Alexa

Britain rules the waves at Qingdao sailing

Britain rules the waves at Qingdao sailing

After nearly two weeks of racing at the Olympic venue, Britannia really did rule the waves off Qingdao, with its best haul of the sailing medals in a century.
The British took six medals _ four gold, a silver and a bronze _ making Britain the most successful sailing nation at its third straight Olympics. Australia finished with two golds and one silver, followed by Spain and the United States, each with one gold and one silver with the racing program completed.
However elated the British might have been, nothing could match the explosion of Chinese joy and flag waving on the breakwaters of Qingdao when Yin Jian on Wednesday won the host country's first-ever Olympic sailing gold, in the women's RS:X windsurfers. China also took a bronze in Laser Radial for women.
British team manager Stephen Park said at a closing news conference on Friday that "2008 will be remembered as a fantastic year with our best medal haul since 1908." That year, the British also had four gold, one silver and one bronze.
"We came here thinking we had 11 teams that could compete for medals," he said. "We successfully took medals in half the disciplines."
Park said that could be tough to match when the games come to England in 2012,
"It's getting tougher every year. The other countries are hot on our heels," said Park.
Australian team leader Michael Jones said he was somewhat disappointed, even though it was the country's second-best sailing games after Sydney in 2000.
"We came wanting to kick the door in and do really well," he said, adding that the British "are at the top of sailing and will remain at the top."
At least one American, Olympic first-timer Zach Railey, was hot on the heels of Britain's biggest star at the games, the seemingly unbeatable Finn class sailor Ben Ainslie, who had two golds and a silver heading into Qingdao.
Railey, 24, was the only one who could threaten 31-year-old Ainslie's third gold going into a medal final last week. But that's when Qingdao, known for its quirky summer weather, showed its colors. Halfway through the race, the wind died, leaving sailors bobbing around like corks. Officials abandoned the race, putting off the Railey-Ainslie showdown until the next day.
So that left it to Britain's "Three Blonds in a Boat" _ Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson _ to contest the first sailing gold of the games when their medal race was also postponed to the next day, when the winds started to howl.
Ayton and Webb were defending the Yngling gold they picked up with Shirley Robertson in Athens four years ago. Wilson replaced Robertson for the Qingdao games.
As expected, the British trio took gold, in Sunday's first-ever medal race of Olympic sailing. The medal races, which count double, were introduced at the end of preliminary racing to keep the racing exciting, since in previous games sailors sometimes built such commanding leads that they didn't even have to sail the whole series.
When Railey and Ainslie had their showdown shortly afterward, it was the Briton who came out on top, winning the medal race to take his third straight Olympic gold. Railey took silver, and France's Guillaume Florent took bronze.
However, it was the fast 49er skiff that proved the thriller of the sailing games, in more ways than one. The Danish overall leaders Jason Warrer and Martin Kirketerp Ibsen broke the mast on their own boat, raced into port and borrowed a boat from the Croatian team, which failed to make the 10-boat final. They got to the starting line with four seconds to spare.
The Danes took a seventh place in winds and waves that were at the upper range of what the skiffs can handle. Most boats capsized at least once around the course. However, their medal ceremony was postponed by a day, since Italy, which had silver, and fourth-place finisher Spain demanded the Danes be disqualified because of the boat swap.
Those protests were dismissed, so the Italian and Spaniards appealed to the sports highest body, Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is to hear the case on Saturday.
Britain also took gold with Paul Goodison's win in Laser, and Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson's hard fought win in the Star class. Austrialia's Nathan Wilmot and Malcom Page took gold in the 470s dinghies.
For the Americans, the biggest joy came with Anna Tunnicliffe winning the Laser Radial class, the first gold medal for a U.S. female sailor in 20 years.
The Brits even staked a lighthearted claim for half that gold, since Tunnicliffe, 25, was born in Doncaster, England, moved to the U.S. with her British parents at age 12, and later became and American citizen.


Updated : 2021-04-13 03:27 GMT+08:00