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RS:X windsurfing - Tom Ashley wins gold, Barbara wins medal race to pull back to 6th overall.

Gold and Silver for New Zealand at Pre-Olympics

New Zealand has won two medals at the Pre-Olympics Regatta in Qingdao, China. Tom Ashley won board sailing gold while Hamish Pepper and Carl Williams took the silver medal in the Star.

With two medals in the bag for New Zealand already another looks likely for Jo Aleh, currently lying 2nd, who will sail the Laser Radial medal race later today in China.

Conditions at the Olympic venue were a brisk 15-18 knots and lumpy seas working in favour of Tom Ashley, who had a seven point gap to make up to overtake the leader, Zhou of China, for the gold medal. The kiwi won the medal race in style with a 19 second margin over Bontemps of France behind him.

“I had an awesome race today,” says Ashley. “The breeze was perfect out there for me, and my equipment performed very well. At the first mark, I was in the lead. Julien Bontemps (FRA) almost caught up to me at the end because I had a plastic bag caught on my board, and I had to stop to take it off. Luckily, there was enough space for me to get it off, keep going, and win the gold.”

“The race was fairly straightforward- just the top ten on the start line and a race where speed was very important. I came off the start line to leeward and ahead of the fleet and pinched them out one by one. By the time I tacked to head to the top mark I was comfortably ahead, and stayed there for the rest of the race. I ended up winning by 200m from Julien Bontemps of France. Zhou of China finished ninth.”

“I'm stoked to pull off this win as I have been aiming at a victory in the Pre-Olympics all year,” says Ashley.

“This event caps off a fantastic season, with wins in four out of the five competitions I have sailed. I'm now planning a rest for a couple of weeks before starting my preparation for the 2008 Worlds in Auckland.”

The Star medal race got underway around 4pm in China with a shoot-out for the medals between France, Switzerland, New Zealand and Brazil. It was Scheidt and Prada of Brazil who came through in the end finishing 2nd in the medal race and winning the gold medal.

Hamish Pepper and Carl Williams crossed the line in 4th place ahead of the French and Swiss boats winning the silver medal for New Zealand.

“Today’s race was good,” says Pepper. “The conditions were extremely windy, with big tides and big waves. Teamwork and communication is very important in this sport; we are doing pretty well on that front, despite the fact that we have not been a team for very long.”

“We’re happy to take home the silver medal. We learned a lot about the venue during this regatta, and will be much better prepared for next year.”

New Zealand was represented in three further medal races sailed yesterday afternoon in China; Women’s RS:X, Men’s 470 and Finn. Barbara Kendall won her medal race to finish the regatta in 6th place overall, Dan Slater was 7th overall in the Finn and young pair Carl Evans and Peter Burling finished 9th in the Men’s 470.

The regatta isn’t over yet for single-handed sailors Jo Aleh in the Laser Radial and Andrew Murdoch in the Laser. Both will sail in their respective medal race later today in China, Aleh looking likely to claim another medal for New Zealand.

Aleh was 5th in yesterday’s one race and goes into the final double points medal race eleven points behind Tunnicliffe of USA, and 19 points ahead of Mihelic of Croatia. Andrew Murdoch is lying 6th in the Laser fleet.

Qingdao International Regatta 2007
New Zealand’s Final Results

Tom Ashley – Men’s RS:X – GOLD
Hamish Pepper & Carl Williams – Star – SILVER
Barbara Kendall – Women’s RS:X – 6th
Dan Slater – Finn – 7th
Carl Evans & Peter Burling – 9th

New Zealand’s Current Standings
(Individual Race Results in brackets)

Jo Aleh – Laser Radial – 2nd ((9), 1, 3, 1, 7, 4, 8, 4, 6, 5)
Andrew Murdoch – Laser – 5th (21, 7, 2, 4, 3, 21, (26), 4, 11, 6)

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