Two superb silver medals on the final day of racing capped off a six medal haul for Great Britain at the Perth 2011 World Championships.
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark pulled up to the silver medal spot by winning the medal race in the 470 women’s event, while Nick Thompson made it three World Championship podium spots in as many years with a hard-fought second-place in the Laser class.
They add to the gold and bronze medals won in the first week of the event in the Finn class by Giles Scott and Ed Wright, and the silvers won by the 470 men’s team of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell and the match racing trio of Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor.
A whirlwind campaign
The 470 duo of Mills and Clark, who earned selection for the 2012 Games after a whirlwind seven-month campaign together, had a self-confessed “average” but steady opening series, managing to avoid any punishing scores before pulling through into the podium spots just in time for the final 10-boat race today.
In bronze medal position going into the day, but with several crews tight on points behind them, the Skandia Team GBR duo pulled off a great start – something they admit to having struggled with during the week – and led all the way around the racecourse to take the win.It wasn’t enough to wrest gold from the hands of the Spanish leaders, Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos, but the British pairing were delighted with their silver. The bronze medal went to the New Zealand team of Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie.
“We came here not expecting to do this well really at all,” said Mills. “We were a bit nervous coming into the event with a bit of a lack of preparation and we’ve dug pretty deep this week to pull back from some pretty deep windward mark roundings, and to keep ourselves in there fighting for the medals, so we’re so happy!”
“We made a call on our start plan and just really tried to execute it well and that came off, thank God!” said Clark of their medal race performance. “We had a little bit of a wobble up the second beat, the pins were down for a building breeze and then we got a bit of weed, so the Kiwis got a bit too close but then we got around the windward mark and we pulled away downwind again.”
Gold for Slingsby, silver for Thompson
With a 14 point lead heading into the final day, Australia’s Tom Slingsby was World Champion-in-waiting in the Laser class, leaving the rest of the fleet to fight it out for the remaining podium spots.
Nick Thompson went into the final race in the bronze medal position, but with six boats capable of winning the two remaining medals a close battle ensued.
Thompson got a good start and opted for the right hand side of the course on the first windward leg, in contrast to the rest of the fleet, but it paid off with him rounding the mark second behind Slingsby. New Zealander Andrew Murdoch was chasing hard, overtaking Thompson at one stage to relegate the British sailor to bronze, but Thompson pulled through on the final upwind leg.
Over the moon
“I’m absolutely over the moon. I couldn’t really have asked much more apart from gold and to be fair Tom sailed a fantastic event and deserved to win it. I’m absolutely ecstatic,” said the Lymington-based sailor.
“It was a really good race. The goal for me was to get some space after the start and that’s why I split out from the start. With the waves we had today we got almost get surfing upwind it was a case of just trying to get some space, get the boat moving and go from there. Rounding the mark with [Andrew] right on my heels, or actually just ahead of me it was pretty nail-biting as he’s one of the people who were pretty much level on points with me. We had a good battle all the way round and I just managed to get ahead of him on the last beat and pulled away on the run.”
Thompson adds this silver to his silver from last year’s World Championships and his bronze from 2009. He admits that a his podium finish in Perth has helped ease the pain of missing out on selection to Paul Goodison, who finished his World Championship in fifth.
“When I lost those selection trials to Paul – and deservedly so seeing as he sailed such a strong selection trials – it was very disheartening for me and it was almost a case of ‘what now?’ Shall I take a break from sailing, shall I do something else?
“But Paul asked me to be his training partner and it’s something I do enjoy doing so it was a case of just using this event as a peak and just trying to come away with a medal so to be able to do that was fantastic.”
There was final day disappointment, however, for John Pink and Rick Peacock, who went into the 49er medal race in bronze position and with a chance of silver. But they were left at the back of the 10-boat fleet after the first windward leg and were unable to pull through to finish their regatta just outside of the medals in fourth with fellow Skandia Team GBR crew of Dave Evans and Ed Powys in sixth.
Australia finish these Championships as the top nation with three gold medals, but with Britain’s sailors winning twice as many podium spots as any other nation, RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park was positive about his team’s overall performance in the context of their 2012 preparations.
“It’s been a long and testing Championship both on and off the water for sailors, coaches and support staff alike,” Park remarked.
“While we congratulate the Australian team for winning three golds and with it the IOC President’s Cup, I’m very pleased that as a team, GBR are clearly still on track for 2012 winning 6 medals – twice as many as any other nation – despite three of our top 2008 Olympic teams being unable to complete the regatta, which I’m confident would have delivered at least one and possibly two more medals.”
Park continued: “With the aim of trying to be medal competitive in all 10 Olympic events in 2012, with every event we get closer to achieving that aim which we hope will deliver our goal of four medals next summer. We would like to have converted in the 49er where we were leading going into the penultimate day and our top windsurfers Bryony Shaw and Nick Dempsey have underperformed here. In summary, we’ve had some great performances here in Perth, with a timely reminder you can never get complacent.”
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