British sailors secured a hat-trick of golds on a nail-biting final day of World Cup racing in Weymouth and Portland, with Giles Scott, Nick Dempsey and the 470 duo of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark all clinching victories.
Silver medals also went to Tom Squires and Bryony Shaw in the men’s and women’s RS:X windsurfing events, and bronze to the 49er duo of John Pink and Stuart Bithell as Great Britain topped the Olympic classes medal standings at this fourth leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup series.
The British Sailing Team’s total tally, including the Paralympic classes which concluded racing yesterday, stands at five gold, three silver and three bronze medals from this home World Cup regatta.
Scott’s was the first British gold of the day, with the World Champion admitting it was a ‘stressful race’ as he had to fight back from a difficult start and a yellow flag penalty on the first upwind leg amid the light wind conditions.
“I got a bit caught at the start in all honesty,” he said. “I wanted to protect the right hand side, which I managed to do, but I just didn’t give myself enough run in time to get to the line.
“The only good thing about that is that it did give me an option out to the right which put me ahead again. So it worked out alright.”
Scott had a six-point lead over New Zealand’s Josh Junior going into the final race, and once he had worked his way back following the penalty, he pulled out his match racing skills to cover his Kiwi rival and ensure that he couldn’t get away. Scott finished ninth in the race to Junior’s tenth, but the points were enough to secure the overall victory.
“The match race can be a little bit stressful but to get the mark trap in at the top did seal the deal. As soon as I managed to get that in I felt that, barring any massive failings, I was kind of assured of the win. It was a very happy way to do it,” Scott remarked.
Although Scott’s winning streak now extends to 18 months in the heavyweight Finn event, he’s not prepared to take his foot off the gas with just over a year to go until Rio 2016.
“Everyone’s getting better all the time, and there’s still a long time to go to the Games so I certainly can’t rest on my laurels at all,” he added.
“I really just have to try and concentrate on getting better myself. That’s exactly what everyone else is doing.”
Ben Cornish finished his Finn regatta in eighth overall and Ed Wright in ninth.
470 women’s duo Mills and Clark turned the tables on their New Zealand rivals Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie – the London 2012 gold medallists – in another gripping medal race.
The 2012 silver medallists Mills and Clark took an aggressive approach and got a great start in a bid to overturn their Kiwi rivals’ two point margin ahead of the race.
The British duo held on to fourth around every mark, with the Kiwi pairing moving up from eighth to fifth during the race to finish on equal points overall. But with Mills and Clark having the superior medal race score to break the tie, they could celebrate gold on their home waters.
“It feels sweet,” said Clark after the race.
“It feels like it’s been a long time coming. We’ve been close several times over the last few years, but we’ve always just lost out. To finally nail it, in what was a great race as well, is just awesome.”
Mills added: “We wanted to execute our own start and get that first shift right and we really did that. From then on in it was just about keeping them behind us and keeping as close as possible so we’re really happy with our race.
“This event is hugely important to us, and being on the top of the podium is just a massive deal. It’s taken us a while, we had some time off after London and we really feel like we’re gaining some momentum now towards Rio.
“We’re just really happy. We love racing in Weymouth and it’s been a great week.”
Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre were also in 470 Women’s medal race action for the British Sailing Team, finishing fifth overall and seventh in the final race.
Dempsey secured the golden hat-trick for the home team, beating his younger rival Tom Squires to victory in the RS:X men’s windsurfing event. The double Olympic medallist sailed his own race to finish fourth in the ten-boat final, and take the event win by 18 points over the silver medallist Squires.
“It was a different day today, so the most important thing was to get a clear start,” said Dempsey, after hinting yesterday of a pre-start tussle with Squires.
“I knew I was pretty quick in those conditions, so I just had to get a clear start and then take the opportunity when I was ahead, and stay ahead.
“A couple of minutes after the start I had the chance to put a tack on top of him and then that was it, he was pretty trapped. That was pretty enjoyable for me, but probably quite painful for him.”
Squires, who finished the medal race in ninth, was happy with his silver medal and back to back podium finishes after claiming bronze at the Delta Lloyd Regatta in the Netherlands last month.
“It’s been a solid few weeks training in the harbour and then after medalling in Medemblik and medalling here it’s just a great experience and I am really pushing forward, which is handy and training with Nick has been great,” enthused the Oxford sailor.
Shaw won the RS:X women’s medal race to claim overall silver, but an otherwise fantastic week for Izzy Hamilton, who went into the day leading, ended in disappointment after she sailed the wrong course at the final turning mark and had to retire from the race. She finished fourth.
Shaw was happy with silver and felt it was a great springboard ahead of her European Championships starting in just over a week’s time.
“I’m going to have my A-game kit there,” she said. “I’ve been a bit compromised on equipment for this event so hopefully my pace will be a little bit quicker.”
Shaw also spared a thought for her teammate Hamilton.
“I was gutted for her,” she added. “She’s a great training partner and it means we really push each other and that’s what it’s all about towards getting the gold medal we deserve in Rio. We’re both working really hard for that and I very much see it as a team.”
Pink and Bithell scooped the final medal of the day for home team – a bronze in the 49er class – amid a British 1-2 in the race.
Local knowledge appeared to prevail today as Pink-Bithell and Dylan Fletcher-Alain Sign led the race from start to finish, with Pink and Bithell elevating themselves onto the third step of the podium as a result. Fletcher and Sign ended their week in fifth.
“This is a quite a big event for us. We set out at the beginning of the week to try and get a medal and we are just really thrilled that it’s gone well and have managed to do that,” Bithell explained.
“It’s really nice to set a goal, work really hard at it then go and achieve it by winning the medal race in sunny Weymouth.”
Elsewhere in medal race action, Alison Young finished fourth overall in the Laser Radial event, John Gimson-Hannah Diamond and Ben Saxton-Nicola Groves finished fifth and eighth in the Nacra 17.
Luke Patience-Elliot Willis were sixth in the 470 Men’s event and Nick Thompson rounded off his week in tenth in the Laser.
“We’ve had a great World Cup regatta, and it’s great to see the event continue to innovate and move forward,” said RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park.
“In terms of the British performance, we’ve had some great outcomes. It was good to see Hannah and Saskia beat the Kiwis and put some of the memories of 2012 behind them, and Giles raced fantastically in the Finn to ensure he closed out the gold.
“It was also especially pleasing to get a medal in the 49er as we’ve spent a lot of time outside the medal zone, and we’ve had plenty of other really pleasing performances this week across a range of conditions.
“Equally there are some of our regular medallists who’ll be disappointed with this week. It reinforces that with ever increasing competition levels, as soon as you’re a little bit off your game, you’ll be punished and it also reinforces that if we want to be pushing for four or five medals at each major event then we need to have medal potential in every class.
“But overall it’s been a great team performance and we look forward to going to Rio and hope everyone’s really enjoyed having a World Cup regatta back in Weymouth and Portland.”
British medallists at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland:
Giles Scott (Finn)
Hannah Mills-Saskia Clark (470 Women)
Nick Dempsey (RS:X Men)
Helena Lucas (2.4mR)
Alexandra Rickham-Niki Birrell (SKUD)
Bryony Shaw (RS:X Women)
Tom Squires (RS:X Men)
John Robertson-Hannah Stodel-Steve Thomas (Sonar)
John Pink-Stuart Bithell (49er)
Will Street-Megan Pascoe (SKUD)
John Brooker (2.4mR)