Board sailor Nikola Girke rebounded brilliantly to move from 52nd place to 18th at the world sailing championships off Fremantle, Australia, after a day in port, watching "record rainfall, counting lightning strikes per minute and shark sightings in the harbour," said Ken Dool, the Canadian team's coach and high performance director.
Girke, troubled with broken battens in her sail on the first day, then sidelined by bad weather the second, showed her medal potential placing eighth, ninth and third on the three-race day. The RSX women have three races scheduled tomorrow, as do the Radials, while the Finn and 470 will use their scheduled lay day to make up one race to get back on schedule.
The world championships aren't the biggest prize at stake in Fremantle: three quarters of the 2012 Olympic spots are available in the 10 classes being contested off the Western Australia city of 25,000.
"The real fight begins tomorrow for everyone, with the splitting [of fleets]complete," said Dool in an e-mail message. In each class, the top half of the fleet in early races goes on to sail for medals, while the vessels in the bottom half of the field have a separate regatta. Canada's other RSX entry, for instance, Dominique Vallee, did not qualify for the gold-medal fleet and currently sits in 53rd over all in the 66-board fleet. Boats in the bottom half can finish no higher that the middle of the fleet. A sailor gets to drop his or her worst result in the 11-race series.
"Now the pressure to perform at a top level becomes paramount. The weather forecasters are calling for the Fremantle Doctor [a local wind toward shore]to remain present for the next couple of days," Dool said.
In other racing, Luke Ramsay and Mike Leigh had a sixth-place finish and a ninth in the 470 class to also cement themselves in gold fleet; in the Finn fleet, Greg Douglas and Chris Cook lead Canada, with Douglas counting a fifth and eighth to stand 21st overall, while Cook was seventh and ninth to sit 16th; Claire Merry set the pace in the Canadian Radial fleet with placings of 5-15-12 and sits 22nd, and others in the gold fleet include Danielle Dube in 34th, Isabella Bertold 38th and Ingrid Merry 44th.
"Given the wind conditions it was surprising [Girke]did not do even better, but the wind tends to be lighter on the RSX course which is close to shore. It was only the last race when it got up to 15-16 knots," Dool said. Officials have scheduled three races in the RSX class for tomorrow so Girke she will be able to take full advantage of the stronger winds.
"A fall at the windward mark in race one made it difficult to catch up, but she is well on her way to qualifying and still has a definite shot at top 10 which would lock in a spot for her at the Olympics," Dool said.
In the Radial class, with 102 starters, two-time Olympic veteran Lisa Ross just missed the gold fleet races will not be able to improve her current standing of 52nd overall. She still has another chance to qualify in Miami in January. The Radial Olympic Trials consists of a combination of the final finish position her and the final finish position at the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta.
In Finn, Cook continues his comeback from three years of retirement from competitive sailing. Though he sails the 16th-best boat over all, he is in the 12th country spot. Eighteen countries will earn a spot at the 2012 London Games based on Fremantle results.
"There is no doubt that lack of fitness is holding me back,' he said.
In the 470, Luke Ramsay and Mike Leigh pulled off one of their best days yet since starting to sail in the class with a sixth, ninth and 23rd to put them in 27th position over all and 18th country – just within London's Olympic qualification cutoff and only four points astern of the 16th country,
Last January, the pair each decided to give up sailing the single-handed Laser class and went together in the 470. Leigh had been in the top 10 in the Laser class but a nagging back injury was not improving and he had to stop sailing the Laser made for him. Ramsay suffered from being too small for the Laser, more the size for a 470 helmsman. When medical experts agreed that the movements and posture of a 470 crewman would be easier on Leigh's back, the partnership was made.