Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre stole the show on day three of the ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres, taking a clean sweep of race wins in the 470 Women’s event on Wednesday (23 April) as competition stepped up a gear.
This first day of the finals series saw mixed fortunes for the British Sailing Team’s medal contenders in France, but the European bronze medallists Weguelin and McIntyre took it all in their stride to take the gun in both of their two races, and move into overall second place.
“I think we just had really good boat speed. We were really fast, we sailed in clean lanes, we waited for the correct opportunities to tack and didn’t do anything stupid,” said 19-year-old McIntyre of their day.
“We just kept it simple and just kept pulling through, and once you were in the lead it was one of those days where you could just cover the fleet and you’re away.”
The duo is in competition for the first time since their gold medal-winning outing at the Miami World Cup in January, with McIntyre having been sidelined from the Palma World Cup earlier this month after breaking a finger in training.
The pair spent just two days back in the boat together before the start of racing in Hyeres and are pleased with their progress so far, which sees them just two points off of the series-leading New Zealand World and Olympic Champions Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie.
Although Weguelin admits they would like to reel in the Kiwi pair over the remaining three days, she says it’s not foremost in their minds.
“For us this week’s just more about getting back into sailing. We haven’t sailed for quite a long time and so it’s just about keeping our routines simple and building on them – especially with our new coach,” the 25-year-old Lymington sailor explained.
“It would be nice to overtake [the Kiwis] obviously, but for us to stay focussed on our goals is more important.”
The Paralympic Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas have nudged ahead of their main French rivals, with 4,2 on the board from their two races on Wednesday, while overnight leaders Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth are remaining positive after a less than ideal start to their first day of final series racing in the 49erFX class.
The duo – bronze medallists at the Palma World Cup two weeks ago – picked up a false start penalty in the first race of three today, which Dobson admits affected their subsequent two races. They pulled back to post a ninth and a fifth in the second and third races to see them in overall second place, just two points behind the Braziian pairing of Martine Soffiatti Grael-Kahena Kunze.
“I don’t think we can say that we executed our best – I think we really struggled off the starts today,” the Helensburgh sailor explained.
“We unfortunately got OCS’d in the first race and I think that kind of knocked our confidence a little bit for the next two races.
“What we’ve got to be really happy about is that we pulled back – just steadily picked them off through the fleet and finished with a ninth and a fifth in the end, and we’re just two points off the lead. So you’ve got to be pretty happy that on your bad day that’s how it happened and that it didn’t fall into some big disaster day."
With two more six more fleet races and a three-race final day still to come, Dobson is feeling determined, and positive about their performance so far this week.
“We’re looking forward to tomorrow, to just getting back to where we were for the last two days and get racing properly again.
“We’re definitely in a pretty happy place, we’re pretty happy with our speed at the moment and we’ve got a couple of good routines that we’re locked in to a bit, so we’ll try and stick to those and hopefully the results will look after themselves tomorrow.”
Overnight leaders Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign were consistently mid-fleet in their first day of gold fleet racing in the 49er class, and end the day in third place after what Fletcher described as an ‘awful day’, while Megan Pascoe is edging closer to the podium in the Paralympic 2.4mR fleet, for whom there are two more racing days left.
Pascoe was quick out of the blocks on Wednesday, picking up a race win and a second to consolidate her third place and extend the gap to fourth place – occupied by teammate Helena Lucas – to ten points.
“It’s great to be racing people like Damien [Seguin] and Heiko [Kroeger] because they are the best in the world,” said Pascoe of her French and German rivals, currently in second and first places respectively.
“They’ve got two gold medals and two silvers between them so they definitely know the game and if I want to be the best I’ve got to go and beat them as well. Third would be nice, but further up the podium would definitely be better!”
World Champion windsurfer Nick Dempsey gained ground on the series leaders in the RS:X men’s event today, and ends the day in fourth just two points from the bronze medal position, while there were snakes and ladders in the Nacra 17 event with Ben Saxton-Hannah Diamond slipping to fifth after a tough three races, and Lucy Macgregor-Andrew Walsh improving to seventh and ending the day with a race win.
Luke Patience and Elliot Willis had a good start to their finals series after a tough qualification round – they’re eighth overall with a fourth and a seventh today in the 470 men’s event, while Podium Potential sailor Hannah Snellgrove occupies the same position in the Laser Radial event.
After six races in the Laser class, Nick Thompson was the leading British sailor in 11th.
Racing at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres continues on Thursday 24 April with the final races for the Paralympic classes on Friday 25 April, and the medal races scheduled for the Olympic Classes on Saturday 26 April.
We’ll bring you all the British Sailing Team news, results and reaction from the event at www.britishsailingteam.com
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