by John Curtis
Day two of the 2012 London Olympic Games began with an inspired performance by Hunter Lowden and Gordon Cook in the 49er class with Star, Laser Radial, Laser and Finn classes also competing in Weymouth.
49er - London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition
Lowden and Cook led the fleet around the course for three full laps. In the end they lost a few boat lengths on the last downwind to finish third in the race. It was especially exciting because they were sailing the Nothe Course which came to within 100 yards of shore and we had a live commentary from British sailing legend Ian Walker.
I got to watch the race with Gordon's Partner Sarah Domino, who was clearly the loudest fan in the stands. Race 2 was not as good with a 16th. The pair is sitting in ninth overall. Lots of racing left to go. The 49'ers will have 15 races as opposed to just 10 with all the other fleets, so there really is a lot of racing left to do.
The 49'er team sailed a great race in race 1 mostly because they balanced the seat of the pants style with a more calculated approach that has sometimes caused them problems. They went hard into the shore on the first beat to capitalize on the gusts of wind that were blowing through. It did not look great for a few moments when the boats on the other side of the course (left side) had a huge lift that had them aiming almost straight at the mark. But these boats are mostly about speed and when they got to the breeze, they accelerated and easily crossed the boats that had played the shift. Great work guys!
The Star team of Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn had a much better day today, but still struggled to achieve their full potential. Some minor equipment problems took them off task temporarily and the fleet is so tight that's all it takes. My own observation about the racing that I have watched is that the 'will to win' is much more intense at this event. There really is no room for error out there - almost everyone has brought their 'A' Game to this event and it is magic to watch the performances.
The Star boys were showing their top form today in the first legs of the races, rounding the top marks in second in race 3 and third in race 4. Unfortunately, they were not able to hold on in either race slipping back to sixth in race 3 and eighth in race 4. These are still very respectable results but they need to get a few top three finishes to secure a good spot in the medal race that would give them a chance at a medal. It is still within reach, but it will not be easy. Sitting 12th overall, qualification for the medal race should not be difficult, but getting themselves to a medal potential position will be a taller order. It would be a big mistake to count these guys out.
'Better day. We had some minor equipment problems that threw us out of phase a bit today but we are going to crawl our way out one race at a time. We are not where we are for lack of trying,' said Richard Clarke
Canadian Radial sailor Danielle Dube hails from Halifax and had a decent day, performing slightly above her expectations. With two good starts, she was able to hold a lane off the line and avoid getting bounced around in search of clear air.
Unfortunately, Danielle is not as heavy as one needs to be in the stiff 15-18knt breezes we had today, so her top end speed is not on par with the race leaders. An interesting story about Danielle is that her coach is here on a Turkish team accreditation. Malte Philipp, a German national and former East German national team sailor, had been working with Danielle this summer and the Turkish team did not need him for the Games, but they allowed him to coach Danielle for the Games using his Turkish accreditation.
July 30, 2012 Weymouth, England - Womens Singlehander (Laser Radial) Sara Carmo (POR)
Without this generosity by the Turkish Federation, Danielle would not have a coach here because the Canadian team would not have enough accreditations (official access cards) to have another coach. This is a shining example of the sort of co-operation that goes on between nations and individuals here at the Games. This is what the Olympic Games are truly all about - it is not just about encouraging athletes to be the best they can be but it encourages everyone involved from the volunteers giving directions in the streets of Weymouth or tube in London to be the best the best they can be. The world could do with more of this attitude and that is why the Olympic Games really do matter. (stepping off my soap box now)
BTW- 'tube' (London word for subway system) is pronounced 'chube' here but they still call chocolate 'chocolate' - there is no making sense of this I am afraid - of course the Canadians are the ones saying it wrong so I guess I will just have to hop in the 'chub' and take a bath to relax - pronounced 'bawth' of course)
David Wright had a solid day with and 18th in the first race and 15th in race 2. Not a big fan of the conditions on the south course that the Lasers were sailing on today, David was not unpleased with his performance. The laser fleet is extremely tight except for the leader Tom Slingsby of Australia, who has taken an early lead with a 1, 2 in the first two races. David is one of the Canadians who is gunning to surprise us all. Keep a close eye in this guy. He is still in the hunt despite sitting 18th overall. If you look at the boats ahead, almost all of them have at least one double digit score.
Greg Douglas also had a better day today. He was mixing it up with the local hero and medal farvorite Ben Ainslie (Great Britain) today in race 2. Greg had a 15th in race 3 and 13 in race 4. He was up in ninth at one point in Race 4 but was caught in a battle between Ben Ainslie and Danish sailor sailor Jonas Hogh-Christensen who is winning the regatta. Greg slipped back in that race to 13th from a best position of 10th. Keep an eye on this young fellow. The wind is predicted to get even stronger as the week goes on and Greg's youth and fantastic fitness will start to pay dividends.
The British hosts have really been hyping their man Ben Ainslie. If he wins a gold medal he would surpass the all-time greatest sailor ever - Danish sailing legend, Paul Elvestrom, who is the only one to have won four consecutive gold medals in Olympic sailing. With a gold here, Ainslie would have four golds and a silver. (Silver was from the Laser in Atlanta in 1996 the three golds are in the Finn Class ).
Ainslie GBR - London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition
The media interest here is unbelievable. The commentators at the shoreside viewing spot (The Nothe pronounced 'no- th') regularly invite the crowd to cheer Mr. Ainslie even when he is nowhere in sight. It’s starting to get old and even the Brits seem slightly embarrassed by all the 'ra-ra' (pronounced 'raw- raw' of course :))
The big story today came in Race 4 on the Finn Course where the Danish sailor had a terrible start - hitting the left end of the line and getting stuck on the race committee boat for a moment. He had to do a penalty turn and was essentially in last place after the start. Canadian, Greg Douglas had wisely just 'bailed out' of that same position on the starting line as it was highly unlikely to allow for a clean start. A little way up the line, Ben Ainslie had a decent start and was 14th at the first mark, while his Danish arch rival was well back in 21st. All he needed to do was reel back in a few sailors in front of him and have the Dane score a double digit to even things up in the overall standings.
Finn Class - London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition
It was not to be. In an amazing display, Jonas Hogh-Christensen, managed to pass Ainslie and finish seventh in the race, while Ainslie finished 12th. Personally, I believe that this was the pivotal day in the regatta for these two sailors. Nowhere on the water today was that will to win more evident. Hogh-Christensen is absolutely on fire and it is hard to imagine Ainslie catching him now. It’s the Danish sailor's regatta to lose now. It will be great fun watching this story unfold.
At this point Jonas Hogh-Christensen seems to have a 'direct line' to his country's greatest sailing hero - Paul Elvstrom. That is how Ainslie described it after day one which saw the Dane win both races and Ainslie finish second in both.
'Sometimes events come to you and sometimes you have to go out and fight for it,' he said. 'This one is not coming to me, so I guess I'm going to have to fight for it,' said Ben Ainslie.
I am looking forward to watching this battle unfold. I would certainly not want to be in a fight with Ben Ainslie. It is a real battle of wills now.
Wind Athletes Canada website