Ainslie and Percy swap roles as they describe their different reactions to the same big day
The boat park at Weymouth is littered with eggshells at certain times of the day and although most of us journalists have to have great big paddles for feet, nothing gives more pleasure than discovering calm where you expect calamity.
Take Ben Ainslie for example. He is always polite when he comes off the water but if things haven’t gone well, can be pinched, distracted and awkward. Iain Percy on the other hand is always full of funny quips, irrespective of his and Bart’s performance.
Percy can be relied on for a super soundbyte whereas Ainslie tends to reserve wit and banter for his mates down the pub and certainly not at any price, for the press.
After the first day’s racing, we were expecting interviews to revert to form so imagine our surprise when we heard Ainslie crack a joke, even before he came off the water about Danish sailor Jonas Hogh-Christensen, winner of both Finn races, having a hot-line to another Danish sailor, the great Olympic sailor in history Paul Elvstrom whose record Ainslie is modestly trying to better.
And then he turns up for his interviews and he is laughing and joking and clearly having the time of his life. Posting two second places on his first day when he famously makes dawdling starts to his brilliant Olympic campaigns had the same effect as an early evening four handed massage by candlelight on a heated bed.
It was proof that even the mighty Ainslie, who has a reputation for relishing intolerable pressure, has his limits. A brace of successes on the opening day served to reshape those limits and put a smile on his face, which presumably will do nothing to fill his war weary opponents with confidence.
Percy on the other hand was pinched, distracted and awkward. He fessed up to missing an important wind shift – he is always nothing but brutally honest – and said all the right things suggesting they needed to pull their fingers out if their fortunes are to change.
Yet there was none of the usual levity, no winking and no mischievous grins which may suggest he is troubled. He and Simpson have a mountain to climb to overcome Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada and posting a catastrophic 11th in the curtain-raiser would have done nothing to sharpen the crampons. Let’s hope things are different by the close of play tomorrow.