by Matt Carter
At the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition, Ben Ainslie and the British Star pairing of Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, maneuvered themselves to within striking distance of gold, as they head into Sunday’s showdown medal races following a thrilling day at Weymouth and Portland today.
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (GBR) have a 9pt lead with two races and a Medal race to sail in the Star class
Finn star Ainslie goes into the double points’ medal race, two points behind current leader, Jonas Hogh-Christensen (DEN), knowing that to win a historic fourth Olympic gold medal he has to beat the Dane and finish in the top seven boats.
Meanwhile Percy and Simpson are guaranteed at least a bronze medal in the Star but hold an eight point advantage over nearest rivals, Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (BRA). Fourth place or better in the medal race will guarantee the Brits gold.
Ainslie scored a sixth and a first place today to leave the medal race as a thrilling ‘winner takes all’ showdown. Percy and Simpson scored fourth and first places, with the Brazilians finishing first and third, to keep the pressure on the Brits.
Ainslie said: 'It was another tough day to be honest, it was quite breezy again. The first race was not good at all. Halfway through I was in a lot of trouble so [I was pleased] to pull things out of the bag down that final downwind leg and catch up very close to Jonas. I then managed to get it together for the final race.
'I have to say after the first six races I was starting to get a bit concerned but I’m really pleased I have managed to drag this back. It’s going to be incredibly tough, Jonas is a fantastic sailor and is sailing really well so it’s going to be a huge battle on Sunday but I’m up for it and I enjoy those occasions.'
Percy said: 'We’re happy to be just ahead but it is only just and we are going to have to regroup and come back for one last push. There are three boats in it so you’ve really got to go out and do your best. If we sure go out and have a good race it is going to make our lives a lot easier.
'We’re sailing well, but the other competitors are also sailing well too. We’ve secured a medal which is great news, but there is one last big hurdle to come, which is the medal race, so we will have to keep calm and carry on for that'.
The British 470 Men and Women also enjoyed a good day on the water, both setting the pace at the early points of their regattas.
The boys consolidated their lead at the top of the scorecard with a fourth and second place today moving them six points clear of the three-time World Champions, and pre-event favourites, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS).
August 3, 2012 - Weymouth, England - Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS) lead Luke Patience and Stuat Bithell (GBR) in the Mens 470 finish
Meanwhile the girls recovered well from being forced to take a penalty on the start line in the opening race of the day to win their second race and pick up a sixth and first from their opening two races of the event to take the early lead.
Not that any of them are getting carried away by their start.
Patience said: 'Today was alright, we just approached the day exactly as we did yesterday, hit our process and got the boat full speed. It’s day two, the marathon continues and we’re pleased to come away with few points again.
Bithell added: 'There are 27 boats in the fleet and it is not just a Brit v Aussie race at all. It’s nice just to come and be quite strong from the word go'
Mills said: 'There were some definite nerves this morning, we have been waiting a while to get going and I just think the whole fleet was just excited to finally get out on the water and get some racing in. Our goal for today was just not to do anything stupid and immediately we went and crashed into the pin end so we definitely did something stupid. But it almost helped us in a way. You do your 360 (penalty turn) and you get on with the race, you can’t afford to be nervous after that. You’ve got to make a good comeback and we did that really well so we are happy.'
It was a mixed day for the Laser and Radial classes. Paul Goodison has vowed to keep pushing to the end as his Olympic Laser class campaign was once again affected by a continuing back problem. He sits eighth overall after eight races, with scores of 18th and 12th today. Meanwhile Ali Young is keeping her cool as she got another solid day under her belt. She sits in fifth overall after a sixth and an eighth.
Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes admitted they were disappointed after a day of 'Wacky Races', ending the day with scores of 17th, fourth and 20th from their three races. The pair started the day in silver medal position overall after a sensational day yesterday when they picked up two race wins. But today saw them slip out of the medal spots heading into tomorrow’s rest day.
The Olympic Sailing Regatta runs from Sunday 29 July – Saturday 11 August.