Four Classes Complete Schedule at Rio Olympic Test Event

Published on August 21st, 2015

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (August 21, 2015) – The penultimate day of the Rio Olympic Test Event served up four more podiums with Italian, Lithuanian, Kiwi and Brazilian sailors claiming the golden honours. Medal Races were held for the Laser, Laser Radial, 49er, and 49erFX.

The Nacra 17, which was also scheduled today, had their Medal Race delayed to Saturday due to postponements for Medal Races schedules prior to theirs today. The Nacra 17 will join the Men’s and Women’s 470 and Finn classes to conclude the event on Saturday, August 22.

The Medal Race stage began today with Francesco Marrai (ITA) taking the first gold in the Laser whilst Lithuania’s Gintare Scheidt (LTU) followed shortly after in the Laser Radial.

American Paige Railey entered the Women’s Laser Radial Medal Race with a chance to get on the podium, but finished the regatta in 4th after scoring a DNF in the race. Penalized in the pre-start by the umpires for a boat-positioning maneuver, Railey began the race on the back foot, with a second umpire-delivered penalty during the final downwind leg sealing her fate. “It was a disappointing ending, since Paige sailed so well all week,” said US Sailing Team Sperry High Performance Director Charlie McKee. “At the end she made a few mistakes in the Medal Race that were extremely costly.”

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) confirmed their status as the leading 49er sailors by taking the gold, while home nation favourites and the popular crew of Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) stole the show in the 49erFX, coming from behind to clinch the win.

Concluding the qualifying stage today was the Men’s and Women’s 470, which each having one race, and the Finn which completed two more race. The Women’s 470 team of Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) remain in contention for the gold, posting an 8th today to sit just three points off the lead. “The points are close, and tomorrow’s medal race is going to be all about positioning within the small fleet,” said Haeger. “We’ve won our last two medal races [at ISAF Sailing World Cup Weymouth and the 470 Europeans], but the goal is not to win the medal race but to advance in the regatta. We are happy to be in this position, and are feeling confident.”

However, American teammates Stuart McNay and David Hughes continue to struggle in the Men’s 470, finishing 18th today to slip down to seventh overall, now eight points away from a bronze medal. “We had a good start, with plenty of pressure, and nearly crossed the fleet,” said McNay. “Unfortunately, we mismanaged some decisions and dropped back, but we’re looking forward to the medal race tomorrow.”

Francesco Marrai (ITA) will be able to book his plane ticket to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic Games after he took gold in the Laser. For the Italian team, any sailor that finished on the podium at the test event would be guaranteed a place at Rio 2016 and Marrai secured his spot on the startline in the most stylish of ways, with a golden shine.

Coming into the event Marrai was a rank outsider for gold with several leading sailors aiming to lay down a marker and when asked if he thought he’d win the Italian exclaimed, “No, no, no, not at all. Last year I finished sixth and that was a very good regatta for me.

“I didn’t expect to win or get a medal but I found myself up there and I just kept on fighting. The first day I was down in seventh and second, third and then first for three days and I was able to just keep my position.

“I’m very happy right now, it’s quite a new situation for me and I cannot show much emotion but this is very big for me.”

A ninth in the Medal Race handed the Italian gold in a high scoring week of Laser racing. Consistency was almost non-existent as Rio’s challenging breeze and current tested the sailors not only physically, but mentally.

“It’s a very complicated place,” explained Marrai. “You can find both strong and light wind. Big waves outside the Bay and little ones inside the bay. It’s a very complete place. You need to be a complete sailor. I really love this place.”

As for Marrai’s planning for the next 12 months, “It’s going to be a big challenge. We’re going to make a program with the federation and do our best for next year. We want to be well prepared to get that gold medal again, of course.”

Fourth in the Medal Race handed Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) silver whilst Tom Burton’s (AUS) fifth gave him bronze. It was heartbreak for Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) who got stuck in challenging conditions on the race track that meant he finished at the back of the pack to fall from second to sixth.

Lee Parkhill (CAN) took the Medal Race bullet.

Laser Radial
Gintare Scheidt held on to take gold in the Laser Radial despite receiving a discretionary penalty in advance of the Medal Race.

Scheidt was awarded four extra points for breaching the class rules which in fact relegated her to third overall going into the Medal Race so she had it all to do.

In the end Scheidt took the bullet which handed her a well-deserved gold medal, “Today was a bit tense because I was protested due to measurement and I got an extra four points in the Medal Race. It was not a nice way to start the Medal Race day but it was my mistake, nobody else’s and I accepted it. I went into the race not thinking about it and that’s what I did.

“I’m feeling great now, it’s a big relief. Today I was tied with two other boats and I could have lost the medal but now it’s time to celebrate. It’s a good present for my son who is six years old today. He’s in Lithuania with my mother but he’s always cheering for me and saying to me, ‘mummy you’re sailing so good, keep it going’.”

Scheidt’s son will wake up with good news from his mother but the report from his father will be mellow after he missed out on a medal by two points in the Laser. “There was only one medal in the family this year,” smiled Gintare. “Two would be perfect but we sailed at our maximum. Sailing is something you have to do at the best you can.”

The Robert, Gintare Scheidt husband and wife combination is a well decorated one and Gintare is comfortable with her surroundings in Rio, “The Brazilian team helps me a lot. I feel like a part of their team and they help me with everything. Also Robert, he has a lot of experience here but I don’t have the possibility to train here much. I have only sailed two regattas here. Most people think I’m a local here but I’m not. The top sailors training here sail in Rio a lot more than me.”

For now, the Scheidt’s walk away with one medal but with one year of preparation remaining, who’s to say it won’t be two?

Evi Van Acker (BEL) and Marit Bouwmeester (NED) completed the podium whilst Paige Railey (USA), having occupied a podium position for the large part of the week missed out after a DNF in the Medal Race.

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) extended their unbeaten run in the 49er by taking a convincing victory.

With just a single result out of the top eight in 11 races, the Kiwis set another marker on the road to Rio. Heading into the day they had a comfortable lead over their rivals and knew a solid result would seal the deal. They did exactly that, coming through in fourth and Tuke was pleased with a job well done, “It feels great. You know, it’s a really big objective for us one year out from the Games and we’ve put a lot of emphasis on this, this year. We’re really happy and it puts us in a good place going into next year.”

Burling echoed his compatriots thoughts, “Obviously this is great practice for us trying to test everything for next year. We’re really happy with how we started off. We started off pretty solid, not fantastic, but we just got better during the week.”

The test event allowed the 49er sailors the perfect opportunity to imitate the Olympic arena. Twenty boats on the start line is the exact same number as the Olympic Games and for the Kiwis it was the perfect opportunity to show their rivals, many of whom who will sail at Rio 2016, who is boss in the 49er, “This week’s been really great practice for us,” commented Tuke, “There are 20 boats like we’ll be racing in next year with one boat from each country which isn’t what we normally have at other regattas.

“That’s been really good for us. We have a lot of little things and tricks you learn from sailing in the bay and just how we prepare as well with our coach and support staff. We’ve learnt a lot this week, not just from the results but a lot of other things and we’re happy with how it’s played out over the last three weeks in Rio.”

Nico Delle-Karth and Nikolaus Resch (AUT) sailed their way to a Medal Race second that confirmed them as silver medallists.

Bronze was in the hands of Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis (FRA) as Germany’s Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel finished at the back of the pack. However, three crews sailed the wrong course and were subsequently disqualified which promoted the Germans up to sixth overall handing them bronze.

The final Medal Races are for the Nacra 17, Men’s and Women’s 470, and Finn classes to conclude the event on Saturday, August 22.

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Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition
The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition will take place at the Marina da Glória, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and will feature 380 athletes competing across ten events. Racing is scheduled to take place from 8-18 August 2016 and the competition format for all events is fleet racing.

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