Sills leads as British windsurfers make their mark in Aarhus

Written by 5th August 2018 Featured-post, World Championships

The British Sailing Team’s promising young windsurfers showed their talent on Sunday as the RS:X fleets joined the action at the 2018 Sailing World Championships.

With a steady 15-20 knot breeze guaranteeing fast sailing, three-time youth world champion Emma Wilson shot out of the blocks in the women’s fleet to lead the first race from start to finish.

Christchurch’s Wilson, who is only 19, was so dominant in the opener that by the finish line she had amassed a monster one-minute lead over closest rival Blanca Machon of Spain.

But it was Saskia Sills, 22, who ends the first day as the highest ranked Brit, going into day two in fourth overall.

Sills, from Launceston in Cornwall, scored a 3, 7, 2 to end the day on equal points with third-placed Zofia Nocheti of Poland and two points behind early leader Yunxiu Lu of China.

Saskia Sills

Saskia Sills. © Sailing Energy/World Sailing

“Today I had the greatest day I’ve ever had in my senior career so I’m feeling pretty good,” said a grinning Sills.

“I almost won the last race but I took the wrong gust downwind. I’m a bit annoyed about that but we live and learn. It was a really tricky day so I’m really happy to come away with consistent results.”

Wilson, who lies 19th overall having scored a 14th and a 16th in the second and third races, said she has the confidence to keep performing over the rest of the crucial regatta.

“The first race was great – I was super happy to cross the line in first. I was pleased that I was able to defend my lead on the second lap because it was really tricky out there.

“It’s pretty amazing to win a race against such a strong fleet. I believe in myself so let’s see what happens over the week.”

In the men’s RS:X fleet Tom Squires lived up to his reputation as a big breeze expert, posting a trio of top five results to go into day two in sixth.

“Today was great – I’ve been really looking forward to this event,” the 25-year-old from Oxford said.

“It’s nice to have a whole day of breeze, it’s been light winds here and back home for a long time. I dialled into the breeze and had a really good time. The wind was really puffy, swinging left to right. If you could figure out what the wind was going to do next you could get ahead of the game.”

Tom Squires

Tom Squires. © Sailing Energy/World Sailing

Britain’s Sam Sills lies 12th overnight, while Kieran Holmes-Martin, the 2013 RS:X youth world champion, also ended up in the top 20.

“It was fluky and shifty but we got three good races in,” said Holmes-Martin, 23, from Cheadle in Staffordshire. “The first day of the regatta is all about damage limitation but I had a good day, so it’s going well so far.”

While the 470 and Finn sailors rested, the Nacra 17 fleet got its first taste of Sailing World Championships action in full-on conditions.

It was as much about taming the foiling catamarans as it was scoring points – but reigning world champion Ben Saxton and crew Nikki Boniface sit 19th, one place ahead of John Gimson and Anna Burnet.

In the Laser Standard, Elliot Hanson returned to the dock with a race win and two seconds under his belt.

Crucially, the results fire the 24-year-old from Macclesfield, Cheshire, into sixth overall as the Laser fleet heads into the second half of its regatta.

“It was really important to stay consistent today,” Hanson said. “It was windy but I was quick. I made good use of the shifty conditions to finish up qualifying in a decent place.”

Meanwhile Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey jumped into second in the 49erFX thanks to a win and a second.

Two strong results – a fourth and an 11th – for two-time Olympian Ali Young sees her go into the fourth day of Laser Radial racing in 14th, while fellow Brit Hannah Snellgrove sits eighth.

National champion Georgina Povall is knocking on the door of the top 20, lying 22nd overall.

Formula Kite made its debut in a Sailing World Championships after the discipline was selected for inclusion in the Paris 2024 Olympics earlier this year.

Britain’s Olly Bridge lies second overall in the men’s fleet, while Steph Bridge, his mother, also occupies second in the women’s fleet.

Monday will see the Lasers enjoy a rest day while the rest of the fleets resume their battles from 11am UK time.

Full results from the regatta can be found here, and a schedule of racing is here.