Ben Ainslie won the Gold Medal at the Spa Olympic Classes Regatta at Medemblik in Holland last weekend, showing the fleet the way home on a windy last day.
A top three at Spa was one of the few missing results from the Olympic Silver Medallists CV. Ainslie currently holds the Laser National, European and World Championship titles and his win here continues a superb run of results that has rarely seen him out of the top three at any international regatta in the last two seasons.
“It’s great to do well here as I normally do badly! The conditions are really tricky and the competition is like the Worlds really, everyone was here, Karl (Suneson) and Robert (Scheidt) plus a number of others” he said.
Ainslie, an Elite performer on the World Class Performance Programme from Lymington in Hampshire, went into today’s race in second place overall, just six points behind Finland’s Roope Suomalainen, with Brazilian Olympic Gold Medallist and three times world champion Robert Scheidt a further 7 points behind in third.
“I didn’t look to good for while as they had a black flag start in today’s race and I had a bad start. I couldn’t afford to be over as I had some big discards where as Robert had a good start because he was hidden down the line. I managed to work my way up to fifth and that was enough really to win it” esplained Ainslie. Andrew Simpson finished third in the final gold fleet race, thirteenth overall.
Winds of up to 26 knots (force 5-6) swept across the Ijseelemeer, making for some demanding sailing conditions and leading to a number of early retirements due to damaged equipment in each of the eleven disciplines.
Rob Wilson and Will Howden, both from Southampton in Hampshire, claimed fifth place in the Tornado fleet, another encouraging performance following their ninth at the recent European Championships. “We had to beat Mitch Booth today to get the bronze medal but that’s a really tall order in a big breeze. We’ve got the speed now, we just need to stop making small mistakes” said Wilson.
Double Olympian Shirley Robertson from Hill Head in Hampshire finished her regatta with a clear win (by over a minute) in the final race, which moves her up to ninth place overall. Speaking about her regatta, she said: “I had one of those regattas where everything happened; I capsized and got yellow flagged etc, plus I’m trying out a new sail which is fast in the heavy conditions but needs some development in the light (under 6 knots). Also a number of other countries, such as the Netherlands are using this event as part of their Olympic selection so those girls are all at their peak whilst we’re aiming to peak at the events that count towards our selection process”
Ian Walker and Mark Covell also had a pleasing final race in the Star class, with a fourth place in their last race this morning, which puts them in eighth in the final overall positions. “We’ve got a mountain to climb but we’re in the foothills, said London’s Olympic Silver Medallist, Ian Walker. “We’re both encouraged by how we’ve done”. He added, “We came here not really knowing where we would be in the fleet, what with the new boat and we’re going away with a good idea of what we have to do”
“We set our self goals everyday we race and we feel we’re making an impact on those. We don’t have to make quantum leaps in performance, just now deal with the finite things which will make a difference” remarked crewmember Mark Covell, from Emsworth in Hampshire.
In the Finn class, Iain Percy (Winchester in Hampshire) finished third in their sole race of the day with Dave Mellor coming in sixth. “After today I’m feel encouraged for the Europeans as I didn’t have such a good windy race earlier in the week where as today I feel I was one of the fastest out there” Percy took the bronze medal at last years European championships, and will be aiming for a repeat performance at the forthcoming Europeans in Ostende, which start a week today.