Andy Rice looks at who's up and who's down as the pressure starts to build
It’s just past the halfway stage of the Olympic Regatta for the 49er and the Men’s and Women’s 470 divisions. So who’s up and who’s down, with just a few more races to go before the Medal Race?
Two teams are really up, the Aussies and the Danes. The Australians Nathan Outteridge and Ben Austin are reigning World Champions, so it’s not too much of a surprise to see them in the lead. More of a surprise is the performance of Jonas Warrer and Martin Kirketerp Ibsen, the Danes coached by double Olympic Champion Jesper Bank. They have always been there or thereabouts but have never medalled at a World or Europeans, so to be lying one point behind the Aussies after 9 races is a sensational performance. Not only that, but their discard is a very useable 10th compared with a DSQ (20 points) for the Aussies.
Team USA, Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast, won three races back to back yesterday, putting them within striking distance of Italy and Germany in 3rd and 4th overall respectively.
Top of the Down list has to be the Ukrainian team Rodion Luka and Georgii Leonchuk. Silver medallists in Athens and former World Champions, they languish in 15th place out of a 19-boat fleet. Their best result was a 6th in race one, but they’ve only made the top 10 once since then, and have racked up too many letter scores, a DSQ and OCS.
Not quite so bad, but by no means firing on all cylinders, are the Brits and the Spanish, in 8th and 6th overall respectively. Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes led after day one, but plummeted to 9th on day two when they just couldn’t do anything right and were hampered by a mainsheet which chafed and snapped on the camera mount. An OCS yesterday was no way to begin the road to recovery, but a 3,2 in the last two races suggest they have a glimmer of getting back into medal contention.
Five points ahead in 6th place, it’s a similar story for the reigning Olympic Champions from Spain, Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez. An OCS forces them to count a 17th in their scores, but they are close enough to get back into medal contention if they sail a perfect series from here on in.
This is a fleet with tons of depth, and many of the usual suspects are up the front. Most decorated team of the past few years have been the Australians Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page, who are leading the series quite comfortably. There were questions over their ability to handle the pressure at the Games, based on an underperformance in Athens 2004, but so far they are proving up to the job. Sitting close on points in 2nd and 3rd are the French and British teams, both sailing a steady series but not looking quite as special as the Aussies.
The Men’s 470 fleet is running pretty much to form, with the exception of Israel’s Gideon Kliger and Udi Gal who are 16th overall. Gal is lucky to be at the Games at all, having tested positive a few months ago for Propecia, the hair loss drug. Although Propecia can be used as a masking agent for other drugs, Gal was cleared by the authorities and was allowed to compete. However the doping incident hampered preparations for Qingdao, and that appears to be showing in the Israelis’ performance.470 Men
The Dutch team have won the 470 World Championships three times, so it’s no real surprise to see Marcelien de Koning and Lobke Berkhout leading the series after six races of 10. Having said that, they are thought to be breeze specialists, so if they can do this in light winds, then what are they going to be like in the Medal Race this weekend, when it is forecast to be windy?
In joint first place, with equal points and equal discard, are the Australian team. Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson won the Test Regatta here last year and are particularly good in the light. They might struggle to beat the more experienced Dutch if the breeze picks up at the end.
The front two have a big gap to third, currently held by the Spanish team who have plenty of teams snapping at their heels.
Sailing with her long-term crew Nadege Douroux, France’s Ingrid Petitjean has had much success in the 470 in recent years, regularly finishing on the podium in World Championships and winning silver at the Test Event in Qingdao last year. So there were a few raised eyebrows when as late as May this year, Petitjean traded in her crew for a lighter model, the less experienced Gwendolyn Lemaitre. After winning the first race of the series, it looked like a good gamble, but it hasn’t gone so well since then, with the French lying 12th out of 19. The British team have also underperformed, Christina Bassadone and Saskia Clark sitting just one place ahead of the French.
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