Shifting winds provide tough Weymouth test
Mills and Clark retain 470 lead on a testing day
The wind speeds may have eased for the eighth day of the Olympic sailing test regatta, but shifty and gusty conditions continued to challenge 2012 hopefuls across the racecourses in Weymouth and Portland on Tuesday (9 August).
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark recovered well from difficult starts to keep a firm hold on the overall lead in the 470 women's fleet, while Olympic Champion Paul Goodison came back fighting after his rest day to advance up the Laser leaderboard.
Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberge managed to break the windsurfing deadlock with Skandia Team GBR's Nick Dempsey after some particularly testing racing on the Nothe course area, while Bryony Shaw pulled off two seconds from her two races in the women's RS:X fleet to boost her into the medal positions in third overall, with just the ten-boat medal race to go on Thursday.
Tuesday saw a change from the south-westerly conditions, to a north-north-westerly direction where the breeze pulsed off of the land and provided a tough test.
Mills and Clark, whose 470 fleet resumed racing after a rest day on Monday, saw bad first legs in both of their two races, but held their nerve to claw back through the pack and post a 2,9 for the day to maintain an eight point lead after eight races.
"It was tricky," the 23-year-old Mills admitted. "We made a right hash of both the first beats in both races today and managed to round the windward mark pretty much last in both of them which was not the ideal way to start your race.
"After that we made some really good decisions, sailed the course really well and managed to catch back up to get two really good results.
"We sort of tried to race the course a bit too much and didn't race the fleet - basically meaning we let the fleet get totally to one side of us or the other on both of the first beats. The shifts just did not go our way whatsoever, and unfortunately we got a bit left out to dry on either side of the beats so that wasn't great!"
"It's really nice to be able to build the confidence like that that you can make comebacks," Mills said of the pair's recoveries in both races.
"It's sometimes easier to get the comebacks in when it's shifty and gusty as places are changing all the time and people are having disasters left right and centre. It's just about cutting out the big disasters I think."
Nick Dempsey is assured of a silver medal going into the RS:X men's medal race on Thursday. He's 27 points ahead of the third-placed Frenchman Julien Bontemps, and seven points adrift of van Rijsselberge, who eked out a seven point lead of his British rival on what Dempsey dubbed the "wacky racing" course on Tuesday.
"Shifty isn't even the word - it was just insane," said the 30-year-old Dempsey of the Nothe course area, where race officials were also put through their paces in trying to get racing underway in the erratic conditions.
"You just can't read the shifts. The wind's either coming round the right hand side of the Nothe, or the left hand side, and it's shifting 40 degrees. You can be 20 yards away from someone, they can be in 15 knots and you can be in six knots."
"It's just not fair really in that wind direction," Dempsey continued. "The 49ers were racing on it yesterday in a south-westerly and it looked really nice, but in a north-westerly it was unbelievable.
"In saying that, it'll be nice going into the medal race not being able to lose second and actually being able to attack Dorian and try and put some boards between us on Thursday.
"It will produce some opportunities on Thursday, so all is not lost!" Bryony Shaw will look to protect her bronze medal position in Thursday's windsurfing finale - she has an eight point advantage over the fourth-placed French sailor Charline Picon, with Poland's Zofia Noceti-Klepacka and Spain's Marina Alabau to fight it out for gold and silver.A rest day provided a welcome boost for Paul Goodison, who pulled off his best day of the regatta so far in the Laser fleet with a 4,2 for his efforts.
"I think I struggled a little bit to get out of the line for the past couple of days and when you're back in the pack, you can't go where you want to and it's a bit harder," said the Olympic Champion of performance in previous races.
"I maybe pushed a bit harder at the starts today and got my nose out in front, and it's much easier when you're just that little bit ahead."
Charlotte Dobson had a "snakes and ladders" day with a fourth to open her day, followed by a 33rd to leave her poised in 10th place overall, while Nick Rogers and Chris Grube and in seventh overall in the 470 men's event after a mixed day where they posted 21,6.
The Finn, Star and 49er classes will return to action on Wednesday after their rest day, while Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor will look to complete their women's match racing play off against Anna Kjellberg to claim a seventh place from the regatta.
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).