London 2012 Olympics - Opening Day, Opening Salvoes
by Mark Chisnell on 30 Jul 2012
Three events opened the action at the Olympic sailing regatta on July 29th, and while it's hard to make much of a judgement about the Women's Match Racing after just four flights, the other two classes saw some more significant performance indicators. Let's start with the Finn, as that bears the heavy weight of history.
Finn Fleet - London Olympics 2012 Day 1 Sail-World.com © http://www.sail-world.com
Ben Ainslie is famous for poor opening days at the Olympics, almost as famous as he is for some good finishing. So with a couple of second places in the bank today, he's certainly turned that around and could be expected to be leading overnight, except... there's a Dane in the way.
I'm not the first - and I'm sure I won't be the last - to point out that Jonas Hoegh-Christensen's double-win-blinder of a first day puts him squarely between Ben Ainslie and the four-gold-medal-record of Hoegh-Christensen's compatriot, Paul Elvstrom. In every respect, a Dane stands between Ainslie and history. Whether the situation will still be that way by the end of the week remains to be seen...
It was an interesting day for the Finns, they raced on two completely different race tracks; the Nothe in the morning, and Weymouth Bay West in the afternoon; and on two completely different courses, windward-leeward in the morning, and the trapezoid in the afternoon. The key to Hoegh-Christensen's performance was two blistering starts and great upwind speed.
Ben Ainslie didn't have good starts and in the morning on the Nothe course, he had just average to poor upwind speed.
He got himself out of trouble with a couple of fantastically fast downwind legs. By the afternoon, Ainslie appeared to have sorted out his upwind pace and was second around the first mark, but after another average start, Hoegh-Christensen was already gone -- particularly given that the trapezoid course also meant that there was a lot less time spent sailing downwind.
Can Hogh-Christensen pull off those starts all week? I doubt it, and based on what we saw on the race track, rather than what we see on the results sheet, I'm still backing Ainslie for the fourth gold and his place in Olympic history.
In the Stars, the favourite also stamped their authority on the fleet. The fleet raced twice on the offshore Weymouth Bay West course, and Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada finished with a fourth and a first to lead from Peter O'Leary and David Burrows of Ireland. Once again, the results don't tell the whole story. The Irish were deep in the first race before the fleet got flipped by a windshift and they were propelled to the front (along with the French) to take a second. But when they led the second race around the top mark they couldn't hold off the pack and eventually slid to sixth.
The second strongest performance on the water actually came from Iain Percy and Bart Simpson - they were fourth in the first race before getting wiped to 11th by the same shift that favoured the French and Irish.
And in the second, they traded blows all the way round with Scheidt and Prada before finally being given second place by the merest of margins. Like a lot of people, I expected to see this pair duke it out for gold, and once again, nothing I saw today has changed that view. So far, so much, so predictable - but it's sailing, so don't expect that to last.