British sailors got off to a steady start amid some testing conditions in Qingdao’s Fushan Bay on Saturday.
With many places changes resulting from the light and fickle wind conditions, it seemed more like a game of snakes and ladders than the first day of an Olympic sailing regatta. But the Brits managed to hold on, with the Yngling trio of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson topping the class leaderboard after the first day, and triple Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie in third in the Finn event after two races.
After a short postponement waiting for wind to appear, the Finn class was the first to hear the starting gun at the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre. Ainslie’s was the fifth boat to reach the first mark, but the defending champion had pulled into the lead by the time he’d finished the first downwind leg. Ainslie remained in control until the final downwind leg when the light winds switched direction, relegating the leading boats to mid-fleet positions and leaving the Brit to cross the finish line in tenth place.
The second race for the heavyweight dinghy fleet saw Ainslie firmly in the driving seat by the end of the first lap, this time securing the race win to see him into third place overall at the end of the first day, behind Polish sailor Rafael Szukiel and USA’s Zach Railey.
'The first race is a great example of that where I was in the lead and the breeze shut down and came in from a different direction, and I lost 10 places,' Ainslie explained.
'It’s something I think we’re all going to have to deal with here. It’s going to happen to everyone at some stage. It’s just about trying to keep your powder dry and wait for your chances.'
The 31-year-old continued: 'My own experience with the Olympics has always been having a disastrous first day, so it doesn’t feel quite so bad. Hopefully I can build from this in due course.' The British Yngling trio also endured a testing first day, showing true grit in the first race to claw their way back into contention.
The two-time World Champions Ayton, Webb and Wilson picked up an impressive nine places on the final downwind leg, going from 11th to their finishing position of second in their opening race of the Olympic regatta – and then went on to produce a third place in their second race of the day, to see them top the women’s keelboat class after day one.
'It’s definitely a patience game, especially in the light winds,' Sarah Webb commented.
'We could have easily given up on the first race but we knew we had to keep going and it all came good.'
Webb described their first day as: 'hard work, but it was all about keeping to together and working well as a team, and making sure we were doing everything we could to pull our way up through the positions.
'It was incredibly, incredibly tight. Everyone goes pretty much the same speed and we went from last to second on the last run, so it was a really tough day but it was great to have got it done and looking forward to tomorrow.' Leading Results after day one:
1. POL - 5 pts
2. USA - 7 pts
3. GBR - 11 pts
4. CAN - 11 pts
5. FRA - 13 pts
6. ESP - 16 pts
1. GBR - 5pts
2. CAN - 9 pts
3. NED - 10 pts
4. RUS - 11 pts
5. AUS - 12 pts
6. CHN - 12 pts
Team GBR - The names and the faces - http://www.sail-world.com/UK/Team-GBR---The-names-and-the-faces/47353
Qingdao-Racing-Schedule - http://www.sail-world.com/UK/Qingdao-Racing-Schedule/47381