British performance stepped up a gear today, but tomorrow could see a change of tactics for one team member
With much talk of bigger breezes from today and throughout the rest of the week, there was a touch more tension in the dinghy park this morning. But instead of the big blast that was forecast, the day got off to a mode modest start with conditions very similar to yesterday’s – but the performance of the British team was different.
The first couple of days were very difficult because you’re so, so scared of cocking up,” said Nick Dempsey who broke through to the front of the fleet for the first time this week. “Most of the Brits in their classes were favourites to medal. They will all be pretty conservative on the first day and they are all wise enough and good enough to know what wins a regatta. A steady start is good enough and hopefully we will all be turning it on in the second half of the week.”
So, four days into the event were there hints of this change in form today? It certainly looked like it.
In the 49er class Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes scored a fourth in the first race and a second in the second, a combined performance sufficient to move them up into 5th overall.
“We didn’t really do anything differently today,” said Morrison, “we sailed the same but didn’t make the mistake that we did yesterday by capsizing.”
At the front of the fleet Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen continue to dominate the racing by making no mistakes and generally sailing quicker, scoring a 2nd and 1st to extend their overall lead over the Kiwis by 13 points.
In the RSX Men, Britain’s Nick Dempsey got into his stride today scoring a 5th and a photo finish 1st in the races on the Nothe course in front of the crowds. Today’s performance moved him up into third overall and sent a warning shot in the direction of Dutchman Dorian van Russelberge who scored a 1st and a 3rd.
Meanwhile out on the Laser Radial course, Alison Young was turning up the heat a little more scoring a 2nd in the opening race. In fact she had battled her way from 5th through to first only to lose the lead in the final few metres of the race as Belgium’s Evi van Acker slipped though to take the win. In the second race scored an 11th in the second race but keeps her 4th overall.
“It’s pretty tricky because the fleet is tight all the way round. You kind of want to get a solid beat and keep looking for the opportunities,” said Young as she stepped ashore.
Ireland’s Annalise Murphy who had had a string of bullets on her score sheet at the start of the day, found it more difficult to find those opportunities. She got buried in the fleet in both occasions and struggled to break free coming 8th in the first race of the day, and 19th in the second, narrowing her overall lead to just 2 points.
In the Lasers, Britain’s Paul Goodison, who had responded well to treatment for his back injury and woken up feeling better this morning placed a 4th on the scoreboard to Tom Slingsby’s 9th, an impressive performance. His second race wasn’t quite so good in the final result but his performance after a long delay to racing was encouraging to and saw him climb up from 18th to 9th. There’s still a long way to go, but this has moved Goodison up from 12th into 6th overall.
“The physios did a good job of putting me back together,” said a drawn looking Goodison. “It was a case of an hour lying on my bed then a physio session then an hour on my bed for three or four sessions. The doctor gave me some pretty powerful painkillers which made me sleep and woke up almost a little hungover.”
So what were his goals now?
“My big goal now is that I’ve got to get better tomorrow [a lay day for Lasers] and come out in the last half of the regatta in 100 percent. If you’re not at 100 percent you’re a long way behind these guys as there’s a lot of talent out there. I think I’ve done a good job of hanging in there when things aren’t perfect. If we’re fighting for a Bronze then we’ll fight as hard as we can and if we’re fighting for a Gold then fantastic.
And had he considered pulling out of the event?
“No, I think any other regatta I would have been laying on the sofa watching TV. But you only get one chance at this every four years and if it means I’m going to be in a lot of pain for a couple of months afterwards than so be it. You only get one shot at this and I have to give it my all and I have to do that to be happy with myself.”
By the end of play Goodison had moved up while overnight leader Tom Slingsby had moved down a place as Cypriot sailor Pavlos Kontides posted a 9th and a 2nd in the two races today. He lies second overall by just one point.
So what did the British Olympic sailing manager Stephen Park make of a day that had showed signs of a British turnaround? Had the team now settled into its stride?
“Yes I think so,” he said. “I think part of that is because we have a few more classes. The 470s are starting over the next few days so I think there will be some nervous times for them, they’ve had to be sitting around on the side lines while everyone else has been getting into their racing. I don’t think they are trying any harder as such, they’re just concentrating on what they do every day.”
And while that is also the talk of many of the sailors as they came off the water today, I wouldn’t mind betting that in one class we are going to see a different style of sailing with Ainslie ‘engaging’ with the man who has caused him so much grief so far, Jonas Hogh-Christensen. Understandably Park was reluctant to comment on Ainslie’s possible strategy.
“Ben doesn’t need advice from me on what his strategy will be. Unless an opportunity arises that makes it easy for him to take a pop then I suppose he will take advantage of that but in the first instance he will be trying to win the race.
“With 10 points separating them with four races to go before going into the medal race, its not unknown for Ben to have to match race someone at the start and sail through the fleet to win. We’ve seen that several times over the last 10 years and maybe that will be required on Sunday. There is plenty of time before then but it will certainly be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.”
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