth in the Laser class while Lobert picked up the Finn bronze. Scott had to watch from the sidelines as his arch rival and teammate Ben Ainslie (GBR) took the gold. A lot has changed since then. Scott is now the best in the world and showed some of that form in the opening race with a strong victory after trailing round the top mark in 11th.
The gusty and and shifty offshore conditions took their toll through the fleet with some big scores already on the board for some, including race 2 winner Josh Junior (NZL) who picked up a 15th in the first race, and Scott who dropped to 12th in the second.
The Australians got the first upwind right in race 1 with Jake Lilley (AUS) rounding ahead of Oliver Tweddell (AUS) and Max Salminen (SWE). However first Murdoch and then Scott came past downwind to round opposite gates almost simultaneously. Murdoch tried to break out to the left with Scot following later along with most of the fleet. Murdoch held the initial advantage but as they negotiated the shifts into the top mark Scott's position further in the middle paid off and he took a small lead which he extended on the final downwind to the finish. Meanwhile Lobert had been further right still and moved up to third at the top and passed Murdoch half way down the final run to take second. Murdoch crossed third.
Race 2 produced some different names at the front. Björn Allansson (SWE) won the pin and after pushing out from the fleet tacked back across and let Ed Wright (GBR) continue leftwards. Wright crossed back later on a larger shift and held the advantage at the top mark from Junior and Murdoch. The Kiwis were evidently much faster downwind and piled past to split tacks at the gate. Junior initially gained and then both Murdoch and Wright reeled him in as they approached the top mark again. However Junior is most dangerous downwind and extended away for a 120 metre lead to take the race win. Murdoch again passed Wright downwind to take second and the overall lead, while Wright cruised home in third.
Murdoch said, “It's my first time back since the Olympics. I always enjoy the sailing here and it's good to be back. Today we had 12-17 knots from the north-east. Not a direction I saw much of in all the previous sailing I've done here. There were plenty of shifts and differences in pressure so it was good to come away from today with a couple of keepers.”
Race 1 winner, Scott, said, “I struggled to get off the start line today. The fleet felt really punchy which I think it was after looking at the video. But the first race went well with a good first downwind for me.”
“In the second I got the wrong side of a few shifts and found myself on the back foot. I had got back into it by the bottom but got caught out on the left with a 20 degree righty. So plenty to play for tomorrow in what I think will be similar conditions.”
Racing in Weymouth continues to Sunday. An eight race series will be followed by the medal race for the top 10.
Results after 2 races
1 NZL 16 Andrew Murdoch 5
2 FRA 112 Jonathan Lobert 9
3 GBR 41 Giles Scott 13
4 ITA 66 Enrico Voltolini 14
5 BRA 109 Jorge Zarif 14
6 NZL 24 Josh Junior 16
7 SWE 33 Max Salminen 18
8 AUS 41 Jake Lilley 19
9 FIN 218 Tapio Nirkko 20
10 ESP 7 Alex Muscat 21