The Meltemi fully established for the day, just two classes sail. Ben, Shirley and her crew deliver the goods
Once more Ben Ainslie got his head down and demonstrated why he is the man to beat in the Finn class at this Olympics scoring a 4th and then a 1st in the two breezy races today, a performance which hauls him further up the overall results table into the top slot if you count his discard. Only a fool would bet against him pulling off the top slot.
Talk to any seasoned Olympic sailor and they’ll tell you that this particular event can put a special kind of pressure on and can make people do the strangest things. Picking up a disqualification on the first day might not be something that Ainslie had brought onto himself but that and a disappointing 9th position would be enough to psyche out a good number of his opponents.
Like highly trained race horses, it doesn’t take much to set some sailors off on a path where their self confidence takes a knock and with it goes their performance. Ainslie’s main competition in this fleet and the current leader of the Finn class Mateusz Kusznierewicz seems to be letting the strong breeze get to him and in doing so is creating an opening for Ainslie back into the event.
As his opponent talks himself out of the breezy conditions Ben is talking himself back into the event by doing exactly what he said he would, ‘all I can do is get my head down and sail the best I’ve ever sailed to be in with a shot ‘.
His start in the first race today raised the pulses of any GBR supporter as he was early at the pin end of the line and had to sail along the back of the fleet as they lined up on starboard. Looking frantically for a slot to tack into Ainslie looked like a chastened cat trying to find a gap in the hedge. Eventually he did, but at the weather mark he was lying 10th, over two minutes behind the Dane, Hoegh Christensen who was having a blinder of a race after two disastrous races yesterday.
On four of the eight legs Ainslie picked off a place or two which on the face of it sounds easy given his reputation. Yet to watch how he reels the places back in is as impressive as watching a professional skier on a mogul strewn black run. At no point can he ever keep still, the rig and helm twitching many times a second as he hauls the grunty singlehander over each of the waves individually.
Sure, others in the fleet are doing the same thing, or at least appear to be, but watch him from the air and the smoothness of the motion of his boat compared to others is clear to see. It’s corny I know but, man and machine in perfect harmony says it all.
On top of this, he never gives up and for the second day running he stole another place on the short leg into the finish, stealing 4th in the last few feet from the Argentinean sailor Alejandro Colla.
Shirley Robertson and her crew Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb proved that they’ve got what it takes as well today and are having a cracking event. Having scored a pair of bullets yesterday they turned in a 4th and a 3rd today. The second race was particularly impressive after they recovered from a bad start which left them send to last, 15th at the weather mark and 1min 22 min off the leader’s pace, to haul themselves back into the frame, a result that keeps them in the lead overall and confirms that they too have the spirit and determination to pull off the big one.
Winners in the Yngling class were the German team consisting Kristin Wagner, Anna Hoell &Veronika Lochbrunner who sailed a flawless first race from the start and the Norwegian team Karianne Eikeland, Beate Kristiansen & Lise Birgitte Fredriksen who had to rescue their lead twice during the race to win the second by just five seconds.