A Viking raid by Jonas Hogh-Christensen on Ben Ainslie and a great comeback tale is intriguing the public
Here on the beach at the Weymouth sailing Olympics, we’re liking the Jonas Hogh-Christensen surge.
Most people who’ve come to Weymouth beach have really only heard of one sailor, as several BBC vox pops have illustrated. That, of course, is Britain’s Ben Ainslie.
Now there are two. The second is the great Dane Hogh-Christensen, who has bested Ainslie in the first three races. Yesterday Hogh-Christensen scored two 1sts (posted two bullets? Bulleted? You tell me) to Ainslie’s two 2nds.
Today the gap has grown after and Ainslie is a more serious six points adrift of the Dane.
But it’s the apparent difference emerging between the two characters that is intriguing the public. Red-haired and woolly bearded, Jonas Hogh-Christensen is an imposing Erik the Red wild Viking figure who looks as if he’s intent on pillaging the Finns.
We’re liking Hogh-Christensen’s whole comeback story: how he left professional sailing to go into the music business, organising concerts for such top names as Madonna and the Rolling Stones.
During his time away from racing Hogh-Christensen gained nearly 20kg. You can just imagine all those late nights, parties, beers, backstage riders. Bad for for the figure, but so cool.
What a dude. It’s a fair way from the regimented, self-denying regime of the sailing athlete and, I would guess, the life of the Ainslie-bot.
The feeling of unfinished business came over Hogh-Christensen, though. It’s partly in his blood; his father, Jens, sailed for Denmark in the Star class in the 1980 Olympics.
So when he was approached by the Danish sailing federation in 2010 to return to sailing to improve the country’s competitive and medal prospects, he had his work cut out. He has traded flub for muscle and got back down to 102kg, which is still 10kg heavier than Ainslie and an advantage in stronger winds.
“Getting back into shape has been hard, especially because I have been battling injuries all along the process,” the Dane says. Technically, in terms of mast and sail development as well there was a lot of catching up to do.
Despite being four years younger than Ben Ainslie at 31, Hogh-Christensen says he believes “it looks like my time is up.” He points out that the top sailors are getting fitter, younger, taller. He would like, as Ainslie is about to do, to move into America’s Cup sailing.
What will happen later this week as the races lead up to the Finn medal race on Sunday? If the pillage continues, the great Dane’s will become a much more familiar name in sailing.
In the meantime, the needlematch is adding nicely to the beachside intrigue.