Optimist World Championship at Boca Chica, Dominican Republic – Overall
The best was kept for the end at the Opti Worlds with the weather being ideal for the last day of the Championship. A sunny and clear sky, with a breeze of 10 knots was the perfect combination for the conclusion of the event.
Two races sailed for all groups with several general recalls and black flags. Yokoyama Elisa Yukie and Neo Samuel Jiun Jie from Singapore had their own battle for first place and the rest of the fleet did not seem to be important to them. They both scored a bullet and had only one point difference when going to the final race. Right behind them was their compatriot Goh Jessica Kai Ling that also scored a bullet and was only one point behind second.
All were to be judged in the final race except for one thing, Singapore had secured all the podium places and left no chance for other countries to claim one. Bart Lambriex from Netherlands had an equally good performance scoring a 6th and a 1st place and managed to break Singapore’s domination, throwing Loh Jiayi to fifth place overall with Lambriex claimed fourth.
Yokoyama and Neo continued their flawless performances, scoring another bullet each meaning that Yokoyama is the new Optimist World Champion for 2012. Neo was only one point behind him in second place and Goh, after a bad performance in the last race, took third place overall.
Sweden’s Nevhagen and Jarudd took 6th and 8th place respectively and went between USA’s Shestopalov and Muller that finished 7th and 9th. The top ten completed by Janezic from Slovenia.
A wonderful Closing Ceremony followed, with the organizers giving thanks to all participants and volunteers in a ceremony hosted on the beach! Surely, a unique Championship to be remembered, for the 50th anniversary of the Opti Worlds and the first time that a nation claimed all three podium places.
By Icarus Sailing Media, All photos © Matias Capizzano
Finn Class Interview: Ben Ainslie – hopes of a nation
Ben Ainslie talks to Robert Deaves about his fifth Olympic Games and his final preparations going into what is undoubtedly the most important regatta of his life. This is the last of the Finn sailor profiles before the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition commences this weekend.
After winning Silver in the Laser in 1996 and Gold in 2000, Ben Ainslie moved into the Finn class and won back to back Gold medals in 2004 and 2008. Now, in 2012 Ben is on the brink of becoming the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. Currently this accolade is held by another Finn sailor, Paul Elvstrøm, who won four Olympic Gold medals from 1948 to 1960, the first in a Firefly and then three in the Finn. If Ainslie wins Gold on Sunday, 5 August, he will beat Elvstrøm’s record and enter the history books yet again.
Though he is still the outright favourite to take a third Finn Gold, it will be no easy task. At 35 he is one of the oldest sailors in the Finn fleet, and sailing what could potentially be his last Olympic Games. But in this highly competitive fleet he has almost completely dominated the 2011 and 2012 seasons, notching up impressive victories at the 2011 Olympic Test Event and the 2012 Finn Gold Cup, his sixth Finn World Championship.
First we asked him what is so special about this Olympics.“Really because it’s a home Olympics which makes it very special. I was in Trafalgar Square when they announced that London had won the bid for 2012, the atmosphere was electric and that’s when I decided I wanted to continue my Olympic career and be a part of it.”
Ben’s profile within sailing and especially within UK sport is at an all time high. His image has been used to publicise the London 2012 Olympic Games in a way that a sailor has never been used before, and he carries the hopes of the whole nation to win the Gold. In light of this does he regard the 2012 Olympics as the most important regatta in his life? “It is the most important regatta in my life right now, but they were all important to get to this point. In my mind I focus on the event and what I have to do to be successful, I can’t worry about anything else.”
How has his preparation differed from the 2008 campaign? “I guess I have had more time to prepare for it, and I have had to as the home competition has been tougher and the venue is also tough strategically. The international competition is very similar to what it was four years ago, although the expected conditions are very different.”
In China Ben’s coach was the former British Finn sailor Jez Fanstone, who is now Olympic manager for the New Zealand team. For Weymouth Ben has teamed up again with David ‘Sid’ Howlett. “They are both very experienced. I guess Sid is slightly more so when it comes to Olympic experience, but both Sid and Jez are very professional and committed and that is what you want in a coach. I look for someone who I get on well with and who has the experience. It’s also important that they share the same determination for the campaign to be successful. I should also say that I have been really fortunate to have so much help and support over the years from many different people.”
Some would say that Ben is lucky to race for a country that has such a high level of Finn sailing, with two other sailors who have won the World Championships in recent years and several others always near the top. While this has no doubt raised his game over the years, it is hard on the other sailors such as Edward Wright and Giles Scott, who suffer at the rules of one nation per class in the sailing at the Olympics. Does Ben think this is one rule that should be changed so that all the top sailors have the chance to sail? “As an elitist I would say, yes, we should have all of the top sailors, but we also have to realise sailing’s role in the Olympic Family. If we start excluding emerging nations in sailing then we risk our Olympic status. It is really hard on guys like Giles Scott and Ed Wright but that’s what you sign up for and you have to live and die by the results.”“In small boats the Olympics is the pinnacle, but having said that there are some fantastic non-Olympic sailors such as Nick Craig. I’m sure if Nick had the time to train full time he could be successful in the Olympic arena but he has other commitments and I guess that’s the choice you have to make. As a professional sailor the Olympics, Americas Cup, Volvo Ocean race, Jules Verne and Vendée Globe really mean something.”
After so many years campaigning a single-handed dinghy for the Olympics, does he find it a problem to keep motivating himself? “I have always been busy trying to mix Americas Cup campaigns with Olympic campaigns. It isn’t easy but it keeps you very busy and you have to focus hard on maximising the time that you have. I find that each time I come back I have a fresh approach and seem to learn more that way.”
Are the sacrifices worth the effort? “Personally, I set a goal and I want to achieve that goal. It would be the same with anything else in life but in this instance it’s the Olympics Games and in sport it doesn’t get any higher than that.”
“I guess I don’t really have a normal life. I live out of a suitcase and it’s very hard on family and friends. Sometimes it isn’t easy and I wonder what I am doing but at the end of the day it’s my ambition and I am very lucky to have the opportunities and support that I have had a long the way.”
The path to Weymouth was paved with incidents, some of which Ben would prefer to forget. Aside from the media boat incident in Perth and the operation on his back over the winter, what was been the hardest part about the campaign this time around for him? “It has probably been adapting to the physicality of the free pumping. It requires a lot of fitness and technique. It is also a benefit for the taller guys.”
As far as gear selection goes, Ben has been playing around with a Wilke built Finn for a while in addition to campaigning his 2004/2008 Gold medal winning Devoti hull. Ben claims to have gone through about four hulls, six masts, about 150 sails in his 10 years in the class. Is there a performance advantage with the Devoti he has used?“The [Devoti] boat was very well built by Tim Tavinor and the fact that it is still going strong eight years on is testament to that. It is different to a standard boat and I guess it gives me the confidence that if I sail well then I am competitive.”
“But it has been a good project working with Wilke on the hulls and masts. It was good to go through the development process and work out what was reality and what the opportunities are. We are still working on the equipment and probably won’t make a final call until just prior to the Games.”
Like all British athletes and sailors, there is going to immense domestic interest from the public and the media which can only increase the pressure on the competitors. Can you prepare for that? “I think the crowds will be an inspiration rather than a distraction. The media are always there and you have to deal with that.” What about the controversial Nothe course area? “I think in any breeze from the east to south-west it will be fine. Outside of that wind range I hope they will race elsewhere.”
Will there be any more Finn sailing for Ben Ainslie after these Olympics? “I honestly don’t know. After the Games I will focus on the America’s Cup and then see how things develop. I have loved sailing the Finn but it will depend what my objectives are.” And his thoughts on the Olympics in general? “ISAF need to consolidate the classes. There are too many classes and there is no room for two sets of men’s and women’s high performance classes. Ultimately, in time, we need to switch to more exciting classes.”
Ben wouldn’t be drawn on picking favourites for the medals. “It’s such an open class, I would say any of the top 12 guys could win a medal.”
And finally, what is he most looking forward over the next few weeks? “After so much preparation I just can’t wait to get on with the racing.”
The first races are scheduled for this Sunday at 12.00, with the opening race on the much feared Nothe course area with 4,500 people watching, before moving to one of the offshore courses for the second race.
Photos: Robert Deaves/Finn Class
Jonnys Women’s 470 Class Olympic medal predictions – 20 entries
New Zealander’s Jo Aleh and Olivier Powrie like breeze – c Perth 2011
The medals could go to any combination of at least six teams in a highly competitive Women’s 470 Class. A team coming into a rich vein of form at the right time are the New Zealanders Jo Aleh and Olivier Powrie. This pair enjoy strong winds, winning the Sail for Gold on the 2012 Olympic Games course in June and a bronze at the 2011 Worlds in Perth. The kiwis have regularly stepped onto the podium at Sailing World Cup Olympic Class Regattas during the last 2 seasons.
The highly experienced Dutch team of Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout formed after the 2008 Beijing Games where Lobke won silver. They just lost out in the medal race at the recent worlds in Barcelona to settle for bronze but come into Weymouth & Portland with a string of successes at ISAF grade 1 regattas. They won the world title together in 2009 and 2010.
The highly experienced Dutch team Lisa Westerhof & Lobke Berkhout – c Jean-Marie Liot
Another successful partnership forming after the 2008 Games are the home nation representatives Hanna Mills and Saskia Clark. The pair has formed a formidable partnership despite an 8 year age gap and a relatively short time racing together. Hannah is a highly talented sailor with a string of youth championships victories whilst Saskia has years of 470 sailing experience. She finished 6th with sister, Penny in Beijing 2008. The British pair finished in silver spot at the Perth 2011 Worlds and went on to claim gold in Barcelona in May 2012. They also finished a second to the kiwis in Weymouth & Portland at Sail for Gold. They enjoy the fresh conditions and should feel comfortable in Weymouth & Portland waters.
Other contenders for medals include the Japanese pair of Ai Kondo & Wakako Tabata who scored podium results at a number of grade 1 events including a win at the Olympic test regatta in Weymouth & Portland in August 2011. They are well prepared, training with their male team mates with a highly experienced coach. Also in the frame are the French crew, Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron who had to qualify to race for France against strong competition at home. They may have proved their selectors right with a strong performance in the 2012 Worlds grabbling silver.
Local girls Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark GBR – c Richard Langdon
The young and talented Spanish girls, Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos won the 2011 Worlds in the breeze and waves of Perth and stand a good chance of a podium placing. Other teams that should make the medal race include the experienced Italians, Guilia Conti and Giovanni Micol, the very experienced Danes, Henrietta Koch and Lisa Sommer and the ever improving American team of Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan.
Gold: Jo Aleh & Olivier Powrie NZL
Silver: Hannah Mills & Saskia Clark GBR
Bronze: Lisa Westerhof & Lobke Berkhout NED
Jonnys Women’s Match Racing Olympic medal predictions – 12 teams
Women’s match racing is included in the 2012 Olympic programme for the first and last time in Weymouth & Portland.
Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) won Gold in Beijing 2008 in the Laser Radial before transferring her impressive sailing talent to match racing. She has perched at the top of the Women’s Match Racing rankings on a regular basis and taken some notable scalps along the way.
With her crew of Deborah Capazzi and Molly Vandermoer, Anna had to endure a sail off regatta with two other strong American skippers including her close rival Sally Barkow. Tunnicliffe’s team won the Perth 2011 Worlds and finished in silver spot in 2012. She has sailing technique in spades and goes down as favourite.
The teams that should bother her most should come from the highly experience French crew of Claire Leroy, Marie Riou and Elodie Bertrand. Claire Leroy has been racing the Match Racing circuit for 10 years and brought home bronze in Perth 2011 and lost bronze in the petit final to Sally Barkow (USA) in 2012.
GBR’s home grown favourites, Lucy Macgregor, sister Kate and Annie Lush have remained in the top echelon of Women’s Match Racing since joining the circuit shortly after the Beijing 2008 Games. Kate’s team won the 2010 Worlds and collected silver in Perth 2011. The Brits will be hoping to go one better on home soil.
There are two form teams coming into the Olympic regatta, the flying Finns, steered by Silja Lehtinen claimed the 2012 World title only weeks ago in Gothenberg with a 3-0 trouncing of Anna Tunnicliffe’s US team. Lehtinen has reached the final stages on a regular basis and in a tight match racing scenario who knows!
The other form crew is the Russian team skippered by Ekaterina Skudina, who comes to the Games with an armada of support and coaching expertise. Her team won silver in the Olympic test event and 4th in Perth 2011.
Outside chance of a medal for the rapidly improving young Australian team skippered by Olivia Price.
Gold: Anna Tunnicliffe’s team (USA)
Silver: Clarie Leroy’s team (FRA)
Bronze: Lucy Macgregor’s team (GBR)
Jonnys Men’s 470 Class Olympic medal predictions – 27 entries
Numero Uno – Matt Belcher and Malcolm Page AUS – c Perth 2011
The dominant force in the 470 Men’s division is the Australian’s Matt Belcher and Malcolm Page. The Australians have a well established tradition in the class with Page winning Gold in Beijing in 2008 and an unprecedented six world championships, the last three consecutively with Matt Belcher on the helm. They have won almost every grade 1 Olympic class regatta throughout the last 3 years rather bizarrely with the exception of Sail for Gold and the Olympic test event at the 2012 Games venue of Weymouth & Portland. They were beaten by their French rivals Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos.until this year at SFG in June where they made amends.
Pierre has been a campaigner in the 470 for 10 years and fought a close battle with compatriot Nicholas Charbonnier for selection. Pierre and Vincent have had a solid build up to the Olympic regatta with a string of podiums including a silver at the 2012 Worlds in Barcelona. They finished down the pan at SFG in June this year but are the only crew to beat the Aussies at Weymouth & Portland.
The other major competition will consist of the young guns from Britain, Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. They also had to fight for selection against seasoned 470 campaigners and title winners Nick Rogers and Nick Asher. Luke and Stu missed out on the Olympic test event but went on win the medal race of the Perth 2011 Worlds and snatch the silver medal. Their 2012 season has been slow to gain momentum but they have performed well in the breeze delivering a stellar silver in Weymouth & Portland at SFG in June. They are very fit and strong and gaining in experience at every opportunity.
The consistent Croations, Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic are sure to be major competitors for a medal. They are the bronze specialists, coming 3rd at the 2010,2011 and 2012 World Championships. Yet to achieve success at an Olympic Games regatta they have a good chance this time round.
Other strong contenders include the Israelis Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela. This will be Gideon’s 3rd Olympics having finished 14th and 15th in Athens and Beijing respectively with a different crew, but their run in form is good, a 3rd at the Olympic test event, 2nd in Palma and 4th in Hyeres and just off the podium at the Barcelona Worlds this year.
Two young and upcoming teams are the Finnish brothers, Jonas and Niklas Lindgren and kiwis, Paul Snow Hansen and Jason Saunders, both enjoy the Weymouth conditions and should challenge in the medal race. Others with a chance of a medal race spot are the Argentinians, Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente and Greeks Panagotis Kampourridis and Efstathios Papadopolous.
Gold: Matthew Belcher & Malcolm Page AUS
Silver: Pierre Leboucher & Vincent Garos FRA
Bronze: Luke Patience & Stuart Bithell GBR
Australia’s Matthew Belcher and Malcolm Page will be the pair to beat in the Men’s 470 at the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition having won three World Championship titles in a row.
The pair have blown the competition away in recent times and on 2 August they will be part of the 27-boat fleet that begin their Olympic Sailing Competition on the Nothe Course.
Not only do they have their 470 titles to their name they have an unbeaten run that stretches from December 2011 where they picked up their second consecutive world title together proving they are a force to be reckoned with.
Page comes into London 2012 as the defending Men’s 470 Olympic Champion having won gold with Nathan Wilmot in Beijing 2008, a feat he is keen to repeat, “There’s no better feeling than flying the flag as high as possible and the dream is to have the middle flag on the three posts at London 2012.”
On his memories of the podium at Beijing 2008 Page said, “The key moment that got the tingle down my spine was when we were standing on that podium listening to my national anthem and watching my country flag go up. I get goosepimples now even when I think about it.”
Having won 420 Worlds title in 2000, Belcher was given the honour of carrying the Australian flag at the Sydney 2000. In that moment he caught the Olympic bug and having trained with Wilmot and Page in their build up for Beijing 2008 he missed out on selection. But going into London 2012 he is looking forward to representing his country on the global stage, “You can’t really take it for granted, it’ such a privilege to represent your country,” said Belcher. “To have this opportunity this time around we’re just going to make the most of it.”
Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO) will be one of the crews chasing the Australians for the coveted gold medal. The pair won the 470 European Championship in Largs, Scotland ahead of London 2012 and have finished on the podium at four consecutive 470 Worlds, including a gold medal in 2009. On their relationship together Marenic said, “We’ve sailed together for ten years now so we know each other very well and we also communicate really well which is the key and an important thing. We know each other since Optimists so we’re also really good friends. Until recently we even lived together.”
France’s Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos know what it takes to beat Belcher and Page on Weymouth waters having done so twice in 2011. The French duo finished second at the 2012 470 Worlds and will aim to push to Australians all the way.
Sydney 2000 bronze medallist Juan de la Fuente (ARG) will be one of the most experienced sailors in the fleet with London 2012 his fourth Olympic Games. He gives up ten years on his helm Lucas Calabrese but is excited by his young helm, “This is a new challenge with Lucas,” said de la Fuente.“He is really talented and young. He is new blood and wants to improve all the time and he trains really hard.”
Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela (ISR) won bronze at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, the Olympic Test Event, last year and have what it takes to mix it up at the top. The pair are focused and have worked well together in the build-up to London 2012.Kliger said, “Naturally our target is the gold medal. We will work hard to achieve that. We are not the only ones I guess, but this is our goal. We don’t want the bronze like the test event!”
Paul Snow Hansen and Jason Saunders are part of a balanced New Zealand sailing team with a blend of experience and newcomers amongst the ranks. The pair, both 21, have World Cup medals with a best performance of eighth at four 470 Worlds competed in together. Despite their youth Snow-Hansen is hoping for a good performance, “Hopefully we’ll be in the running for the medals but we’ll sail our best and see. We’ve got a good range of sailors with a few who have done a lot of Olympics and we’ve got a lot of young guys. The experienced guys have a lot to teach us.”
Other frontrunners will include Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell (GBR) who have the home water knowledge, Sven and Kalle Coster (NED), Ferdinand Gerz and Patrick Follman (GER) and Ryunosuke Harada and Yugo Yoshida (JPN). But the fleet is strong and upsets can happen.
RSX Women’s Windsurfer Class Olympic medal predictions by Jonny – 28 boards
Zofia Klepacka of Poland on hot form coming into the Games – c Perth 2011
The Olympic Gold is shaping up to be a fierce battle between two very fit strong breeze sailors. Lee Korzits of Israel came back from a bad injury in 2009 to regain form with back to back World titles in 2011 and 2012. She also sailed to bronze at SFG 2012 in June this year.
Zofia Klepacka of Poland enjoys a good breeze and holds back to back silvers in Perth 2011 and Cadiz 2012. She mashed the competition at the recent SFG in Weymouth & Portland and is my hot shot for Gold.
Lee Korzits ISR provides the strongest opposition – c Perth 2011
The main opposition to these two board sailors could come from Marina Alabau of Spain who had to fight a close battle for selection against compatriot Blanca Manchon. Alabau would probably prefer slightly lighter conditions but she has very consistent form in the European Olympic regatta circuit.
Local British Bryony Shaw has local knowledge, is very fit and a good bet for a chance of medal and it would be foolish to rule out the experience of Alessandra Sensini of Italy who at the tender age of 42 years is one of the most experienced athletes competing in the 2012 Games.
Spains big hope for a medal Marina Alabau – c Perth 2011
An outside chance of a medal could come from Ukranian Olga Maslivets who has featured just outside the top brass on a number of occasions, and Charline Picon of France who would also arguably like slightly lighter winds to excel.
Gold: Zofia Klepacka (POL)
Silver: Lee Korzits (ISR)
Bronze: Marina Alabau (ESP)
RSX Mens Windsurfer Class Olympic Medal Predictions by Jonny – 38 boards
The Flying Dutchman – c Thom Touw
Dorian van Rijsselberge the ‘flying dutchman’ is a relatively young gun in the RSX class but he is very tall and extremely fast in strong conditions. Dorian showed his class at the Perth 2011 Worlds and narrowly beat Nick Dempsey (GBR) at the Olympic test event in Weymouth & Portland. Expect some showboating if he wins!
In his way is the home favourite, Nick Dempsey. 2012 will be Nick’s fourth Olympic’s but he was bitterly disappointed to miss out on a medal in the relatively light airs in Beijing in 2008. He was also fourth at the 2012 Worlds in Cadiz but is very good at recovering from set-backs and knows the waters off Weymouth like the back of his hand.
The other big factor is likely to be Julien Bontemps of France. The Beijing silver medallist has had a very successful season winning the 2012 Worlds in Cadiz and finishing in third at SFG in June. Julien also enjoys a good breeze.
The hunting pack include more sailors from Poland and Israel. Poland is a dominant force in windsurfing and will be represented by Przemek Miarczynski who’s selection went down to the wire in a trial against Piotr Myszka. He finished 5th in Athens 2004 and a podium placing at the Olympic test regatta.
The big rivalry – c Thom Touw
Israel’s talent comes in the form of Shahar Zubari who has also had to battle for selection against fellow windsurfer Nimrod Mashich.
It would be wise to include the kiwi JP Tobin who has been a bit off the pace of late but never out of the top batch or Bryan Kokolamis of Greece who finished 4th at SFG in June this year.
Gold: Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED)
Silver: Nick Dempsey (GBR)
Bronze: Julien Bontemps (FRA)
Laser Radial Olympic medal predictions by Jonny – 39 boats
Until 2012 the Netherlands Marit Bouwmeester had started to maintain a bit of a stranglehold over her rivals with impressive wins at the 2011 Worlds in windy Perth and a string of SWC golds medals.
Her main rival Evi van Acker (BEL) has become a resident bridesmaid with a string of seconds at SFG 2011, the Olympic test event and 2011 World Championships. She is likely to be a medal contender.
The current world champion is Gintare Scheidt of Lithuania although this was sailed on a lake in Germany in fickle winds and not a good indication on sailing conditions in Weymouth & Portland. However Gintare also holds the silver medal from Beijing 2008 and can be counted as a serious contender.
Sari Multata of Finland won back to back world championships in 2009 and 2010 before a dip in form before coming back strongly in 2012 to grab silver at the 2012 Worlds in May.
Lijia Xu had also been off the scene since claiming bronze in Beijing 2008. She came back to regular competition only late last year and since has joined the podium at a number of regattas including the 2012 Worlds and just squeezed out to 4th at SFG in June this year.
The two dark horses, especially if the breeze is up will be the rapidly advancing Alison Young of Great Britain and Annalise Murphy of Ireland. Both are tall, physical and very strong in the big stuff. Young won gold at SFG, the last regatta at the Olympic venue only weeks ago in fine form.
Another experience Radial sailor remaining in the mix is Paige Railey (USA), sister to Zach in the Finn class, she is never outside the lead bunch scoring bronze at the Olympic test event and 2011 Perth Worlds.
Gold: Marit Bouwmeester (NED)
Silver: Evi van Acker (BEL)
Bronze: Lijia Xu (CHN)