Editorial- Laser Medal races - set piece sailing?

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Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. Paul Goodison (GBR), Laser gold medal. Plenty to celebrate!
Welcome to Sail-World.Com's Olympic newsletter for Day 10 of the 2008 Olympic Sailing Regatta.

Today's Medal races in the Laser and Laser Radial classes were set piece affairs in which the winner was never seriously in doubt.

In contrast to the 49er Medal race on Sunday, and the High Noon in Qingdao expected tomorrow in the RS:X Mens event, today’s racing was like a trip to the dentist. The best part was when it was all over.

At that point the new Gold medallists’ emotion spilled over as they celebrated what was probably the greatest day in their lives.

Medal Races were introduced by the ISAF for this Olympiad, and the Media Jury is still out on their success.

Designed to have the result of an Event right in doubt until the final race, in six of the seven Medal races held to date, there has been some minor interest in who wins the race, but no more.

The Medal races have all the excitement of the final stage of the Tour de France, where there is no real lead change on the final leg to the finish in Paris.

In Qingdao, all the cut and thrust has taken place in the middle of the series, and the points differentials were generally such, that the wheels would really have to fall off for there to be a change in the winner.

Typical was today’s Laser Medal Race, when Paul Goodison (GBR) elected to match race the then second placegetter Rasmus Mygren (SWE), taking him out into the tide of Fushan Bay, while the others escaped up the seawall of Qingdao, led by New Zealand’s Andrew Murdoch.

While Goodison’s tactics may have seemed an obvious ploy in the pre-race strategy phase, their execution was harsh on the then second placed Swedish competitor, who by the time Goodison had finished with him, had dropped from second to sixth overall.

Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) and Paul Goodison (GBR) winner of the Silver and Gold Medal Mens Laser class 2008 Olympics

Often the final races in world championships are often marked with match racing between the top two competitors, who are so far in front of the rest of the fleet that they are only sorting out the winner and runner-up positions.

However Goodison’s effort today was over the top, and handed the silver medal to others further down the points table.

On the other hand, Myrgren’s pre-race strategy session should have predicted the match race eventuality – and the situation should have been avoided at all costs.

Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) winner of the Gold Medal - Laser Radial - 2008 Olympics

Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) was quite happy to canter around Course Alpha, today, for a fourth place. She won the Gold Medal in the Laser Radial class without winning a race. Excluding a 15th in Race 7, Tunnicliffe’s worst placing was a sixth (she had two of these) and hers was a game of minimising the cost of errors and holding a consistent line.

When the wind conditions changed in mid series going from light airs to hiking conditions, Tunnicliffe shifted gears too, improving her placings somewhat without being spectacular. A pair of second placings yesterday in the modest breeze cemented her points position.

Paul Goodison (GBR) winner of the Gold Medal Mens Laser class is interviewed by TV - 2008 Olympics

Tomorrow the prognosis from www.predictwind.com!PredictWind expects an easterly of 10kts, increasing to an 18kt northerly on Thursday. Other sources in Qingdao have confirmed this view.

Medals will be decided tomorrow in the RS:X for Men and Women. As mentioned the Men will be a very close run thing, between the top three maybe four competitors and there should be a Medal Race delivering what Medal Races are supposed to deliver.

In the Women’s Race China will be looking to win their second medal of the Olympic regatta with Jian Yin holding a five point lead over current World Champion Alessandra Sensini (ITA). Britain’s Bryony Shaw is third, three points adrift of Sensini.

There was no racing in the Star and Tornado races today due to lack of wind.

In the RS:X Mens event the major sensation of the day was a 32nd placing by series leader, Tom Ashley (NZL) dropping him down to third place overall.

Start of the third race - 2008 Olympic Regatta - Day 10 - Tornado

The 2008 Olympic Regatta should finish on Thursday with the Medal Races for the Tornado and Star classes.

As matters currently stand, the medal race for the Tornado will be their Olympic swansong. And a hell of a send-off it should be with multihulls sailing off the seawall in 18knot breezes.

The Olympics will be infinitely poorer for their passing.

Good Sailing!

Richard Gladwell
Sail-World Olympic Editor