British sailors hold on in the big Weymouth breeze
Ainslie and Dempsey remain in pole
Another strong wind day at the Olympic sailing test event in Weymouth and Portland on Monday (8 August) proved a tough test, with Skandia Team GBR's contenders maintaining a strong showing in the breezy conditions.
Ben Ainslie edged out a three point lead in the Finn fleet after another physical day on the water, while Nick Dempsey remains locked in a gripping battle with Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberge at the top of the RS:X men's windsurfing leaderboard, with the two sailors still equal on points at the end of their fifth day of competition.
A second day of 22-knot and gusty conditions greeted Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour. While the 470s, Lasers and Radials enjoyed some respite from the breeze on their layday, the Finns, 49ers, Stars and RS:X windsurfers saw the thick of the action, while Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor embarked on their 5-8th place play-offs in the women's match racing later in the day.
Heading in the day level on points with Frenchman Jonathan Lobert, Ben Ainslie managed to pull ahead at the end of Monday's racing, thanks to a good comeback to third in the first race and a race win, having led from start to finish, in the second race of the day.
"I had a better day than yesterday - I didn't make quite so many mistakes and no swimming today, so it was a better day. The last race was a nice one to finish off the day with," explained the triple Olympic gold medallist Ainslie.
"The first race wasn't so good. I had a very nice start, but I didn't do such a good job of reading the wind and so I struggled a bit. I think I was around in about tenth of twelfth for quite a lot of the race but I had a very good final upwind leg, which put me back up to third place which I held to the finish. I was happy with that considering where I was for most of the race.
"All the courses are quite different really," said the 34-year-old. "Certainly it's very challenging conditions, it's quite hard to read the wind and to decide which side is going to pay so I think it's keeping everyone on their toes."
Athens bronze medallist Dempsey and van Rijsselberge mirrored each others' scorelines yet again in the windsurfing fleet, each with a race win and a third from the day, with the Dutchman getting the better of his GBR rival to in the first race, but the 2009 World Champion hitting back in race two.
He explained: "I just wasn't quite set up as well up as I'd have liked to have been. The wind just increased a little bit during the race and caught me off guard a little bit. But for the second race I was able to get set up well, and just lead from the start, so I'm happy.
"We spend a fifth night now tied on points," Dempsey continued. "All year Dorian and I have been pretty close and it just seems that this week the both of us have upped our game a lot for this event and we seem to be separating ourselves from the rest of the fleet, which is fantastic. It was always going to be tight by the end of the week."
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson had a better day on the water on Monday, pulling up to sixth overall with a 4,2 to show for their day, while Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes held on to overall fourth in the 49er event.
They posted a solid 5,2,9 after another testing set of races on the tricky Nothe course, with Morrison finding the day's "snakes and ladders" frustrating after a breakage in the first race and a twisted spinnaker in race three lost them a couple of places on an otherwise good day.
"It was really windy and there were a lot of potential slip ups to be had out there. I think we probably did alright - the first two races were really quite good," he explained.
"I feel like we could do with a little bit more luck and then we'd be getting one or two places more whereas at the moment we seem to be losing one or two places. Bryony Shaw remains in overall fourth in the RS:X women's event after a testing day. She found herself suffering from a speed deficit on port tack and kit breakage but came away from the day with 8,9 to keep her in touch of the podium spots and still feeling positive.
"It was tough out there for me today," the 28-year-old admitted.
"I managed to think about how I was sailing through the day and tomorrow we'll learn from all those things, capitalize on the strengths I clearly do have, and try and get that port speed back up there and hopefully be right back up there in the top three.
"Whatever conditions come about tomorrow, I'll be confident that I can race well and I've got the tools to do. I've just got to keep my head up and hopefully it will all come together."
Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor are poised at 1-0 up in their 7-8th place play-off with Anna Kjellberg's Swedish team, having missed out on the 5-6th spots at the hands of Olivia Price (AUS). Tuesday (9 August) will see a rest day for the Finn, Star and 49er fleets, with the 470 men and women, and the Laser Radial classes returning to action.
Skandia Team GBR squad for the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta:
Laser - Paul Goodison
Laser Radial - Charlotte Dobson
Finn - Ben Ainslie
RS:X Men - Nick Dempsey
RS:X Women - Bryony Shaw
470 Men - Nick Rogers & Chris Grube
470 Women - Hannah Mills & Saskia Clark
49er - Stevie Morrison & Ben Rhodes
Star - Iain Percy & Andrew Simpson
Women's Match Racing - Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush & Kate Macgregor
For the latest news and information from the British Sailing Team at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, visit www.skandiateamgbr.com or follow us on Twitter (@SkandiaTeamGBR).