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Sailing - 27. January 2012.

GBR Match Racers beat World Champion to Miami semi-finals

Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor earned a hard-fought berth in the semi-finals of the Women's Match Racing event at the Miami World Cup on Thursday (26 January), and avenged their World Championship final loss to USA's Anna Tunnicliffe in the process.

The Skandia Team GBR trio came through their three pivotal remaining round-robin matches to earn their place in the quarter-finals of the Rolex Miami OCR, and a re-match against the American trio to whom they lost 0-4 in the Perth Worlds final last month.

In spite of some great starts, the British 2012-bound crew found themselves trailing their perennial rivals 0-2 in the best-of-five quarter-final bout, but dug deep to win the next three matches and set up a semi-final meeting with Finland's Silja Lehtinen on Friday.

"We had a lot on today - our group were very tied in the round robin and we won all three of our matches but in fact we had to," Lush explained.  "After winning three matches that made us first overall from our group, but if we'd had lost that final match we'd have not even made it through.

"They were tight matches, but we just managed to get Claire Leroy on the finish line of the final one to go through first."

Lush was delighted with their impressive quarter-final comeback over the American trio, who have yet to be selected for the 2012 Games and who the Skandia Team GBR crew didn't manage to get the better of in the knockout stages of regattas during the 2011 season.

"It was good to race Anna.  We were starting really well against her and in fact in the first two matches we were leading her the whole way round the course only to get rolled at the finish line!  So we were then down two but managed to pull it back, keep what we were doing well but work out how to defend her a little bit better in the final three races.  Finally we got her!

"We didn't start out with a brilliant regatta, we haven't been winning everything straight out and we've also made a lot of mistakes but it's been good to learn from and it's really nice to get through the quarter-finals," the 31-year-old continued.

"It is always a massive sigh of relief because it's such a big cut and everyone racing in the quarters is good - Anna Tunnicliffe's the World Champion and we meet her in the quarters.  It's a really tough stage and a relief to get through it.

"Maybe it's a personal thing, but for me today proving something to Anna was a big thing for me for here and beating her on her home waters, so we've done that.  We've got a few more to see off before we can think about a medal but we're really happy with today."

Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark remain in touch of the top podium spot in the 470 women's event, in spite of some starting difficulties on Tuesday.  They were disqualified for a premature start in the first race before having to re-cross the startline in the second race fearing they had jumped the gun for a second time.  They pulled back to second to remain just one point adrift from the leading Dutch pair Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout, while Sophie Weguelin and Sophie Ainsworth are in sixth.

Friday will see the final day of racing for the Paralympic classes, with Skandia Team GBR sailors poised in medal positions in all three classes heading into the final day.

Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell are tied on points at the top of the SKUD leaderboard with Australia's Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch, with John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas in second in the Sonar event.  In the 2.4mR class - the only one of the Paralympic classes where British selection for 2012 has still to be determined - Megan Pascoe is in third overall and Helena Lucas seventh.

Charlotte Dobson and Alison Young are in fifth and seventh places respectively in the Laser Radial fleet. 

After the intensive test of the Perth Worlds and the distractions of their recent Olympic selection, the emphasis has not been on Miami racing and they were positioned 14th at the end of racing on Thursday.  Instead of persisting with the regatta, the duo have chosen to focus their attentions for the remainder of the week on continuing their campaign planning and preparation with the team specialists towards their medal-winning ambitions at the Games in Weymouth this summer.

The Rolex Miami OCR - the second leg of the 2011-12 ISAF Sailing World Cup series - runs until Saturday 28 January.

For the latest news and information from the Skandia Team GBR British Sailing Team visit www.skandiateamgbr.com<http://www.skandiateamgbr.com> or follow us on Twitter (@SkandiaTeamGBR).
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