Ben Ainslie (GBR) returned to winning form in the Finn fleet on the third day of the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011 to take a three point advantage into Tuesday's lay day. Jonathan Lobert (FRA) won the first race of the day to stay firmly in contention while two solid results from Pieter Jan Postma (NED) leaves him just one point further back. Monday in Weymouth brought more cold, strong winds and more physically testing conditions in Weymouth Bay. The offshore wind was very shifty with many place changes during the day and though the sea was flatter than Sunday, it was a stamina sapping day on the water for the 27 strong Finn fleet.
Race five finally got underway under black flag at the third attempt with four sailors pulled out early. Most of the fleet favoured the inshore route with Jonas Hoegh Christensen (DEN) rounding the first mark with a big lead over Jonathan Lobert (FRA), Piotr Kula (POL) and Pieter Jan Postma (NED). Lobert took the lead on the second downwind and kept his head and his lead into the finish, while Postma climbed to second and Ben Ainslie (GBR) recovered from a poor first beat to cross in third.
Ainslie then went on to take race six after winning the pin end start and leading throughout the race, extending on each leg to cross the finish line before the next boat had rounded the leeward mark. He was followed round the top mark by Deniss Karpak (EST) and Rafa Trujillo (ESP) and they finished in the order after 75 minutes hard sailing, never more than a few boatlengths apart.
Ainslie said, “It always seems to be windy in Weymouth; well at regattas anyway. It's a bit like the Sail for Gold regatta all over again. It's hard work physically and both Jonathan and PJ are sailing really well, so we'll see what happens with the conditions for the rest of the week. It's been really tricky so far to pick the correct side of the course, it's very shifty and really hard to read, that's why you are getting a lot of place changes, so it's a case of when the going is good make the most of it, and when it's not you just have try and battle through.”
“I was pretty disappointed with the first race as I got fantastic start and thought I had a handle on everything and it all fell apart rather spectacularly at the top and then I really struggled, but I was fortunate in having a really good final beat and got up to third. Then I got a slightly better grip on the conditions in the second race. It was still quite puffy and up and down, and the first beat of the second race was the windiest we had all day, so it was really full on.”
Postma summed up his day, “The first race was really shifty, really hard and a lot of pressure differences, maybe around five to six knots difference, so it it was a complicated game today. In the first race there was not a lot of risk taking, and I played it well on the shifts to make top five at the first mark, then I lost a little in the middle of the race and with good downwind speed moved up to second at the finish.”
“There were a lot of things you had to take into account today. The first race was good for me, but the second was more shifty. I was going really well but missed a couple of shifts. Actually the shifts were the biggest we have seen the past few weeks.”
2008 Olympic silver medalist Zach Railey (USA) moves up to seventh overall after a 5, 8 today. He revealed, “I flipped over again today. The racing is so hard, and the wind is hard to predict. In the first race we had shifts back and forth from each side, and I felt pretty confident. In the second race I was about fifth or sixth going up second upwind, and there was a 30 degree righty and I ended up losing five or six boats and then I got picked up by a big breaking wave at the top of the second downwind and I got flipped over and fell back a lot after that. But I had a really good third upwind and got back to eighth, so can't really complain about that.”
“The week has been up and down so far, but apart from the 26th yesterday I have had pretty solid results. I am probably the lightest guy in the fleet at the moment, so it was be nice to have a bit less breeze later this week so we can see where we are all at in those conditions. At the moment I am just hanging on in the breeze. I was having problems with fitness so we intentionally dropped some weight to improve that and we have 12 months to the Games to put some back on properly.”
On the lay day, “Tomorrow perhaps I will go for a little cycle and rest the legs ready for Wednesday. Nothing too exciting. Its obvious that some of the guys are taking this event very seriously so you just have to try and get your body ready to go again on the next day of racing.”
Lobert agreed, “It was tough today, hard on the legs. The pressure was up and down. It is good that we are resting tomorrow.”
One of the youngest sailors here is Greg Douglas (CAN). “I am having a very good event so far. It was tough today, but I had two good finishes. I was always in the fight with the other guys."
He is currently in 15th place overall and very pleased with his week so far, though it nearly ended before it began. “Two days before the event I broke my mast and Jonas [Hoegh Christensen] lent me his spare mast. It was pretty stiff He told me the reason he didn't use the mast was that he wasn't fit enough. I reminded him of that just now. I saw he was hurting more than I was so it is good to know you are going well.”
The Finn fleet has a lay day on Tuesday before two more race days on Wednesday and Thursday. There is another lay day on Friday before Saturday's medal race.
The Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011 is the test event for the sailing events of the London 2012 Olympic Games, as part of the London Prepares series. The Finns are scheduled to have 10 races from Saturday 6 August to Thursday 11 August, with reserve days on Tuesday and Friday. The medal race for the top 10 is scheduled to take place on Saturday 13 August There are five course areas (three offshore, one in Portland Harbour and one under the Nothe) and the fleet will race on all the courses over the week.
Result after six races (one discard)
1 GBR Ben Ainslie 12
2 FRA Jonathan Lobert 15
3 NED Pieter Jan Postma 16
4 EST Deniss Karpak 24
5 CRO Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 25
6 ESP Rafa Trujillo 33
7 USA Zach Railey 35
8 DEN Jonas Hoegh Christensen 35
9 NZL Dan Slater 40
10 SWE Daniek Birgmark 44