by Ian Grant
Ben Ainslie, Englands tenacious Laser class tactician produced the performance of the sailing Olympics when he won his class Gold Medal twice, first on the course and later at a protest before the International jury.
Laser class, Great Britain - Ben Ainslie.
When Ainslie faced the start for the final heat yesterday he had only one purpose in mind and that was to win Gold, he already had a Silver Medal from the 1996 Olympics at home in England.
He was totally motivated with that ambition as he prepared his race stategy to haul back the 9 penalty point lead which the defending Gold Medallist Robert Scheidt of Brazil held as he settled into his race plan to sail safely for Gold.
However Ainslie had other plans which featured a real 'dog-fight' between the best Laser sailor in the World and the sailor who was totally possessed on becoming the best sailor in the World.
The real Brittish Bulldog fighting spirit was revealed when Ainslie purposely elected to pay his total intention of setting a plan in place to show he was not prepared to just accept the Silver Medal he was focused on winning Gold.
A perfect lee bow start just underneath Scheidt was applied, then Ainslie who needed to make sure the World's best Laser class skipper was held back beyond 21st place carted him to a no win situation well off the normal sailing course.
This tactic despite Scheidt carrying a protest flag proved to be one of the most aggressive and cetainly the most effective ever witnessed in the history of sailing on Sydney Harbour.
In fact more attention was focused on Ainslie and Scheidt than the performance of eventual race winner Andreas Geritzer of Austria.
Ainslie who has finished second to Schiedt on so many occasions was not prepared to be the 'Bridesmaid' one more time and when they reached the first windward mark the Englishman had a grip on the Gold Medal.
When sails were eased Ainslie was leading Scheidt in the tail end of the fleet over three minutes behind the leaders.
As expected the 'dog fight' continued to intensify as Scheidt realised his desperate situation with Ainslie controlling the race for Gold.
He then applied some of his own highly skilled tactics but committed a rare breach at a rounding mark which fired a protest from Ainslie who at that time had Gold won on the water by the narrow margin of one point when Scheidt finished 36 th.
However the Gold Medal was only half won as the two skippers filed individual rule infringement protests, Scheidt for an incident during the start and Ainslie for not being allowed sea room at the mark rounding where Scheidt finally shook the cover of his rival.
This became a no win situation for the defending Gold Medallist and four times World champion Scheidt when the jury dismissed his protest then disqualified him on the evidence presented by Ainslie.
Ainslie's incredible fight back to win the Gold Medal has been heralded as the sailing performance of the 2000 Olympics and certainly the best tactical performance ever witnessed in an International sailing race on Sydney Harbour.
RESULTS (Official) : GOLD Ben Ainslie (GBR) 42pts, SILVER Robert Scheidt (BRA) 44pts, BRONZE Michael Blackburn (AUS) 60pts 3, NED 72pts 4, AUT 78pts 5, POR 83pts 6, POL 86pts 7, ITA 91pts 8, RSA 92pts 9, NOR 94pts 10.