London Olympics 2012 - Stars shine in perfect conditions
by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor on 30 Jul 2012
The wind gods blessed the Star Class with fantastic conditions for their first official day of Olympic competition during this summer’s Games with a steady 12-15 knots (with stronger puffs) out of the west-southwest.
July 29, 2012 Star Start Race 1 © Richard Gladwell http://www.richardgladwell.com
Seas followed the angle of the air, delivering the Star class with superb racing on the Weymouth Bay West course (situated just outside of the protected Nothe area, where the Women’s Match Racing will take place, and where the first of today’s two Finn races will be fought-out). According to Weymouth locals, the strange glowing yellow glowing thing in the sky (read: the sun) will be out today, but the cloudy veil is expected to return later this week.
The RC made great use of the splendid weather, firing off two races once a rainsquall passed over the course, necessitating a short postponement. This small wait did nothing to distract the fleet, many of whom have previous Olympic experience. An impressive starting-line Samba ensued, with elbows being tossed to create starting-line options. The breeze held steady after the squall passed, but the fleet certainly proved to be dynamic, with the pole position changing hands several times throughout the first few legs. For example, Germany’s Robert Stanjek and Frithjof Kleen rounded the first and second windward marks in first place, only to see their lead evaporate once the sheets were eased on the final run.
Off the breeze, French sailors Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot proved the boat to beat, sliding past Stanjek and Kleen to take line honors in race one. The two French sailors enjoyed a double-handed high-five for their victory lap, huge grins telegraphing their mood. Ireland’s Peter O’Leary and David Burrows took second place, followed by Greece’s Emilios Papathanasiou and Adonis Tsotras in third place.
'We missed a pretty important shift in the first race,' reported Great Brittain’s ace Star sailor, Ian Percy. 'It was pretty nerve-wracking on the starting line.'
Race two proved—once again—that the Star class can be won or lost by any team in any given race. By the top of the first beat, Ireland’s Peter O’Leary and David Burrows followed by Norway’s Eivind Melleby and Petter Morland Pedersen in second and Brazil’s always-fast Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada. Come the second lap around the weather mark, however, the cards had shuffled substantially, with Scheidt and Prada taking the lead, followed by Percy and Simpson and then Poland’s Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki.
A final leeward leg followed, with sailors pumping their sails and working each wave with plenty of 'body language' being used throughout the fleet to 'row the boat downhill'. Scheidt and Prada commanded this final off-the-wind leg to take the bullet, immediately
followed by Great Britain’s Ian Percy and Andrew Simpson (via a photo finish) and Kusznierewicz and Zycki. 'I’m happy about it,' reported Scheidt. 'That is how the Olympics should be—a high level of competition…. We will try our best and play our cards and see how it goes later in the week.'
For their part, the British team put up a great fight, especially on the second race. 'It was a tricky race and a good battle up front,' reported Simpson. 'We’re going well and we fought back. Our speed is good. We’re much better in the waves. We’re faster than [the Brazilians] downwind, which is great. We’ve just got to keep chipping away, taking advantage of [the Brazilians] on the downwind and catching them on the upwind. It’s going to be a long regatta and a good fight.'
Racing in the Star class resumes tomorrow and continues throughout the week, with the class' medal race taking place on Sunday. Stay tuned for more, as it unfurls.