Please select your home edition
Edition
InSunSport - International - Endure

London 2012 Olympics - Winner takes all

by Mark Chisnell on 4 Aug 2012
Finns racing at the London 2012 Olympic Games Richard Langdon /Ocean Images © http://www.oceanimages.co.uk
The story remains the same - Ben Ainslie v Jonas Hogh-Christensen; Big Ben v The Great Dane in the title fight for the greatest Olympic sailor ever. It's a cliché packed delight, a smorgasbord of sporting archetypes. It's particularly tasty when you throw in the angle that a fourth gold medal for Ainslie will rip the title out of the hands of the original (and still the best) Great Dane, Paul Elvstrom. Ben Ainslie fights for his place in history, Jonas Hogh-Christensen fights for his countrymen's honour.

Sailing purists may well feel that this is getting over-blown to the point where it's overshadowing the entire Olympic regatta - and not to its benefit. There's a part of me that wants to agree with this - there are fantastic stories elsewhere: the top four 470 Women are separated by just three points; Annalise Murphy's rugged defence of her lead after four straight opening wins in the Laser Radial; Dorian Van Rijsselberge's extraordinary scorecard in the RS:X Men - 1,1,1,(3),1,2; Marina Alabau almost as effective in the RS:X Women 2,1,1,1,(5),2; and finally, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson's exquisite unpicking of Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada's heavy weather game in the Star, to go into the medal race with an eight point lead.

Exciting as all this is to those of us in the know, those of us who understand the personalities and the history, it just doesn't cut it with sports and news editors at major media outlets. They hear 'Greatest Ever...' and immediately spike everything else. And I have a lot of sympathy with that position - I write novels and I love a good story, and you couldn't write a story like Big Ben v The Great Dane without being accused of being unrealistic.

Today was a case in point. Race one and The Great Dane (TGD) has a solid start and converts it to a fourth at the top - he's won races from there. Meanwhile, Big Ben (BB) is struggling to find a lane off the line and can only work it into an 11th by the end of the beat. But the steel is back in BB's eyes and he progresses steadily while TGD slowly slips back towards him. By the finish, what should or could have been a massive scoreboard gainer for TGD, reaps him just a single lousy point.


The gap on the overall leaderboard is back to four points, and there's just one more to go before the medal race. Time to trot out all those 'cometh the moment, cometh the man' clichés, but there's no getting away from it - BB is launched out of the blocks on this most critical of all starts. He's second at the top, through into first by the end of the reach, proceeding to sail away from everyone downwind like he was in a different, bigger boat.

But wait... TGD has also found another gear downwind, screaming through from sixth to second. Suddenly things don't look so good for BB - he will need another boat between him and TGD in the medal race to take gold, and that will leave him relying on someone else - his fate will be out of his hands. So BB lets the mainsail out and slows down to wait for TGD... Oh. My. Word.

A lot will be written about what happened next, so I might as well get my two cents worth in early. I don't think Ainslie had any physical effect on Hogh-Christensen. Ben maintained a steady gap of about 100m for the whole beat, and was too far ahead of Jonas to have slowed him down effectively.

But I'm sure that it must have unsettled the Dane to see Ainslie hovering up there to windward. Jonas could hardly have helped wondering what the former World Match Racing Champion was going to do next, when he should have been focused on the next wave, the next shift - and Pieter-Jan Postma.

And sure enough, Postma was past Hogh-Christensen by the next windward mark, and held that lead comfortably down the final run. The gap between Ainslie and Hogh-Christensen is down to just two points, and that means that under the tie-break rules, whoever wins the medal race will win gold. So unless they let Postma get too far ahead, it really will be winner takes all.

Big Ben v The Great Dane is a great story, there's just no getting away from it, and while part of me acknowledges the unfairness of this on everyone else out there on Weymouth Bay, the bigger part of me is just grateful that sailing has such a fantastic story to bring it into the media spotlight at this extraordinary sporting jamboree. Maybe, just maybe, it'll encourage a few more kids to give sailing a go, and that can't be a bad thing.

Schaefer 2016 Ratchet Block 660x82North Technology - Southern SparsZhik ZKG 660x82

Related Articles

Dateline Rio - Sailing Olympics review - as good as it gets?
The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The weather was better than Weymouth and Qingdao, the courses more varied, but from a working media perspective, it was the people running the Rio regatta who really made the difference.
Posted on 26 Aug
Rio 2016 - Plain speaking by triple-medalist on Olympic sailing moves
Triple Olympic medalist, Santiago Lange has been on the sharp end of changes made to Olympic classes and formats Santiago Lange, a six-time Olympian and Bronze medallist in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, won his third medal – Gold sailing in the Nacra 17 class. With that length of experience at an Olympic level, having sailed the Laser, Tornado and now Nacra 17 classes his comments on the future shape of the Olympic regatta was one of the highlights of the Medallists Media Conferences.
Posted on 25 Aug
Rio 2016 - Images of the penultimate race in the Finns - Scott wins
Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn, in what potentially could have been Giles Scott's (GBR) Gold medal winning race. In the end, the current world champion won in style.
Posted on 15 Aug
Rio 2016 - Images from the Mens RS:X Medal Race
Sail-World's NZ Editor, Richard Gladwell, was on the water at the Medal Race for the RS:X class Sail-World's NZ Editor, Richard Gladwell, was on the water at the Medal Race for the RS:X class won before the race by Dorian van Rijsselberghe (NED) without needing points from the Medal Race. Nick Dempsey (GBR) was second on a similar basis.
Posted on 15 Aug
Rio 2016 - Sailors talk of Life at the Extreme on the Atlantic Ocean
Certainly the Volvo Ocean Race catchcry of Life at the Extreme is not a phrase associated with the Sailing Olympics. The 470 crews were suffering the mixed emotions of survival of an extreme test by nature, the cold, and for some elation at their placings, after Thursday's battle for survival. In conditions that looked more out of the Volvo Ocean Race, than an Olympic sailing regatta, crews battled 20kt plus winds and Atlantic Ocean rollers that towered up to four metres.
Posted on 13 Aug
An Q&A with regatta chair Sara Filbee about Canada's Chester Race Week
Sail-World.com recently talked with regatta chair Sara Filbee about Chester Race Week, Canada’s largest keelboat regatta Chester Race Week (CRW) traces it roots back to 1856, when an Annual Fishermen’s Regatta was created and sailors competed for bragging rights. WWI, the Great Depression and WWII took their toll, but by 1955 the regatta was again on the rise. Today CRW draws more keelboats than any other Canadian regatta. I caught up with Sara Filbee, CRW’s Regatta Chair, to learn more about this historical event.
Posted on 12 Aug
Rio Olympics - Fourth gallery of images the fearsome Niteroi course
Fourth image gallery from racing on Day 4 in the Mens and Womens 470 class on the Niteroi course in the Atlantic Ocean Fourth image gallery from racing on Day 4 in the Mens and Womens 470 class on the Niteroi course in the Atlantic Ocean - sailing in 3-4 metre swells and 20kt plus winds. believe it or not the sea conditions were worse inshore as the fleet encountered the backwashed Atlantic rollers
Posted on 12 Aug
Rio 2016 - Third image gallery of 470's braving the Atlantic Ocean
Third image gallery from racing on Day 4 in the Mens and Womens 470 class on the Niteroi course in the Atlantic Ocean Third image gallery from racing on Day 4 in the Mens and Womens 470 class on the Niteroi course in the Atlantic Ocean - sailing in 3-4 metre swells and 20kt plus winds
Posted on 12 Aug
Gladwell's Line - The challenges of Guanbara Bay
The decision to run Medal Racing on the Pao de Acucer course, probably won't be remembered as one of the brightest The decision to run Medal Racing on the Pao de Acucer, probably won't be remembered as one of the brightest of the 2016 Sailing Olympics. Over shadowed by a 1300ft tall granite and quartz mountain in the shape of a sugarloaf, the bay suffers from dramatic windshifts, and huge variance in wind pressure.
Posted on 11 Aug
Rio 2016 - Fresher breezes expected inside and outside on Day 3
Stronger winds are expected for the third day of racing in the 2016 Olympic Sailing Regatta in Rio de Janeiro. Stronger winds are expected for the third day of racing in the 2016 Olympic Sailing Regatta in Rio de Janeiro. Two of the fleet scheduled to race outside on the Atlantic Ocean course off Copacabana Beach, while the 470 Men and Women will race inside on Guananara Bay.
Posted on 10 Aug