Ask any sailor about ideal racing conditions and the answer is universal—the more wind the merrier (within reason)! Why? Light-air racing tests and challenges racers in unique ways as crucial fractions of a knot are earned and lost with micro adjustments in body position, sail trim and, of course, tactics. For the Gold medal-winning Australian Men’s 470 team of Matthew Belcher and Malcolm Page, however, today was their opportunity to prove to the world that they are equally quick in the sticky, light stuff as they are in a proper Aussie blow.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS) took Gold in the Men’s 470 event in the London Olympics 2012.
While there had been some early fears that the wind gods might rob the Men’s 470 fleet of a medal race, the RC was successfully able to dispatch the fleet on a Windward-Leeward course (twice around), thus fulfilling many sailor’s Olympic dreams.
As was previously reported, today’s Gold and Silver medal battle came down to the story of two teams, the Aussies and the British-flagged team of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. The Brits crossed the starting line with a small points deficit, meaning that the only way that Patience and Bithell could claim the top step of the podium was to not only finish ahead of their antipodean rivals, but to also ensure that at least one other boat finished between their stern and the Aussies’ bow.
The Australian team took control of the race from the get-go, sailing slightly faster than their British rivals on all legs in the wispy air. While the Brits wisely tried to engage Belcher and Page in a series of tacking duels, this racecourse tomfoolery didn’t add up to anything strategically useful (although it did provide for fantastic spectator moments for the crowds assembled on Nothe Hill, and for the countless fans watching on television).
Croatia’s Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic crossed the finishing line four seconds ahead of Belcher and Page to claim the bullet, while the Patience and Bithell finished 12 seconds astern of their Gold-medal rivals. The Argentinean-flagged team of Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente finished in third place, thus cementing their spot on the podium’s third tier and earning their Olympic Bronze medal.
To celebrate, the Aussies and the Brits both intentionally capsized and took 'victory swims', once they were clear of the finishing area. Once their masts were again vertical, all three medal winners took their prerequisite victory lap past the cheering crowds on Nothe Hill (which, incidentally, included the parents of both the newly minted Gold and Silver medalist teams) before heading into the dinghy park for more celebrations.
Please stay tuned for more news from the Men’s 470 class, including quotes from the medal winners and plenty of racecourse images from today’s medal-race contest.