by John Curtis
London Olympics 2012, Weymouth and Portland. Sailing competition day 5.
470 Men, CAN - London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition
We had stronger winds today at 20-25 knots from the SW. Perfect sailing conditions. There was even a little sun :)
The courses further from shore have quite large waves in the afternoon as the current from the tide was opposing the wind direction. This made from some fantastic rides for the 470, Finn and Star racing. Tomorrow should be back to the typical 10-15 knot range with possible gusts to 18.
The Laser and Radial fleets had a day off today.
The emerging stories for the Canadian Sailing Team are Zach Plavsic and the 49'er team of Gordon Cook and Hunter Lowden. They are both sailing predominantly in the top group and clearly have top 5 speed and boat handling.
RS:X Zachary Plavsic had a fourth in the first race and a 17th in the second race. Zac is currently sitting in eighth overall but he is within striking distance of the top five. The top three are way ahead with the Dutch sailor holding a significant advantage with only six points after discarding a third. Zac has 40 points after his discard and is only 10 points behind the French Sailor in fifth. With six more races to go, there is still time to catch up. The RS:X sailors have a day off tomorrow.
The 49'er team has also been plagued by this up and down set of results each day. If either of these teams could just pull off a day with two races in the single digits they will move up a lot.
49'er - Cook and Lowden are demonstrating excellent speed and boat handling in every race. Today they were ninth at the first mark but could not hold on because of a mistaken choices of which side of the Course to sail. Missing a large puff on the downwind and a large shift to the right on an upwind leg in race 7. This was contrary to the typical conditions that tend to favour the left. Race 8 today was better. They were fifth at the first mark and managed to hang on to eighth in the unstable conditions, managing them much better than in the earlier race. They will be on the war path tomorrow. They have surprised a lot of people with some great results so far and just need to put it all together in the next few days.
The 49'ers are the only fleet to have 15 races before the final medal race, so they are just past the half way mark now with eight races completed. No day off tomorrow for the 49'ers. They are sitting in 15th overall and have an excellent shot at qualifying for the medal race. As their coach Jason Rhodes said - 'they just need to put the three parts of their game together - starting, speed and tactics - they have all the pieces, they just need to use them all in the same race more than once a day.
The Brits dominated the 49'er fleet today with two firsts. They were extremely pleased but in their interview with BBC they were not counting their chickens yet and indicated that they still had an eye on the Australian team who are heavily favoured to wind gold. Today the Aussie's had a 9 and 11 and are sitting sixth overall. This should be a great battle to watch.
470 Men's team of Luke Ramsay and Mike Leigh had a disappointing first day. To me it looked like first day nerves. That is the only explanation that makes sense. These guys are complete professionals and I am sure they will pull themselves together tomorrow. In race 1 they had a 26th and race 2 was a little better with a 20th. They were ninth at the first mark in race 1 and lost nine boats on the second upwind (leg 3). They also hit the weather mark in that race and had to do a penalty turn. They are not slow upwind, it was just bad positioning. I am sure they will come back out tomorrow with their A Game.
The most impressive results on the 470 course today were from the British team. With a second and a first they are in the lead after two races. They sailed very impressively. In Race 2 the fleet was nearly flattened by a giant puff of wind on the reach (lots of swimming was observed). The Brits managed to harness that gust and just left the fleet behind. They were well out in front of their primary rivals from Australia, who had a third in race 1. A terrible start in race 2 for the Aussie's saw them finish well back of the leaders. They were over the start line early and went back to restart. This put them way back in the fleet but they are so fast that they managed to climb to fifth. Near the end of the race, an incident with an Italian boat that seemed to come out of nowhere just after the Aussie's hoisted their spinnaker forced a 720 (penalty turns) and they fell back to ninth at the finish line. With eight races left I think we are going to see the Australian's catch up to the Brits and have a very close battle.
RS:X Women. Nikola Girke, Canada's representative in the women's windsurfer event, had another decent day, but it was surprising she did not do better in the strong wind. Nikola had an eighth in race 5 and a 10th in race 6. In both races she was two spots better but could not hold on. Not sure what is going on here, but she is sitting 10th overall and we expect to see her qualify for the medal race. The equipment in this event is supplied by the organizing authority (everyone else is sailing on their own equipment). This may mean that there is a learning curve with how to make it go fast. Hard to know how much there is in this given the tight controls on this gear but at this level small differences can make a difference. For sure the supplied gear will feel different. With four more races to go, there is still time to move up considerably.
The Canadian Star team had another difficult day with excellent roundings at the first mark but slipped back with losses on the downwind legs. It must be hard re-living the same pattern in every race, but I know these guys will continue to give it their all. They are currently sitting in 14th overall after a 14th in race 7 and 12th in race 8.
The Brits are leading the Star fleet with the Brazilians in a tie with the Sweds for third. Fourth place is well behind.
Finn - The story that the media here are following most closely is the battle between Brit, Ben Ainslie and the Danish sailor Jonas Hogh-Christensen. Today the tides changes for Ben Ainslie. He beat Jonas in both races and narrowed the gap to only 4 points. This morning he was 10 points behind so this was a huge day from Mr. Ainslie. There was an incident in race two where the Dutch sailor and the Dane claimed Ben hit the leeward mark and insisted he do a penalty turn. Rather than risk a 2 against 1 situation in the protest room he did the circle and then came back to make up 91 Meters in the last leg, passing the Dane and finishing third, just ahead of the Dane who finished fourth. It was an inspired performance!
Our Canadian Finn Sailor, Greg Douglas, continues to perform very respectably with a 13th in race 7 today and a 17th in race 8. Greg is sitting 15th overall now with two races left to go. It is not likely that he will qualify for race 11 (medal race), being 42 points behind 10th spot, but at 23 years of age Greg has several Quadrennials left in him and we fully expect him to continue sailing the Finn to qualify for 2016.
Canadian Team meteorologist, Eric Holden, who is a very quiet fellow was getting a ride to the marina this morning when he spotted the US meteorologist riding his bike in the teeming rain and looking like a drown rat. Eric turned to the driver and asked 'Didn't Doug get the memo about the rain?'
* Canadians will see live on-line coverage of all the sailing medal races, starting Sunday, August 5 through to final medal contest on Saturday, August. 11. On CTVolympics.ca, under Viewer schedule; the medal races are listed at ATN or World Feed.