by Bob Fisher
Anyone who has raced a sailboat will have been overwhelmed by circumstances beyond their control – it is one of the natural exigencies of the sport. The fragility of a position in a race may hang tenuously, but careful management of the race will most times protect the sailor. There are those times when even the most experienced are subject to fate and it is easy to see that it hurts.
Ben Ainslie in a confident mood before Race 1, 2008 Olympic Regatta
Ben Ainslie, who had a bad record of opening days in his three previous Olympic Games – a fact of which he commented: 'Maybe I’ve been a little bit nervous going in to the event, a little bit uptight and not sailing my normal style' – was on track to remove this monkey from his back. He led around the windward mark the second time in the opening race and was 100 metres ahead of the pack. All seemed set perfectly.
But Mr. Sod, who has his own law, decided that he would like a rearrangement and switched off the wind in the middle of the track, shifted it through 20 degrees after a few minutes and turned the order topsy-turvy, as is his wont. Ben was lucky to scramble through to tenth.
A lesser man might have crumbled, deciding this was so unfair that it was bound to happen again, as indeed it could as Ainslie put himself into a similar position in the second race. There all coincidence ceased. In the majestic manner of an Olympic champion, he kept his opposition at bay to win the race.
It was obvious to the keen observer when he faced the media, that Ainslie had been affected by the overwhelming circumstances of the first race. He was questioned about it early and said resignedly: 'I felt like I’d sailed rather a good race, but the wind shut down on the final leg.' No excuses note, no blame levied, just an observation of fact.
'It’s my best start ever at the Olympics,' he joked, but the look in his eyes was of a man on a mission. He wanted that first day behind him.