Beijing 2008 bronze medallist John Ruf (USA) recaptured the form that saw him claim Paralympic Games silverware three years ago as he turned up the heat on 2.4mR leader Thierry Schmitter on day three of the International Association of Disabled Sailing (IFDS) Disabled Sailing Combined World Championships at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.
Ruf, who unlike much of the fleet didn’t compete at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta at the same Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) venue last month, made light work of fickle winds and torrential rain in Portland Harbour on Tuesday 4 July to score two seconds and move into second spot overall, three points behind reigning World champion Schmitter.
Schmitter, who enjoyed two perfect race wins on Monday, was grateful of the discard coming into force after race five as he picked up his worst score of the regatta so far – a 16th – in the opening race of the day, before hitting back with victory in race six of the overall series. But it was the American who left the Royal Yachting Association event drenched but happiest as he continued his steady march up the leaderboard.
Ruf said: “Tuesday was the first day I got off the line the way I wanted to. As the regatta has gone on it has got better and Tuesday was by far the best of all of them. The forecast was for 10-14 knots but in the first race we barely got to eight and in the second race it was only on the last leg we only got 12 knots. I’ve just been getting into my stride; I haven’t had a chance to be in a regatta since Hyeres (in April) so it’s taken a little while to get the cobwebs out. I rarely ever look at the leaderboard until the end because there is not really much you can do so I’m just going to keep taking every race individually.”
Skandia Team GBR’s Helena Lucas sits in third overall, courtesy of a 6, 7 on Tuesday with her national teammate, and rival for the sole British London 2012 2.4mR berth, two points behind in fourth at the midway point in the regatta.
Lucas said: “It was a really tricky day. In the first race, halfway up the first beat, it wasn’t looking too flash and somehow I managed to scrape round in fourth. The only disappointing thing I think was that I was second or third at the bottom of the last run and went left, and then the wind went right and I lost three boats which was a bit of a shame. With the points so tight, those three or four points would have been rather handy Tuesday.”
There was a change at the top of the Sonar fleet as the British team of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas, whose two provisional results Tuesday would have seen them consolidate their place in pole position, were disqualified from race five for being found to have sailed above their proper course when restricted (Part 2 rule infringement).
The decision meant the French Beijing 2008 silver medallists Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary have now claimed the top spot with five races to go, four points clear of the Brits, who themselves are now just a point ahead of Rick Doerr, Brad Kendall and Hugh Freund (USA) in third.
Jourdren said: “It was very wet on Tuesday and quite difficult because the wind was really very shifty for the two races. Because on Monday we had a disqualification we weren’t very happy but now we are very happy to have a good day. We have five races left, and are only in the middle of the World Championships, so we wait for the next five races. It doesn’t matter to us if we have no wind or a lot of wind we can sail well.”
The race for the SKUD title is gearing up to be a two-horse race between Skandia Team GBR’s defending champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell and the Australian pairing of Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch. Both teams picked up a race win apiece on Tuesday with the Brits finishing fourth in their other race and the Aussies seventh. Rickham and Birrell have a five-point cushion over Fitzgibbon and Tesch, with the USA’s Jennifer French and Jean-Paul Creignou a further six points behind.
Birrell insists however, he and Rickham cannot afford to rest on their laurels.
He said: “Dan is sailing brilliantly well, they have obviously been training hard, they did really well at Sail for Gold and won, so we knew they were on form before the regatta started and we knew he was the boat to beat if we wanted to keep our World title, which we do. At the moment we’re ahead, which is good, but we’re going to have to sail well for the next three days if we want to win again. We’ve put ourselves in a great position, so we have to go out again on Wednesday and sail well knowing we have to stay ahead of Dan.”
The IFDS Disabled Sailing Combined World Championships 2011 are being organised, and run, by the RYA, supported by UK Sport. Eleven races are scheduled in total for each class (two races per day Sunday-Thursday and one race on Friday 8 July). Racing is set to resume at 10.55am on Wednesday.