While all of the Olympic sailing events are absolutely riveting, I’ll admit a certain bias towards the 49er class. Fast, tactical and a featherweight boat that demands hyper fitness coupled with drop-of-the-hat tactical calls, there’s no question that these speedy skiffs are the biggest head-turners for the non-sailing spectators who have poured into Weymouth to watch the Games.
Peel the onion back a few layers and the boat’s high-tech nature is quickly usurped by the high-speed acumen required to handle these rocketships in a breeze. While today’s conditions didn’t exactly break masts, it was enough to trigger capsizes (more, later) and force the sailors to think fast.
Race One was a tale of antipodes, with the Kiwi team of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke besting their Australian rivals Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen by a Delta of 15 seconds. Given the breezy hometown conditions that both teams regularly practice in—coupled with the Down Under skiff obsession—it’s not surprising that both teams are in serious contention for podium finishes.
Race Two proved to be the wildcard for Outteridge and Jensen. Despite winning the start and earning a commanding lead, the two capsized during a gybe. 'We were going downwind and we were having a chat,'said Outteridge. '[We had] one more gybe and we are near the layline and as we went to go in I guess I just lost my balance a bit and pushed the tiller with my foot. I ended up too far back and instead of continuing the turn, my leg kind of rounded the boat back up. Goobs [Iain Jensen] did a great job and got the kite down before the mast hit the water. It was a good recovery.'
Impressively, the Aussies fought a hard battle and at one point thought that they might be able to reclaim their lead, but this wasn’t to be as the always fast American team of Erik Storck and Trevor Moore leveraged the situation and earned their first Olympic bullet. 'Everyone is commenting on their boat handling ability and when you see that, you put a little extra caution in some of your maneuvers,' reported Storck. 'I think that if you are cautious with your maneuvers it is more likely to happen. You have got to be confident and go through it like you know you can.'
As far as headspace was concerned, the Americans reported little difference in their approach to Race One versus Race Two. 'It is really pretty similar,' said Storck. 'We made a couple of adjustments on the rig that we were happy with so we knew our speed was going to be a little bit improved and then it was really just a matter of getting off the starting line better.'
Today’s second race moves the Americans into ninth place overall, while the Australians still command the pole position by a margin of nine points.
Racing resumes for the 49er class tomorrow, with the medal race slated for August 9. Please stand by for more updates from this class, as they unfurl.
by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor
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2:21 PM Tue 31 Jul 2012GMT
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