by John Curtis
Canada had a decent day today at the London Olypics 2012 sailing competition with the RS:X and 49'er teams, and some disappointments.
David Wright (CAN) competing today, 31.07.12, in the Men’s One Person Dinghy (Laser) event in The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition.
The weather is definitely turning colder here with temperatures in the high teens and winds from 14- 18 knots from the SW.
Zach Plavsic, of Vancouver, had the best day for Canada with a sixth in race 1 and a 12th in the second race. Zac sails the RS:X (a type of windsurfer) He is sitting in eighth overall. His training partner, Dutchman, Dorian VanRijsselberger is in first with two bullets, so we know he has had the best possible preparation opportunities.
I spoke with Zac today and he was in great form. 'I am definitely more focused than I have ever been at any other regatta this year. I can really feel that ability to focus on the water and it feels great.'
Zac did have a bad start in race 2. He fouled another board while passing behind him at the start and just tapped the guy's boom. This meant he had to do a penalty turn and was 19th at the top mark. Saving this to finish 12th is the sort thing that shows the mark of someone with the ability to be in the medal hunt.
It's not the easy victories that win the regattas but the hard races where the chips are down and the sailor is able to salvage a 'keeper' out of it. 'keeper' referring to the scoring system that allows competitors to discard their worst result in the series. Ideally one does not want to sail any races they wish they could discard. The British commentator who has obviously not commentated sailing much referred to this a 'pulling the joker'.
Not sure what sport this analogy comes from:) Zac had no worries about sailing in the predicted strong winds tomorrow. He has sailed in 52 knot winds earlier this year and survived quite nicely, but acknowledged that managing a 9.5 M sail in 52 knots is no picnic. Most windsurfers would switch to abouy a 2.5 M sail if they even dared go out in such winds, but the RSX class allows the sailor to have only one sized sail and that is 9.5 M for the Men and 8.5 for the Women.
In the Woman's RSX, Canadian Nikola Girke also of Vancouver had a decent day with a sixth and a 14th. The 14th in Race two was actually a nice comeback from being 21st at the first mark. These are definitely Nikola's conditions. She is taller and slightly heavier than the other women and tends to do very well when it blows. Today saw 14-18 knots so Nikola needs to have more top 5 results in the breeze to be in the medal hunt.
They will sail 10 races to determine the top 10 competitors who will then sail one more race to determine the medals. Competitors take their combined score (less their discarded worst result) into the medal race. In the medal race there are only 10 competitors and each score is counted double (four points for second, six points for third, etc.) The score in the medal race can not be discarded. This last race is very heavily weighted, so the pressure will be on. I fully expect both Nikola and Zac to qualify to sail the medal race. Nikola a is currently sitting ninth overall.
Our Laser sailor, David Wright of Toronto, had a decent day today. In race 3 he was ninth which is extremely respectable. Race 4 did not go as well and he had a 30th out of a field of 49. When I spoke with David, he was not sure what went wrong but the mark rounding numbers say that he was struggling upwind, having slipped from 24th spot at the first mark and those loses being mostly on the upwind legs.
It was certainly patchy today with gusts of wind rolling down the course and not getting to everyone. Not easy conditions and especially difficult to thread your way through in a 49 boat fleet, where there is often little room to maneuver. David was in good spirits at the Canadian Sailing Team BBQ and looking forward to the predicted strong winds expected for tomorrow. David is sitting in 18th overall after 4 races. With 6 races left to go to qualify for the medal race, it is certainly still within his grasp.
Also of note on the Laser course today was British Sailor Paul Goodison, favoured to win a medal here, may have to pull out of the Games with a back injury. After racing today he was seen in at the Marina to be in extreme pain. Officially he has not retired yet, but with heavy wind expected tomorrow, it does not look good. He is currently sitting in 12th overall. Despite the back injury he still managed a second in race 4 today. What an amazing feat!
Canadian Laser Radial sailor, Danielle Dube, had a decent result in race 3 with a 20th, but things went badly wrong in race 4 (second race of the day), when her mainsheet got caught in another line and she could not let it out when bearing off around the windward mark. This resulted in going from the mid-teens to 33rd in the race. This put her back to 33rd overall. Danielle was also at the Team Canada BBQ. She was in excellent spirits. As a smaller sailor than many of the others, I am sure she is hoping the forecast for strong winds moderates by tomorrow. According to our Canadian Meteorologist, Eric Holden (aka 'Holdini') it looks like it will be strong wind tomorrow but probably not as strong as predicted earlier today. We will have to wait and see.
The 49'er team of Hunter Lowden from Vancouver and Gordon Cook from Toronto, had another stellar performance going in race 4. They were in second at one point but had to settle for fifth. Still an amazing showing that is surprising many people but not their coach Jason Rhodes, who has been convinced that they are capable of this sort of result for some time now. In Jason's opinion they just need to get to the first mark in that top seven-eight boats and then grind the fleet down with their great boat speed and superb boat handling. It seems to be coming together for this pair.
Race four was a 17th but with 11 more races left to qualify for the medal race, all they really need to do is have a few days with two races with single digit scores and they will be in the medal race. After their fifth place in race 3, they were sitting seventh in the overall standings. Its quite tight in the top 10 with most teams carrying a double digit score. Gordo and Hunter are sitting in 11th overall after 4 races and only 5 points out of 10th.
Greg Douglas, the Canadian Finn representative, hailing from Toronto, had a good race in race 5 this morning finishing 12. He demonstrated excellent upwind speed, picking up 4 places on the upwind legs after rounding the first mark in 16th. Race 6 in the afternoon was not quite as good but still a respectable 18th. Greg explained to me that he frequently starts off slow in regattas and then improves after a few days of sailing. Greg is one of the younger sailors on the team and this is a common problem that can sometimes take years to overcome.
Greg is sitting in 15th now, moving him up two spots on the overall scoreboard from yesterday. The Finn fleet has a day off tomorrow. Greg was disappointed that he was not going to be sailing in what has been predicted to be the strongest wind of the week so far. He is incredibly fit and loves to wear the 'old' guys down as the week wears on. We are expecting good wind for the entire regatta, so I think Greg will get a chance to do his thing and maybe even make the medal race.
Also of note in the Finn class is the absolute dominance of the Danish sailor Jonas Hogh-Christensen. He is now leading the event by 10 points over British rock star, Ben Ainslie.
Only problem is that Jonas actually is a rock star. Apparently he only recently came back to sailing, putting his music career on hold. I am told he is a better sailor than musician. Jonas was just ahead of Ben today with a first and second.
There is lots of debate here about whether this is the end of Ben's dream of surpassing the Danish legend Paul Elvstrom's medal count of four consecutive gold medals at four Olympic Games. Some say he is done, while others say 'never count Ben out'. This is a real clash of the titans. The numbers say it is still possible for Ben to pass Jonas but the reality is there would have to be a big drama like Jonas getting a hole in his boat and sinking or missing two races for some reason. That could tie things up. With a day off tomorrow for the Finn class we will have to wait and see.
The saddest news for Canada at the Sailing event today was the OCS in the Star class in race 6. 'OCS' stands for 'On Course Side'. This is something akin to a false start in a running race. Their boat was a few inches or maybe a foot over the line before the starting gun and they were disqualified. The race committee displayed their sail letters (CAN) on board at the first mark and the were forced to retire from the race. With a 10th in Race 5 and now an OCS the results from today have probably taken them out of medal contention unless something really dramatic were to happen.
There was a lot of pressure on this team. For Richard this was his fifth Olympic Games. They were thought to be Canada's best hope at a medal in sailing. It's difficult to say what exactly has gone wrong at this event. I have not been on the course watching but the mark positions at mark roundings tell a clear story - they have been losing a lot of places on the downwind legs. Richard has long been known for his downwind prowess in many boats, and especially the Finn. They have worked very hard on all aspects of their program. There is no lack of raw talent on this boat and no lack of intense effort. My heart goes out to these guys tonight.
The Star fleet also has a day off tomorrow. I am sure that Richard and Tyler will be regrouping and trying to figure out what they can do to improve their performance in the remaining 4 races in the hope of at least qualifying for the medal race. They are currently in 13th overall with only six points separating them from 10th. Even if they do qualify for the medal race a medal will be out of reach.
Richard Clarke's blog following day 3 of the Games:
'Where do I start? There is no good news from us today only heartbreak and disappointment. We finished 10 in the first race but that's not the end of the bad news, we were OCS in race 2. An OCS is when a boat starts incorrectly by being over the start line at the gun.
We had a great start lined up, no traffic to mess with just time and distance to the line. The pack of boat to our left all pulled the trigger early, I checked our transit and we were well back so at 10 seconds we sheeted in and went for it. At the gun I couldn't see the other end due to the mess of boat over the line so was not surprised when the 'X' flag went up signaling there were boats over the line.
A bunch of boats returned to the start line to restart but the 'X' flag didn't come down, surely it couldn't have been us, there were other boats down the line obstructing my view of the pin so we figured it most be one of them. When we got to the weather mark a motorboat displayed the list of OCS boats still on the course.
CAN was the only country listed and we had to leave the race. I can't begin to explain the emotions I felt - shock, disappointment, anger, sorrow. It's the classic agony of defeat, we screwed up and it hurts.
So tomorrow we have a day off to rest and refocus. We are already well on our way, we can't change today but we can change our next race. We will fight our hearts out and leave nothing on the water. That I promise! - Richard
Wind Athletes Canada http://www.windathletes.ca/