It was a case of mission accomplished for Canada Saturday at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Perth, Australia.
Although no Canadian teams qualified for Sunday’s medal races, the main aim – punching tickets to the London Olympics – was achieved in all four classes in which Canada entered boats: RS:X, Radial, Finn and 470.
The actual identity of the sailors who will represent Canada next summer is still to be determined – with a couple of class exceptions, only the top Canadian at the 2012 world championships will punch their ticket to London – but a number of medal contenders have emerged over the past week.
RS:X – WOMEN’S WINDSURFING
West Vancouver native Nikola Girke endured a trying end to her week in Perth. The two-time Olympian faltered in Race 9, finishing 15th after sailing to the wrong first mark along with a large portion of the fleet. But she more than made up for it in Race 10, using a fast breeze – something that will likely stand her in good stead for Weymouth’s windy Olympic course – to finish second and secure 15th spot overall.
470 – MEN’S TWO-MAN DINGHY
Mike Leigh and Luke Ramsay earned an Olympic berth for Canada against all odds. The duo only started racing in the 470 class back in February – Leigh previously raced in the laser class – but managed to nail down the 19th and final qualification spot available to countries after finishing 29th overall and as the 20th country. As host nation for the Olympics, Britain, which finished second overall, was exempt from that quota.
FINN – MEN’S ONE-MAN DINGHY (HEAVYWEIGHT)
The Finn class was surrounded by controversy after Britain’s Ben Ainslie got involved in an ugly confrontation with the media boat. The three-time Olympic gold medalist, who had been leading the competition in Perth, clambered on board a boat filming the race to express his anger over a wash in the first race of the day that the Briton believed had cost him victory. Ainslie was then black-flag disqualified in the next race and will face a disciplinary hearing over both incidents on Sunday.
However, the mood was very different for Chris Cook. The Toronto native came out of retirement for these world championships and was rewarded with a 16th-place overall finish, enough to make Canada the 11th-placed country and enough to book a ticket for London. Cook finished 17th in both of Saturday’s races, beating out countryman Greg Douglas, who finished 27th overall after 34th- and 29th-place finishes, and Martin Robitaille and Brendan Wilton, who finished 41st and 42nd overall respectively, with Wilton picking up the race win in the last contest of the day.
RADIAL – WOMEN’S ONE-PERSON DINGHY
In a seven-way Canadian tussle, it was Isabella Bertold who came out on top Saturday, finishing 36th overall and qualifying her country for the Olympics by putting Canada 22nd overall, easily within the 29-country cut-off point.
Unlike most other classes, the Canadian representative for next summer’s Games are not determined by the finish in next year’s world championships. Instead, it will be determined by a combination of overall finish at the worlds and from the Miami regatta in January. And the competition for that coveted spot is likely to be fiercec, with Danielle Dube (40th overall in Perth), Claire Merry (45th), Ingrid Merry (51st), Lisa Ross (52nd), Brenda Bowskill (59th) and Erin Rafuse (77th).