Super light, super patchy, day 5 was a testing day for most. Matthew Sheahan reports
The second word rhymes with light, but as the Games got closer the most focussed sailors have become well practised at leaving this particular adjective out of their conversation when referring to the typical weather conditions. For a start it’s not polite to swear on TV and even thinking the words runs the risk of them sticking in a sailor’s subconscious where they can fester in the background, waiting to become the scapegoat for a bad day on the water.
Instead, the world’s top sailors have spent the last few years, ‘learning to love a new set of challenges’. But even some of the best found today’s conditions difficult to enjoy.
With just 5 knots of breeze ghosting across the course, there were times when it was difficult to feel the breeze, let alone see where it was coming from next. Out of the eight classes that were racing today the Finns, Lasers, Laser Radials and the Ynglings were not able to complete the day’s schedule, dropping the second race of the day.
If the mental pressure of the conditions wasn’t enough, there is a sense among some that the end of the runway has now come into sight. While it’s not guaranteed that the teams that are struggling to take off will overshoot, there is clearly a more desperate feel among some of the camps.
“You can see that there are people pushing start lines, people banging corners and doing some stuff because they know they have to now,” said Sarah Webb after another successful day on the water in the Yngling. The British girls now lead this class by a five point margin over the second placed Dutch girls, not sufficient to take a day off to go to the hairdressers, but a move in the right direction and one that keeps the lid off the pressure cooker.
Another British sailor to extend the leading margin was Ben Ainslie in the Finn. A full day on the water turned in just one result, a second in what Ainslie described as, ‘a very difficult race.’
“First the right was good, then the left was good making it very difficult to read,” he said. “When you see the guy who’s in second place overall high tailing it off to the left hand side it’s pretty scary if you go the other way. If you’re not sure which side is going to pay it’s better to stay with the competition.”
Naturally this is precisely what he did.
In the 470 men’s fleet the Australians Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page put in two consistent results in conditions that were anything but and now enjoy a seven point lead over the second placed French team.
Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield took a hike up the overall rankings and now lie in third place overall after their 9th and 6th.
But for their female team mates the day was the toughest the pair have had to face, a 15th and a 13th forcing them down to 11th in the overall standings. Clearly upset by their day, the girls are 30 points off the lead where the competition between the Dutch and the Australian teams has left the pair on equal points. With very similar performances over the six days, this is a tussle that looks likely to go all the way to the wire.
In the 49er fleet the British men had an equally grim day. Disqualified for being OCS in the first race, a 3rd and a 2nd in the following two races did little to advance their overall progress up the standings. Rhodes and Morrison currently lie 8th overall, while the leaders Nathan Outteridge and Ben Austin are 31 points in front with the Danes, Warrer and Ibsen just one point behind.
With just one and a half days racing on the score sheets, it’s still early days in both Laser classes, a point that will consolidate Brit sailor Paul Goodison who was forced to accept a 15th. Italian Diego Romero is currently leading this pack.
But as the crews came ashore it was not everyone who was struggling to put a positive spin on the day. For British Laser Radial sailor Penny Clark a win was just what she was aiming for.
“I was fast, managed to find the wind on the water and had a really good day,” she said as she hauled her boat up the slipway. “I grew up sailing on lakes, trying to find the pressure and look for the shifts so that bit of it comes more naturally for me than it does for those who are more used to sailing on the sea with constant breeze.”
Clark’s impressive result moved her into 5th overall and 10 points behind the overall leader and favourite Anna Tunnicliffe (USA).
But while most struggled to keep the ‘S’ word from their lips, others simply couldn’t hold it in. As a fleet of boats that will remain nameless ghosted across the finish line in silence, a scream of ‘Merda!!!!!’ bellowed out across the water as the stress of the day was unleashed.
According to an Italian colleague, it means the same.
BRITS IN A NUTSHELL (Overall results so far)
Yngling – 1st
Finn – 1st
49er – 8th
470 men – 3rd
470 women – 11th
RSX Men – 5th
RSX Women – 5th
Laser – 7th
Laser Radial – 5th
** USEFUL LINKS **
Today’s video profile is for Laser Radial sailor Penny Clark