by Andy Rice
We've seen some ruthless dispatching of rivals by the British gold medallists this week. Ben Ainslie has become legendary for it, ever since he reduced Robert Scheidt to tears of frustration in that match race on Sydney Harbour.
Paul Goodison - 2008 Qingdao
He did it again to Zach Railey earlier this week. The Yngling girls match raced the Dutch team in the pre-start of their Medal Race, before sailing away to victory.
Today Paul Goodison won his gold medal from the back of the fleet, finishing in 9th place having pegged back his only threat - Sweden's Rasmus Myrgren - to 10th and last place. Having gone into the Medal Race in silver medal position, Myrgren came out with nothing. 6th place was no consolation.
It was a cruel, cruel ending for Sweden, who need every medal they can get. Goodison felt sorry for Myrgren, but not sorry for what he had done. 'I feel sorry for him, but that's just sport. You have to do what you have to do.' Having missed bronze by a single point in Athens four years ago, Goodison has personal experience of the pain Myrgren must be feeling tonight.
Asked by a national newspaper journalist if it was really necessary to have been so ruthless, Goodison shrugged: 'If you don't udnerstand about sailing it's a bit tricky, but I'm sure anyone who knows about sailing will understand.' As to whether the Medal Race format should change to prevent such injustices? 'It's not really for me to decide, it's down to ISAF, they introduced the Medal Race to try to solve that, but i don't think it's worked out quite as they wished.'
I asked Myrgren how he felt about what had happened out there. You can hear the MP3 audio interview on SailJuice.com. He made a wry observation that if he had gone through to the final race carrying one more point from qualifying, Goodison would have left him alone, because the Brit would already secured gold. 'I wish I had scored one point worse in the qualifying series, so Paul wouldn't have to attack me.'
Myrgren was expecting Goodison to attack him the pre-start, and for a while he handled the onslaught. 'I thought I had it in control 40 to 50 seconds before the start but then the wind died.' Both the Brit and Swede started late, the rest of the fleet sailing off ahead. Job done for Goodison. So does Myrgren bear any resentment against Goodison? 'Yes and no, I expected him to do it, and I think I might have done something similar.'
I don't blame Goodison for doing what he did, but Myrgren was dealt an injustice. There is something wrong with the current format which encourages the leader to attack his nearest opponent and drive him down the leaderboard in a way that just doesn't square with natural justice.
Iain Percy did the same to Freddy Loof in the Finn class in Sydney 2000, driving the Swede back to bronze while Luca Devoti snuck into the silver medal position. Ironically it's Loof who now leads the Star regatta this week with his old Finn rival Percy in 2nd overall. Will Loof be in a position to exact his revenge on Percy eight years later?
So my suggestion? Not fully thought through, but one to get the debate going.
Make all the sailors race the fleet, and not the rival. ie, have the International Jury watch for any repeated and persistent match racing moves against another sailor, and penalise an offending boat with a 720 penalty turn.
Yes, there would be a lot of grey areas here, about whether a boat tacked on another boat aggressively or for fleet positioning. But the sailors and Jury already deal in the greyest of grey areas with the policing of RR42 and illegal propulsion. I think it would be an interesting experiment to consider trying at Grade 1 or Grade 2 ISAF regattas in the next year.
What would your solution be to the Myrgren problem? Leave a comment at SailJuice.com