Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page (AUS), 470, Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008
'I feel like chicken tonight...'
Olympic sailing has its first Gold Medal , without needing a Medal Race The Olympic Regatta saw the first gold medal won today, but it didn't come from a Medal Race.
It was the Australian 470 sailors, Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page, who sailed a phenomenal series. All they've got to do in the Medal Race is sail around and finish the race. Wilmot and Page are impossibly tall for the 470. They've been on a self-imposed diet for the best part of a decade, to stay competitive for a boat designed for little people. The diet stops tonight. 'I don't what I'll be eating, but it'll be a lot,' said skipper Wilmot.
The Aussie 470 girls have all but wrapped up their gold medal too. A 16th place for the Dutch team means they will struggle to beat Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson for the Olympic crown, although the gap back to 3rd place is also quite large, so Marcelien de Koning and Lobke Berkhout are all but assured of silver.
This regatta is going phenomenally well for Australia, but one event where things took a downward turn today was in the 49er. Nathan Outteridge and Ben Austin slipped from first to third overall, while Danes Jonas Warrer and Martin Kirketerp Ibsen sailed another consistent day to move comfortably ahead on points going into the Medal Race. The Italian brothers Pietro and Gianfranco Sibello will have to beat the Danes by six places to get the gold off them, but it's likely the Italians will be looking over their shoulders at a bunch of boats that are capable of passing them. These are the Aussies, the Spanish, the Germans and Americans.
Some were upset that the first race of the day was allowed to stand, after the breeze shifted so much that the 49ers were using gennakers on the upwind leg. A few teams grouped together in a bid to get the race thrown out, but I don't think they stood a chance. If you were going to throw that race out, it would be hard to know where to stop. Races have been allowed to run that just wouldn't have happened anywhere else.
The Medal Race that wasn't
Talking about races that shouldn't have happened, the Finn Medal Race was a case in point. Race officer Luigi is under immense pressure to get races away, as he showed with two abandoned attempts to start the race before it finally got away at the third try. Of course it would later be abandoned just as most of the 10 boats had passed the leeward gate.
After being pleasantly surprised by Qingdao for the first four days, the weather conditions had got steadily worse. It was woeful today, and a terrible advertisement for the sport to see the Finns playing Pooh Sticks back and forth on the tide. When the TV picture of race leader Jonas Hoegh-Christensen rounding the windward mark came up, I wanted the director to cut away to something else - anything else - because the sight of a boat barely passing the mark made pitiful viewing.
Ben Ainslie felt pretty much the same way, as you can hear from my interview with him which you can hear it on SailJuice.com.
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