Ainslie back on top as Brits score Melbourne World Cup hat-trick
Melbourne World Cup golds for Ainslie, Thompson and Rickham-Birrell
Triple Olympic sailing champion Ben Ainslie saw a return to winning ways on Saturday, (18 December) claiming one of Skandia Team GBR’s three gold medals at the opening event of the 2010-11 ISAF Sailing World Cup series in Melbourne.
Ainslie’s victory came amid a British clean sweep of the podium spots in the Finn class where he was joined by World Champion Ed Wright, who took silver, and Giles Scott in bronze position, while SKUD Paralympic duo Alexandra Rickham-Niki Birrell and Laser star Nick Thompson secured GBR’s other two Sail Melbourne titles.
With the help of three wins in the nine-race qualifying series, the 33-year-old Ainslie went into Saturday’s double-points scoring medal race with a six point lead over Giles Scott, the World Championship bronze medallist and winner of summer’s Skandia Sail for Gold World Cup event at Weymouth and Portland last summer. Ed Wright was just one point behind Scott in third heading in to the final race.
“Ed was going right and Giles was going left. I went with Giles,” recalled Ainslie of his medal race tactics.
“It (the wind) was slowly clocking left but there was a big right hand shift which lifted Ed.”
Wright took advantage of the conditions to finish the medal race in second, which boosted him into second place overall, while Scott finished the medal race in third with a fourth place enough to hand Ainslie gold – his first since his return to Finn class racing this year.
Andrew Mills was Skandia Team GBR’s fourth contender in the Finn medal race, finishing his regatta in eighth place.
Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell sailed a flawless regatta to claim their gold in the SKUD class. Of their eight race series, the two-time World Champions won all eight races to win with a ten-point margin and add Sail Melbourne gold to their previous win at the Sail Sydney warm up event.
Nick Thompson emerged victorious in the Laser class, although didn’t take the easy route on his way to World Cup glory. Needing to finish seventh or better to claim the victory, the world silver medallist found himself back in ninth place in the shifting and patchy wind conditions.
Fortunately his two nearest rivals, Australians Tom Burton and Tom Slingsby were, engaged in some match racing and were also near the back of the 10-boat fleet, allowing Thompson to keep hold of the gold.
“It wasn't the nicest position,” said Thompson, referring to his ninth place.
“I started at the unfavoured end and sailed into a huge hole. But I could see a couple of minutes out that Slingsby and Burton were going at each other so the tactic was to stay as close as I could. I was OK from a points aspect.”
In the Laser Radial fleet, Andrea Brewster and Charlotte Dobson were the top ranked Britons, in sixth and ninth respectively.
The second leg of the 2010-11 ISAF Sailing World Cup series will be the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta from 23-29 January 2011.