by Craig Heydon
London Olympics 2012 day 6 Sailing Competition, Weymouth.
Tom Slingsby (AUS) competing today, 03.08.12, in the Men’s One Person Dinghy (Laser) event in The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition.
Australia’s sailors enjoyed a strong day on the waters of Weymouth and Portland with four crews currently in medal contention after six days of competition.
Tom Slingsby has retaken first in the Laser class, opening up a five point lead ahead of overnight leader Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus, while Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen continue to lead the way in the 49ers following a consistent three races on Friday.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page put a mixed opening day behind them to move up into second overall in the 470 men’s class, in the women’s class Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell are 11th after their first two races. Krystal Weir has a fight on her hands to qualify for the Laser Radial medal race and heads into the final two full fleet races in 12th, while Brendan Casey finished his London 2012 Olympic Games in 13th.
Australia’s Women’s Match Racing and RS:X women’s crew enjoyed a lay day with Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty guaranteed top seeding for the Match Racing quarterfinals, Jessica Crisp is 12th in the RS:X women.
Tom Slingsby headed into the seventh Laser class race second overall, just a point behind leader Pavlos Kontides.
The class began the day on the Nothe spectator course, with Slingsby having a tough race, eventually finishing 15th.
The five-time World Champion regrouped and bounced back in race eight on Portland Harbour in style, winning the race and opening up a five point lead over Kontides.
'After the first race I had that sinking feeling, I just wasn’t sailing too well and my confidence was down. I just had to reset my mind and know that if I do get away I’ll be hard to catch so I was really happy in the last one to get off the line and get a good race,' said Slingsby.
'For me it was a personal victory, it felt like I broke the trend a bit, I felt like I was getting a lot of bad results and now I’m confident heading into tomorrow.
'I wanted to get back in yellow today, after that second race I feel confident but I really need a good day tomorrow as I don’t have a drop up my sleeve anymore, I’ve got to be really careful,' he said.
'Tomorrow we get back in the waves and hopefully I can find a little speed edge.'
With two races left before the medal race Slingsby is five points clear of Kontides and a further 12 ahead of the third placed Croatian sailor.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen showed real fight in the 49ers on Friday, coming back through the fleet a number of times throughout the day to hold on to their overall lead. The Australian pair lead their New Zealand opponents by nine points heading into the lay day following a ninth, fifth and fourth from the day’s three races.
'We had our moments where we could have done a bit better,' said Outteridge. 'In the first one we were in a great spot at the top mark but there were no gaps for us so we had to take some penalty turns and were playing catch up again. We thought we were over in the second race so we played it safe and went back, clawing back to a fifth. We sort of saved the day again and kept on getting top 10 results, we’ll just keep doing that and wait for the other boats to make mistakes which most of the other boats have done so far.'
While the New Zealanders are close on Outteridge and Jensen’s heels the pair have a 24 point gap on third and 32 points on fourth, with Jensen saying that they will have to push hard in the final four races.
'With four races to go anything can happen,' said Jensen. 'If you have a couple of bad races there’s 20 points out there in a fleet like this. Four races doesn’t seem like much but we’ve still got to keep racing as hard as we can and minimise the mistakes all the time. The Kiwis had a great day today and we’ve just got to keep plugging away.'
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page bounced back from what they felt was a below-par start to their London 2012 campaign, moving into second overall in the 470 men’s fleet. The reigning World Champions were second in the first race of the day before taking the win in race two to close the gap to the leading British crew to six points, with the third placed Austrians 16 points adrift of Belcher and Page.
'Yesterday it was fantastic to actually get out on the water and find our rhythm,' said Belcher. 'Today I think the fleet settled down a lot, there were a lot less incidents than there were yesterday. We’ve got great experience and great speed, it’s not a position we haven’t been in but today it was nice to be fighting out at the front with the British. The lead changed several times in both races, and in typical Aussie fighting spirit we fought hard and tried to get the places when it mattered. It was extremely close in both races and nice to come away at the front of both.'
Page said the experience of their coach Victor Kovalenko helped them come back from what they felt was a slow start to their regatta. 'To be in that position and have someone like Victor, you couldn’t ask for anyone better,' said Page.
'He’s the most experienced, the best coach in the world and gives us a lot of confidence when things don’t go your way. Maybe we had high expectations, maybe a little bit too high in the sense that we were fourth yesterday so it wasn’t really a disaster.
'We’re pretty hard on ourselves and we expect a lot,' he said. 'We expect a lot from each other, we expect a lot from the team and that’s why we’ve been able to be at the level that we are and it’s nice today to be able to come out and prove that and we’ll go out tomorrow and do the same.'
Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell began the defence of Rechichi’s Beijing 2008 gold medal with a solid day in the 470 women’s fleet. The pair, who both have claimed Olympic gold, were 14th in their first London 2012 race, coming home strong in race two to finish seventh, leaving them 11th overall.
'We had to fight hard today,' said Stowell. 'We showed some great promise in certain things that we were working on really hard in the lead up to this, ticked off those boxes but we just let a few boats through a couple of times and had a few little glitches with equipment. We can easily fix those and be ready to go for tomorrow.'
Rechichi said that the pair was happy to finally be racing, after watching the other nine fleets get underway over the last week. 'It’s taken so long and sort of felt like it was never going to arrive a few days ago,' said Rechichi. 'It was good to get the first day out of the way, could have been better, but we’re really happy to have it out of the way. We’re happy with our speed, we’re really fast but just let a couple of boats here and there get away, if we can work on those little things across all conditions we’ll be in good shape.'
Australian sailor Krystal Weir will be fighting hard in the final two Laser Radial qualification races on Saturday to try and secure herself a spot in the final medal race. Weir was seventh and 12th in the two races on Portland Harbour and now finds herself 18 points away from the all important top 10.
'I’m taking a bit more risk now because I’m quite deep in the regatta and I need to get back into the top 10 for the medal race so it was a good day points wise,' said Weir. 'I managed to tidy it up a bit with a seven and a 12.
'Tomorrow I’ll be out to do the same as today but I might have to work a little harder, even though I worked quite hard today,' she said. 'It’s going to take a couple of top fives to make that jump so we’ll give it a go.'
Brendan Casey finished his London 2012 campaign with his best day of the regatta, with a ninth and a fifth seeing him finish 13th overall in the Finn fleet. 'I did a few things a bit differently today, started well and had good first beats,' said Casey.
'I was a little bit slower on the downwinds in the first race and had a bit of a chat with PJ the Dutch sailor during the race, getting a few tips, and I was able to get to the top mark well and got a fifth position in the last race. 'It’s a great privilege and an honour to compete at the Olympics,' he said. 'I had a number of setbacks at the beginning and that sort of rattles you and makes it hard to carry out a regatta strategy as I was on the back foot the whole time which made it really difficult to sail relaxed and comfortable.
'From here on I’m going to enjoy the rest of my Olympic experience, watch my fellow team members in the other classes and see them bring home medals, hopefully gold medals, I’m here to support them now,' said Casey.
On Saturday the Laser and Laser Radial classes will contest their final two fleet races, with the Women’s Match Racing round robin also coming to a close. The 470 men and women will take part in races five and six, with the RS:X women back in action. The 49er fleet will have a day off the water.
Current Australian standings:
49er – Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen – first overall
Laser – Tom Slingsby – first overall
Women’s Match Racing – Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty – first overall
470 men – Malcolm Page and Mathew Belcher – second overall
470 women – Elise Rechichi & Belinda Stowell – 11th overall
Laser Radial – Krystal Weir – 12th overall
RS:X women – Jessica Crisp – 12th overall
Finn – Brendan Casey – 13th overall
Australian Sailing Team website