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London Olympics 2012 - A wealth of riches

by Mark Chisnell on 1 Aug 2012
Annalise Murphy hit it on the opening day - London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition onEdition © http://www.onEdition.com
There is a wealth of riches to pick from on day three of racing at the Olympic regatta - what about the stunning performance by Annalise Murphy (IRL) with her four straight bullets in the opening races of the Laser Radial? Or the resumption of normal service for Australia's Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, now with a nine point lead in the 49ers, despite a capsize in the second race today?

Aussie countryman, Tom Slingsby made a blistering comeback in the second Laser race of the day to go from 25th at the first mark to sixth, adding that to a 2, 1, 2 scoreline. Or we could write about Dorian Van Rijsselberge (NED)and his double bullets in the RS:X Men.

Set against those performances, Marina Alabau in the RS:X Women, and Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson in the Star, who both scored a 1 and 2 for the day, but barely rate a mention. Never mind the poor Women's Match Racers who are so early in their marathon that no one even casts a glance their way...

Despite all this rich narrative, my job for this Olympic Games is blogging on the ISAF website (http://live.2012.sailing.org/Event/ISAF_Olympic_Sailing_Blog) and with eight classes in action on day three of racing we had to split up the duties. I got to watch and blog the Stars and the Finns and guess what? It's still the battle for a place in history that dominates my Olympic experience.

If you've been hiding in a cave for the last two days, Britain's Ben Ainslie is going for a fourth gold medal that will take away the title of most-successful-ever-Olympic sailor from the great Dane, Paul Elvstrom. In Ainslie's way is another Dane, Jonas Hogh-Christensen, who has opened his regatta with two bullets, a second and a seventh.

The first Finn race today was a repeat of several earlier ones with Jonas Hogh-Christensen getting a great clean start at the advantaged end of the line, leading by the first mark and never looking back. To start with it looked like Ben Ainslie might challenge him, third at the top mark, moving up to second for a while on the run, but then fading to fourth at the finish - and so the points gap grew. Five races had now been sailed, so the discard kicked in and Hogh-Christensen got to drop his one average result, a seventh, while Ainslie discarded his 12th.


The second race of the day was the first time I've seen Ben Ainslie really compete for the favoured end of the start line - in this case the pin. He didn't quite win it, Raphael Trujillo got a little jump to windward and converted that into a lead at the first mark, but it was perhaps a sign of things to come.

I'm not sure if it was a sign of things to come or not, but Hogh-Christensen blew his second start in two days. He effectively started last, and crossed behind everyone to go what should have been the wrong way up the beat. It didn't seem to make any difference, he was fourth by the top mark, three places in front of Ainslie.

Now, we've seen this movie before - Hogh-Christensen goes onto win, and Ainslie struggles to make progress - but this sequel played out a little differently. The Dane got up to second, but Ainslie made more progress, catching Hogh-Christensen at the final leeward mark to be overlapped on the reach to the finish. Fortunately for the Dane it was an easy position to defend, but for the first time, Ainslie was really in his face.

Tomorrow it's a lay day for both the Stars and the Finns - so everyone has a chance to sit around and let the pressure get to them. Or not. They will miss what's probably going to be the windiest day of the regatta - but I don't think that will make much difference. Conditions aren't really going to change much, it's going to stay up above 12 knots for the foreseeable future. Power conditions and free-pumping for the Finn.

Ben Ainslie is on record as saying that this rule change is the thing he's found hardest to deal with since he returned to the class - if there was ever a time to get to grips with it, then it's tomorrow. The gap is ten points, it's only five places in the medal race. It ain't over by a long way. And tomorrow, I promise I'll write about something else.

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