The fourth day of racing at the Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth and Portland brought strong winds from the word go, with 18-22 knots gradually building throughout the day – but it appeared to make no odds to the Laser Radial London 2012 Olympic champion Lijia Xu, who clinched event honours on the penultimate day of the regatta.
The forecasters certainly hit the nail on the head with the British ‘summer’ battering the 2012 venue at this third stage of the EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup. Race officials had a challenging time out on the water as they contended with poor visibility and strong South Westerly gusts. With a scheduled start of 1400 the racing for the 49er and 49erFX fleets was canned while other classes suffered postponements, cancellations and some exhilarating racing for the classes who did take to the water.
The Laser Radial fleet completed two of the three scheduled races, and with a race win – her seventh of the eleven races so far – followed by a third for her efforts today, the 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the year and double Olympic medal winning Lijia Xu amassed a 22-point lead at the top of the table to take the Sail for Gold crown ahead of tomorrow’s double points-scoring medal race.
“Today was quite wet and we began with very strong breeze. Gradually the wind dropped and I was preparing to do some more racing but the race committee gave up after two races. I think my aim was to try to become fitter for strong wind sailing in the future, so hopefully I can sail faster in strong winds,” said the Sail for Gold Regatta 2013 gold medallist.
Competing for the first time since winning gold last summer after an exhilarating medal race in Weymouth Bay, the Chinese sailor explained that even though today’s conditions were wet and windy, she has enjoyed her return to the 2012 sailing venue.
Xu’s fellow team mate Dongshuang Zhang (CHN) has as good as wrapped up the silver medal, with the Radial sailor sailing a consistent series across the mixture of conditions which have been thrown her way.
“Despite the wind being strong and not so favoured by me, I tried my best and enjoyed the strong wind as well as the light breeze,” explained Zhang. I am looking forward to Rio in 2016 because the venue there has light winds.”
The battle for the Radial bronze however is still on with Annalise Murphy (IRL) clawing back a seven point gap from British Sailing Team’s Chloe Martin in the fight for the podium position with the pair equal on 58 points.
“I was really happy to win the first race as I have kind of been quite far behind for the whole week but the second race didn’t go quite so well, but overall I’m happy with today,” said Murphy.
“I would like to have raced a third race today because I go well in the breeze, but in the end I was happy to come ashore after being out on the water for seven hours yesterday”. “Things aren’t going as well as I would have liked this week, but my aim is to of course finish on the podium tomorrow, I’ll just have to go out and sail a good race and hope that other people make mistakes which will push me up the table.” Tomorrow will see the competition increase even more in this class with Fionn Lyden on 59 points, just one point behind Annalise Murphy, Finn Lynch on 60 points, Séafra Guilfoyle on 65 points, Anthony Parke GBR on 94 points, Cian Byrne on 100 points and Darragh O’Sullivan finalising the top ten on 102 points. Certainly a double points-scoring medal race to watch tomorrow.
With no racing in the high performance skiff class, Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern (IRL) head into tomorrow’s three medal races in pole position, harbouring a six point lead over John Pink and Simon Wheeler (GBR) in second. Australia’s Will Phillips and Rhys Mara are poised in third.
Racing is scheduled to start at 10am tomorrow (Thursday 13 June) with one double-points medal race for all classes apart from the 49er and 49erFX, who will have three, and the Paralympic classes who will sail two final single-points fleet races. Similar conditions to today are expected with a breezy start to the day, expected to moderate by lunchtime.