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Rio Olympics - Outteridge and Jensen on THAT squall

by Richard Gladwell, on 16 Aug 2016
49er crew of Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) sailing on Day 8 on the Copacabana course - Rio 2016 Olympic regatta Sailing Energy / World Sailing
Just after the finish of the second race in the 49er fleet, on Day 8 of the 2016 Rio Olympic regatta, a tremendous squall struck the 49er fleet, which was sailing on the Copacabana course well out into the Atlantic Ocean.

2012 Olympic Gold medalist in the 49er, Nathan Outteridge described what happened.

'We went through the finish line and everyone still had their kites up, and were sailing back towards the beach.

'Suddenly it got really light. Our coach was in front of us, so we dropped the kite to try and get a towline set up.

'As we dropped it we looked under the boom and could see this wall of breeze coming at us. We quickly tied onto the RIB and got the sails down as quickly as we could. A few tried to tie up to RIBs and just waiting for it to drop, but our forecasters had it spot on - that when it did hit, it would last for about an hour.

'We got strapped the boat onto the RIB and got the sails down as quick as we could.'

'I think everyone has a bit of wear and tear on their boats - damage to sails. People could have lost sails out there as it got so windy.

'We did a very good job of making sure that we didn't get any damage to the boat. We will check it over tonight and just make sure that it is all OK.'

'Our coach recorded wind speeds in the low 40kts at times during the squall.'

Turning to the racing itself, Outteridge said the conditions were excellent for racing - the first time the class has really raced on an ocean course.

'We had a bit of a wait for the wind. Then the sea breeze filled in quite nicely. We had 10-14kts for the three races. It was an open track with a bit of a left favour at the top mark.

'We had a much better day.'

'We're just taking every day as it comes,' said crew Iain Jensen. 'We are trying to execute races as they come to us. If you try and concentrate on the overall picture, it just plays havoc with your results in the short term. Tomorrow we will just take the same approach as every other day, and just try to minimise on the mistakes we have seen through the regatta and build on what we have been building on already.

'We are just focussing on our race at the moment. We can always see where our main competitors are around the track. Today wasn't the day you would want to match race anyone. I think there is still a big points gap between us and the first two overall (the German and New Zealand crews).

'The way forward is just to focus on ourselves, and hopefully we get some good results and we might some luck for them to get some bad ones.'

Outteridge was a little guarded in his comments about whether the conditions that have played out this Olympic regatta have been significantly different than previous years in Test Events and training camps, calling into question whether it has been a sound move for the teams to become so focussed on conditions that can be expected in a regatta venue.

'The conditions here have been slightly different but the typical conditions - like the sea breezes that we had today and the day before have changed a bit. We are getting a lot more of these SW fronts coming through - when we get a hot day followed by a big frontal system.

'I think the weather pattern is changing more often, which is adding a different dynamic to the racing. For us, I think today was the first time the 49er fleet have ever done any offshore racing. It is nice to have stable conditions for three races.

'We obviously got belted at the end, and we were obviously very fortunate that the race had finished before we got belted.'

Although Outteridge and Jensen lie in third overall on the points table, and came away with a countable 4,5,8 scorecard from Races 7-9 sailed on the Copacabana course, they have come under pressure from the big improvers in the fleetFrench crew of Julien d'Ortolli and Noe Delpech who scored 1,1, 3 from the three races sailed - a slightly better result than the 6pts scored by series leaders, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke - who currently enjoy a 33pt margin over their Australian rivals.

A German crew is in second place overall 15pts ahead of the Australians, and clearly, the strategy for the defending Olympic Champions will be to defend third place, and look to take any advantage they can to move into second.

With the points table being what it is, Outteridge and Jensen don't have the points in the bank to spend on pursuing high-risk strategies - which are an option for some crews at this stage of an Olympic regatta to try an achieve a significant lift up the points table.

Three races are left to sail in the Qualifying Series before the double scoring Medal race on the final scheduled day of the regatta.

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