by Bob Fisher
A British-born mate in Hong Kong had been communicating about the performance of the Olympic champion, Ben Ainslie, in the first six races relative to that of Jonas Hogh-Christensen, who was becoming dubbed: 'the Great Dane,' a title formerly reserved for fellow Finn sailor Paul Elvstrom. The friend in that district of China with national autonomy is not a man of little faith, but like many others, his belief in Ben was being stretched almost to breaking point.
July 31, 2012 Heavyweight Mens Singlehander - Ben Ainslie GBR - approaching Mark 1 on today’s first race
Come Thursday and there is a change in the weather. Despite a bleak morning, the sun came out to shine and its effect was noticeable throughout Team GBR. There was a couple more knots of breeze, but that should have given the Danish sailor even more advantage as he is 12 kilos (27lbs) heavier than his British rival. Ben had his best start of this regatta in the first race of the day and led throughout. The pressure was relieved somewhat when Jonas capsized early on the run and went from fourth to tenth. But those are the factors that make yacht racing the sport that it is.
Jonas went for broke (old English expression) at the start of the eighth race by nailing the pin end of the line. He was a trifle slow away and Rafa Trujillo of Spain was to windward of the Dane. Watching the two was enlightening - Jonas went for speed while Rafa went for height. At the first mark it was one-two in favour of the Spaniard, but not far behind, in fifth place, was Ben. His downwind technique was called into play and he moved up to third as Jonas slipped to fourth.
On the day, Ben had improved seven points on Jonas and now trails him by three with two races and the double-pointed medal race to come. The telling reply from Hong Kong read: 'No lack of faith here, believe me. Jonas had to have a result worse than Ben's worst, which was that eighth today that forces him to count the seventh from day 2, and Ben's worst now is a 6. Damn, I could get into this maths stuff! My money says Ben in the lead before the medal race. Am equally excited about Iain and Bart (in the Star), Goodison (Laser), Stevie and Ben (49er), and the 470 boys.' It would seem he knows where to put his money - his bets would have paid handsomely on this day.
A 1,2 by Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson in the Star, extended their lead by five points over Robert Scheidt of Brazil. This was aided at the finish of the first of the day's races when it appeared that the Brazilians would take the second place, but Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki's boat lifted on a wave and surged past the hapless Brazilians to snatch the place from them. Then finishing second in the next race helped the British pair to a nine point lead after eight races.
The extra breeze was obviously what Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes wanted for the 49er races. They led the first from start to finish - just nine seconds ahead of the Finish pair, Lauri Lehtinen and Kalle Bask. The same two had a close battle with places changing three times before the result was exactly as before. The much-vaunted Australian duo of Nathan Outteridge and Ian Jensen had, for them, a bad day with a tenth and a sixth, so that the British pair are within eleven points in second place.
Goodison and his fellow Laser sailors had the day off, but the '470 boys' began their campaign in style, emulating the British Star sailors by putting only three points on the board to lead the Austrian pair by two points and the Australian pre-series favourites, Matthew Belcher and Malcolm Page, who lie fifth, by nine points.
If the sun continues to shine and the winds to blow, who knows what the next days will bring? The maths will be brought into constant use (and the rusty cogs of the calculator will be heard whirring) before this regatta is over. Faith persists.