9:18am Tuesday 5th June 2012
By Laura Kitching
BRITAIN’S Olympic and Paralympic class sailors made a strong start at the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta despite a day of light and shifty winds.
More than 700 of the world’s top sailors are competing at this week’s regatta, which is the last major Sailing event before the home Games.
Light wind postponed racing for most of the classes yesterday morning but failed to stop play when winds picked up in the afternoon.
Weymouth’s world champions Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark revelled in the conditions and claimed first place overall in the women’s 470 dinghy fleet.
A ‘cold but excited’ Clark said: “This is the final build up into the Games.
“It’s good to have the foreigners here, it’s going to be a good week. Everyone can feel that the Olympics is coming.”
Weymouth’s Olympic windsurfer Bryony Shaw is second on the RS:X women’s leaderboard after posting two third places.
She praised her competitors and said: “It’s a huge fleet of women of an incredible standard, it’s so exciting.
“You think ‘if I can be at the front of this fleet that’s a fantastic achievement’.
“Everyone is so dedicated and professional, there’s so much respect and friendship around the fleet.”
Fellow Weymouth Olympic windsurfer Nick Dempsey is in third place after day one of the men’s event, as is Portland’s Mark Andrews in the Finn heavyweight dinghy class.
Andrews, of Castletown, was delighted with his third place, ahead of triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie in fifth.
He said: “Sail for Gold is the last chance before the Olympics to race with everyone, I’m looking forward to a good week.”
Elsewhere, Dave Evans and Ed Powys lead the 49er Skiff fleet with fellow Brits Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign eighth.
Portland’s 470 dinghy sailors Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell claimed an early victory but slipped to 10th place overall after their second race, while their British team-mates Nic Asher and Elliot Willis are currently second overall.
Poole’s match racing trio of Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor picked up three race wins and one loss in their first batch of round robin events.
In the Paralympic classes, Portland’s Megan Pascoe is joint top in the 2.4mR keelboat fleet, while fellow islander Niki Birrell and helm Alex Rickham are in third place in the Skud-18 fleet.
Birrell said: “It was tricky conditions with big shifts. Our upwind pace is great, we just need to improve our downwind pace in the light.
“Hopefully that will be fixed before the Paralympics.”
This year’s Sail for Gold is the penultimate leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup series.
The event finishes on Friday for the three Paralympic classes, while racing for the 10 Olympic classes ends on Saturday.
* Track the races online at skandiasailforgoldregatta.co.uk, listen to the event radio on 87.7fm or follow @WeyOlympics2012 on Twitter.
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