Turning up the heat, afloat and ashore, the warning shots came two days ago, now the pair lock horns
The racing today in the Finn class was thrilling, but the battle of words and minds got underway ashore as claims and counter claims were hurled back and forth via the media. The boxing style mental tactics between Ainslie and Hogh-Christensen had started for real.
Ainslie: “He [Jonas Hogh-Christensen] and the Dutch guy [Pieter Jan Postma] teamed up to claim that I hit the mark when I didn’t which seriously pissed me off. I didn’t hit the mark but there’s not a lot I can do about that other than a protest hearing, but fortunately I’m old enough and wise enough not to fall for that trick and had to take the penalty turn. That really fired me up to get passed them for the finish and has fired me up for tomorrow.”
Hogh-Christensen: “That allegation is pretty bad, nobody gangs up on nobody and if he thinks that, he’s the bad sportsman.
I saw him hot the mark, the Dutch guy saw him hit the mark.
Nobody gangs up on anybody. We try and race by the rules. He hit the mark, he should do his penalties and if he was so sure that he didn’t hit the mark then he shouldn’t have done his penalties. But he did, so maybe he did hit the mark. “
The second race saw a tight battle between three of the four at the front and while the Spanish sailor Rafa Trujillo Villar sailed a clean race off the front, those behind got into a three way scrap. By the finish Ainslie had overtaken his arch rival Jonas Hogh-Christensen in the last third of the downwind leg. As he crossed the line words were exchanged as Ainslie gesticulated, pointing to his chest as he looked across at Hogh-Christensen. So what was said?
“I don’t think it should be repeated”, said Hogh-Christensen. “He thinks we teamed up against him. Why would we team up against him? We thought he hit the mark, we told him about it, no bad words.”
“I wasn’t happy with what those guys did and I told them,” said Ainslie, referring to the exchanges shortly after the mark rounding incident.
The Dane confirmed that there had been a conversation at the time. “Words were exchanged there for quite a while and then again after the finish. People get fired up, that’s fine, I think it was a bit unnecessary.”
On the face of it the incident might appear like a simple, ‘did he/didn’t he’, but with so much at stake and with the tension mounting as the end of the runway comes into sight, it was perhaps no surprise to hear the suggestion that the fight in the Finns might involve more than just the Brit and the Dane. Not everyone wants to see Elvstrom’s record broken and not everyone likes Ainslie’s ruthless style.
But the bottom line was that by the end of the day Big Ben had reduced the Great Dane’s overall lead to just 3 points. Ainslie was wound up, which is never a good thing for his competitors.
“I’ve a pretty good idea whether I hit a mark or not,” said Ainslie. “If that’s the way those guys want to play it then that’s fine, but I don’t think they wanted to fire me up for tomorrow.
“It was good to claw those points back today and it’s going to be a lot of pressure for Jonas holding onto that lead for the next three races.”
Was there a hint that Hogh-Christensen was showing signs of frustration?
“I’m sailing as good as I can,” he said. “I don’t know if the pressure makes any difference. I thought I had two good starts today, sailed as hard as I could. I made a bit of a mistake with the capsize but that’s the way it is.”
So as the points gap closes and with just two fleet races to go before the double points scoring medal race, how did Hogh-Christensen fancy his chances if the battle came down to a match race?
“I’m not a match racing world champion,” he said. “I match raced when I was 15 or16 years old and pretty much haven’t done it since, so not too great.”
From today at least, the battle between the two ashore appears to have taken an about turn from two days ago with Ainslie the aggressor and Christensen the conciliate.
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