by Andy Rice
It would be tempting to apply the old cliché of 'snakes and ladders' to the first day of the Olympic Regatta, because that is what it was. - Andy Rice's widely read blog is not viewable in China, because it seems the blog software it uses is considered less than favourably here. Its a great read. Below is an extract from last night's Sailjuice blog.
Andy on ABN one
'I sat at the leeward gate of Course A, just a few hundred metres off the sea wall of the Olympic Harbour, and every time the Finn or the Yngling fleet came downwind the pecking order bore little relation to the previous time we saw them.
Watching the Finns trickle downwind in breeze of just 4-5kt in the first race was painful viewing, let alone what it must have been like to be sailing in it. Although the air temperature was 27 Celsius, the 83% humidity made it feel at least 10 degrees hotter.
The tide was running upwind at about 2kt, so the Finns were barely making way towards the leeward gate. It seemed like all 26 boats would arrive at the marks together, and indeed it wasn't far off that. Somehow Ben Ainslie managed to edge his way around the left-hand mark just ahead of France's Guillaume Florent, and once around, the current sluiced the reigning Olympic Champion up the course at (relatively) great speed.
Meanwhile the main bunch was battling to squeeze around the marks with very little air to work with. This had played into the hands of the Greek sailor Emilios Papathanasiou, who had rounded the first windward mark in 25th place, second from the back. Around the leeward gate he was 4th, a measure of just how important these leeward gates are.
With Ainslie leading upwind, it seemed like maybe he had broken his bad habit of having an atrocious start to his Olympic Regattas. He has always started badly in the past three Games, and has bounced back in convincing style to win his clutch of two golds and a silver. This time it looked like he might get it right from day one.
To read the rest of the SailJuice report from day one, go to www.sailjuiceblog.com
Ben banishes his first-day demons
Ben Ainslie has always had a bad start to his Olympic Regattas. In each of his three Games in 1996, 2000 and 2004 he has made hard work of the first day. So it was understandable that he looked somewhat relieved to have got through the first day of Qingdao in third place overall.
I asked Ben about breaking his bad habit of bad starts to the Olympics. 'Yes, thanks for that Andy!' he said through clenched teeth, luckily for me with the glint of a smile. Ben had a tough first race, which he led for a good chunk but ended up 10th when he fell into a hole down the final run to the finish.
Fortunately he followed up with a good victory in the second race. 'I'm a little bit relieved, I had visions of it all (going wrong) again, so I'm happy to get that last race in.'
It looked like tough sailing out there, not in terms of physical effort but certainly physically draining in the sapping, humid heat, and in Ben's words 'a real brain tease'.
Today was 'pretty typical, boiling hot, not much breeze, and testing. You can be 20 metres from someone else in different wind and tide and make staggering gains or losses.
We're all going to have a hard time. Dan Slater had a hard time today, a lot of guys found it difficult. It's going to be about staying tough, and not getting disappointed.'