The water was flat but the action was hot on the Nothe course today as the Men’s RS:X class took to the starting line for their final Olympic performance. As earlier reported, Dorian Van Rijsselberge (NED) had already secured Gold prior to today’s medal race, but there was plenty of tussling and tactical tugging for Silver and Bronze amongst the 'plank' sailors (lighthearted slang for windsurfers, given their high-speed boards). Ultimately, Team Great Britain’s Nick Dempsey racked up an impressive (and somewhat unexpected) Silver, while Poland’s Przemyslaw Miarczynski rouded-out the podium positions with a well-earned Bronze.
The south-southwesterly breeze provided perfect windsurfing conditions and the assembled crowds on Nothe hill did their part to ratchet-up the on-the-water excitement by boisterously cheering on their favorite boarders and waving their home-country colors.
Germany’s Toni Wilhelm was a solid contender for Silver or Bronze going into today’s race, but a disastrous ninth-place finish cemented his final 2012 Olympic result to fourth overall.
Van Rijsselberge sailed a brilliant race, leading around five of the eight mark roundings and crossing the finishing line in first place by a comfortable margin of three seconds. France’s Julien Bontemps was the only other plank sailor who was able to rival Van Rijsselberge, nicking all three mark roundings off the Dutch master (who, incidentally, never slipped astern of second place in any rounding). Ultimately, however, the flying Dutchman pulled a powerful juggernaut move to prove—conclusively—why he deserves to be the RS:X class’ final Olympic champion. Unfortunately for Bontemps, however, his second-place finish in the medal race wasn’t enough to propel his overall standings above fifth.
For Dempsey, his Silver medal joins the family’s already impressive trophy chest, as his wife, Sarah Ayton, already has two Gold medals (both in keelboat classes).
For Van Rijsselberge, Dempsey and Miarczynski, tonight will likely be an evening of all-out celebration, starting with this afternoon’s medal ceremony. Then, it’s up to each 'planker' to decide how to celebrate Windsurfing’s final Olympic dance.
For the other board surfers, the pressing question becomes one of matriculation or retirement. Several windsurfers have said—on the record—that they view kiteboarding as both expensive and potentially dangerous. But, almost in the same breath, the same athletes went on to say that no other sailors are currently better poised to medal in kiteboarding’s inaugural Games than the plankers, given heir vast amount of Olympic-racing experience. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, come the medal fever that will inevitably set in before 2016.
Please stay tuned for more news from this class, including quotes from the medal winners and plenty of racecourse images from today’s Woman’s RS:X medal race.
by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor
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10:32 AM Tue 7 Aug 2012GMT
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