Consistent results sees Ainslie off to a good start, but Hogh-Christensen off to an even better one
Posting a pair of seconds was an impressive display for Ben Ainslie, at least under normal circumstances it should have been. But his achievement was eclipsed by that of Jonas Hogh-Christensen who posted two wins in convincing style. The Dane, who came third at the Finn Worlds this year, was on fire today. Ironic perhaps, that it should be a sailor of this nationality that had beaten Ben given that the record the Brit would break should he be successful would be that of Danish sailor Paul Elvstrom.
“All respect to Ben but whatever the outcome of this Olympics I still think that Elvstrom is the greatest sailor ever,” said Hogh-Christensen shortly after coming ashore. “He’s done so much for the sport of sailing that he’s still the greatest to me.”
Shortly after the race had finished and on the way back to shore Ainslie had joked that perhaps Hogh-Christensen had a hotline to Elvstrom. So had the two Danes spoken?
“I usually get a text or a short email from Paul if I do well,” said Hogh-Christensen.
So when was the last time he had heard from the great Dane?
“I can’t remember, it’s been a while since I did well!” he joked.
Yet joking aside, Ainslie looked more relaxed after a demanding day on the water than we’ve seen for months, perhaps this is hardly surprising given the immense pressure that has been piling up and his history of tripping up on the opening days of an Olympic event. At times there was the potential for him to do just that in the shifty and gusty conditions off the Nothe course area.
From the start Hogh-Christensen appeared to read the conditions perfectly to round the windward mark in the lead, after which he never handed it back.
In contrast, Ainslie chose the right hand side of the beat for two of the three beats, a tactic that didn’t bear fruit and lost him places each time. But Ainslie’s strength was on the downwind legs where he hauled the front runners back every time and indeed in both races.
“Two firsts is really good going for the Olympic Games.” He said of Hogh-Christensen’s performance. “Hats off to him he really got those shifts sorted in both those races.”
To many who watched his every move thanks to the superb TV coverage, his upwind speed seemed to be lacking, was he worried by this?
“In the first race the breeze was so shifty, speed wasn’t the factor, it was down to tactics and the work rate downwind,” he said.
So how did he feel about racing in an area that is well known for it’s shifty and gusty conditions?
“I guess I’ve got to be diplomatic here,” he said. “The great thing about the course is being close to the crowd. It was amazing to hear that big crowd cheering you on, it really made a big difference. But for sailors it’s a tough course because we don’t normally race that close to the shore line.”
The second race of the day took place on the other side of Weymouth Bay where the wind should have steadier, yet there were still big shifts sweeping across the course as a huge rain shower developed out to the west and made its presence felt as it approached.
Once again Hogh-Christensen read the conditions perfectly and converted a small advantage to a big lead by the finish.
One other surprising fact in a day where consistency was king in the Finns was that Croatian sailor Ivan Gaspic Kljakovic posted a pair of thirds, perfect symmetry on a day of wide variables.
The Star class, provided a far more volatile mix of racing with controversy at the close of the second race as a neck and neck finish between Brits Percy/Simpson and Brazilians Scheidt/Prada appeared too close for even the competitors to call.
“We thought that they had won because they were to leeward,” said Scheidt of the Brits. “He asked me if we had won but I said I thought they had won.”
Several hours later a protest/claim for redress was lodged by Percy/Simpson but was later retracted following insufficient evidence.
The day had been hard for the British pair, missing a 30 degree shift in the first race had sunk their chances of a decent showing in the first race and left them with an 11th according to Percy. Their second race was better with a second but their main rivals had beaten them twice scoring a 4th and a 1st to take the overall lead.
No wonder the Brits looked a bit down.
But the opening day of the Olympics frequently throws in unusual results both good and bad. It is the rest of the event that settles the score.
Tomorrow sees stacks of action as the 49ers, Lasers and Laser Radials have their first races while the Stars and Finns roll into Day 2.
Watch our live photo bog through Livestream for the very latest of the action in pictures and words.
1200 49er – 2 race – Nothe
1200 RSX – practice race – Portland Harbour
1200 Laser and Laser Radial – practice races – Weymouth Bay South
1400 Match Racing – Nothe
1400 Finn – 2 races – Weymouth Bay West
1410 Star – 2 races – Weymouth Bay West
YW Goes Live
To stay in touch with every move of every day as the sailing Olympics gets under way, check in with our new YW/Livestream site where we will keep you updated with a daily stream of pictures and words from front of house to backstage at the 2012 Olympics.
YW Olympic Microsite
Make sure you bookmark our dedicated Olympic website
What when and where?
Download the race schedule showing which classes are sailing on which course areas as well as details of the courses themselves