- 20 August 2008 | Windsurfing
Tom ASHLEY, also the reigning World Champion, sailed a near flawless Medal Race, finishing third to win a tight three-way contest for gold. It is the first Olympic gold medal in sailing won by New Zealand since Barbara KENDALL’s victory in the Women’s Windsurfer event at Barcelona 1992. Frenchman Julien BONTEMPS finished one place behind ASHLEY in today’s Medal Race to take silver, whilst Israel’s Shahar ZUBARI edged out Nick DEMPSEY (GBR) to win bronze, winning the first medal for Israel at this Olympic Games.
Since finishing 10th in Athens as a 20 year old, ASHLEY has matured into a world beater on the windsurfing scene, a status he confirmed earlier this year with World Championship success on his home waters in New Zealand. In a fleet in which many competitors have a big performance differential in different wind conditions, his all-round ability has proved crucial this week and brought him the Olympic gold medal.
"I've done it! It's the most incredible feeling and I can't begin to tell you how I feel right now," ASHLEY commented on returning to the boat park. ASHLEY, who is coached by Grant BECK (NZL), an instrumental figure the three previous medal wins of KENDALL, added that his Olympic success is the end of a long road, "I’ve been working toward this for so many years. It was an insanely tough Medal Race," he said. "The weather had a little bit of everything. I tried to sail as consistently as I could."
Yesterday ASHLEY had had his worst race of the regatta after getting caught on the wrong side of a big wind shift and finishing down in the 32nd place. That had dropped him from first to third overall, although he was still just one point off the lead and knew that if he could finish ahead of BONTEMPS and DEMPSEY today and not let ZUBARI get too far ahead, the gold medal would be his.
- 16 August 2008 | Windsurfing
The Terminator returns on judgment day: Bjorn Dunkerbeck sails to victory in race eleven, crowning him the event winner on the final day of competition in Alaçati. In the women’s fleet, Valerie Ghibaudo wrapped up the event with a second in race eleven, having already done enough to take the event title.
With tensions mounting on the final day of competition, the ensuing last race of the event would prove to be make or break for Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1, North) and Antoine Albeau (Starboard, NeilPryde), who sat just 0.4 of a point apart at the top of the score sheet. For Albeau to rob Dunkerbeck of the event lead, he’d have to place in the top six, and beat Dunkerbeck in the final race. Likewise, for Dunkerbeck to take the event title, he’d have to place higher than Albeau.
In a warm up for the race final, Albeau and Dunkerbeck were pitched against each other in the semi finals. The resulting brawl saw Albeau gain a psychological boost when he crossed the line in second, two places above Dunkerbeck, however it was Finian Maynard (RRD, NeilPryde) that commanded the heat.
Coming down to the wire, the event title now hinged on the critical race final, with the winner quite literally taking all. As the green flag went up, Dunkerbeck seized the early advantage with a perfectly timed start. Off the pace, Albeau ran into problems when he caught a bag around his fin. The resulting drag left him towards the back of the pack, and stuck in dirty wind.
In contrast, Dunkerbeck, who seemed to be thriving under the pressure, screamed ahead of his nearest rival, Peter Volwater (F2, North) in second. By the fourth mark, Dunkerbeck was half a reach ahead, meaning the final straight was a mere formality en route to claiming the event title.
Crossing the finish line, the multiple world champion was greeted with wave upon wave of cheers and applause, as ecstatic fans congratulated the newly crowned event winner.
- 14 August 2008 | Windsurfing
The third day of competition started out with the completion of race four, which had been whittled down to the finals on the previous day. First to hit the race course was the men’s losers final, which got off to a nervous start after Jimmy Diaz (Starboard, North), local Bora Kozanoglu (Starboard) and Patrick Diethelm (F2, North) all false started.
Taking the reins of the under strength heat, Gabriel Browne (Mistral, MauiSails) led from the start to take a decisive victory ahead of Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (Exocet, NeilPryde) in second.
Moving onto to the final, and disaster struck for Antoine Albeau (Starboard, NeilPryde) on the first reach “I went too downwind towards Finian at the gybe, and my clew hit his mast causing me to fall in”. The mistake left Albeau languishing at the back of the pack, and despite an effort to climb back up the ranks; he crossed the finish line in tenth position.
At the front of the pack, Bjorn Dunkerbeck (T1, North) dialed into the conditions, opening up a massive lead before finishing the race a solid half reach ahead of his nearest rival, Ross Williams (Tabou, Gaastra) in second. Filling out the remaining podium position was Kevin Pritchard (Starboard, Gaastra, Dakine, MFC), who managed to hold off a sustained attack from Finian Maynard (RRD, NeilPryde), who had to settle for fourth.
In the women’s losers final of race four, Lee Korzitz (Tabou, Gaastra) struggled to match her form from previous events, despite finding herself at the front of the fleet. She stood her ground to take the win, and eleventh overall for the race, with Australian Annika Gillgren (Severne) crossing the finish line behind her in second, and twelfth for the race.
In the winners final, Valerie Ghibaudo (Tabou, The Loft) had her foot firmly on the throttle as she negotiated the four buoy downwind course. On the finish line she was rewarded with the victory almost an entire reach ahead of the chasing pack. Padding out the all-French podium was Alice Arutkin (Starboard, North) in second, and fifteen year old Morane Demont (Starboard, Severne) in third.