Britain’s top sailors rounded off the 2015 competition season in style with a seven-medal haul at the Rio 2016 Games venue on Sunday (20 December).
The British Sailing Team brought home four golds, two silvers and one bronze medal from the Copa Brasil de Vela and gained further valuable insight into the Olympic courses and conditions with now just eight months to go to the Games.
Victories went to Finn World Champion Giles Scott, RS:X windsurfer Bryony Shaw, 470 duo Hannah Mills-Saskia Clark, and John Pink-Stuart Bithell who claimed their first regatta win in the 49er class.
Nick Dempsey saw a return to podium form with silver in the RS:X men’s event, while Luke Patience and stand-in crew Chris Grube overcame a tough start to their regatta to see out the week with silver. Bronze went to Ben Saxton-Nicola Groves in the Nacra 17 multihull event.
Giles Scott, unbeaten since October 2013, extended his winning run further with Finn class victory in Rio. The 28-year-old beat Slovenia’s world bronze medallist Vasilij Zbogar by just a single point to claim event honours, and admitted it had been a ‘tough-fought week’.
“Vasilij, the Slovenian, has been really quick all week and quite tricky to hold on to. But with the way that I sailed yesterday and hanging on with the medal race today, I managed to get him by a point,” Scott explained.
“An incredibly tough-fought week and I’ll take a lot from it for sure.”
“It was really good to get out on all the Olympic courses,” he continued. “The only difference was we didn’t have the medal race out on the Sugarloaf course which was a little bit frustrating. But all week it’s been really good to get out there and see what all the courses have to offer.
“This is my third Copa de Brasil and I think every one we’ve done we’ve come away thinking that we’ve learned a lot, and this is certainly no different.”
Fellow Podium squad Finn sailor Ben Cornish concluded his regatta in sixth
Bryony Shaw retained her 2014 Copa Brasil crown in the women’s windsurfing event, beating Hong Kong’s Chan Hai Man by four points, while Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark added gold in Rio to their victory at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi last month.
Mills explained: “It’s a relief! It’s been a really tricky week and we had a really tricky second day which put us back quite a long way, so to claw back enough points to be in with a chance of winning going in to the medal race was really cool.”
Mills and Clark’s teammates and training partners Amy Seabright-Anna Carpenter were also in medal race action, finishing sixth in the final race and tenth overall.
John Pink and Stuart Bithell held off Australia’s Olympic Champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jenson to claim their first event victory since teaming up in the 49er class.
The duo, European silver medallists, finished fourth in Sunday’s medal race to secure a winning 12-point winning margin.
“It’s been a really good week for us,” Bithell explained. “It sounds boring but we’ve had very specific process goals – we’ve been working on our starting following the World Championships, and we’ve done really well with that and that’s made the racing much more controlled.
“We’re racing decisions rather than trying to catch up from the starts. That’s been probably the biggest thing to come from the regatta rather than just the win.”
Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign finished fifth overall in the 49er, suffering a false start penalty in the medal race.
Nick Dempsey declared it was “nice to finally return to racing at the front again” following disappointments at the Olympic Test Event and RS:X World Championships earlier this year.
The double Olympic medallist rounded off a week of learning with a silver medal, behind the Dutch Olympic Champion Dorian Van Rijsselberge.
“We raced on a very difficult race course all week and although slightly disappointed in some of the results, I definitely feel like I’m learning a lot more about that race course and it’s been a pretty difficult course until now,” Dempsey explained.
“It’s been good to kind of try and get your head around it and more time in the venue is just invaluable. It’s nice to finally return to racing at the front.”
Tom Squires also featured in the RS:X Men’s medal race, finishing sixth overall.
Luke Patience and Chris Grube managed to turn around a slow start to their regatta to end up with silver behind Australian duo Mat Belcher and Will Ryan.
“It’s been some week! Twiggy and I have been in the boat for 12 days now and we’re learning each day, getting better each day. The regatta started with us missing the first start by a minute and ended with a medal," Patience explained, sparing a thought for regular crew Elliot Willis as he undergoes cancer treatment.
“Elliot’s health is the thing that plays on our minds a bit and hopefully this has given him something to think about and be distracted from the things that are going on.”
Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves added a Rio podium finish to their European Championship title from September, claiming bronze in a hard-fought Nacra 17 fleet.
Heading in to the medal race in fourth overall, Saxton and Groves finished third in the final race to elevate themselves into the bronze medal position.
“The regatta certainly had its ups and downs – everybody in the fleet seemed to struggle with consistency so it was tight coming in to the medal race,” Saxton explained.
“I think we sailed well. We sailed great the beginning of the week. It’s great to come and get a medal from a non-medal position as I think that’s one of the first times we’ve done that.”
Lucy Macgregor and Dave Evans also qualified for the medal race, finishing tenth overall.
Elsewhere, Laser star Nick Thompson and 49erFX duo Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth narrowly missed out on the podium spots, finishing fourth overall in their respective fleets.
For full regatta results, visit http://www.copabrasildevela.com.br/#!c_services/c1ger