A long delay, then some frenetic action but not everyone's day went smoothly. Matthew Sheahan reports
At two minutes to go, up went the distinctive stars and stripes code zero aboard the American Tornado. As the starting gun fired the Ogletree/Lovell partnership were pin end perfect to start on a line that looked like it was only just long enough to accommodate the 15 strong fleet.
Winning the pin end and being able to put their bows down was crucial with a code zero set. Had they been sandwiched between any other boats life could have become very difficult indeed. But in the space of one minute it was clear that the American boat was substantially quicker than the rest of the fleet as she creamed ahead in the ghostly light breeze.
Two minutes later and the picture had got even better for US supporters as Ogletree/Lovell managed to hook into and tack on a peach of a left hand shift allowing them to cross the fleet easily. The difference was staggering and continued to be so until around half way up the beat when the new, gusty breeze dropped out of the sky and onto the race course.
Struggling to cope with the rapid increase in apparent wind, Ogletree/Lovell had to rag their kite several times while swerving around like an out of control tricycle as they struggled to drop the code zero.
Meanwhile, further back in the fleet there had been more drama among the conventional boats where a left and right split had hung the righthanders out to dry in a windless hole.
By the weather mark the breeze was 9-14knots and the Americans had been overtaken by three other boats. But this was just the start of Ogletree/Lovell’s problems as the fleet started to outpace them on the run.
By the end of the race the Americans were in a lowly 14th, second to last. On the face of it the gamble hadn’t paid off and yet today’s wildly fluctuating conditions were anything but typical of Qingdao and others were having a similarly miserable time.
All three of the 2004 medallists were down the pan come the end. The Austrians, the Americans and the Argentineans, 12th, 14th,13th respectively. Meanwhile, winning the day was the Spanish team followed by the Greeks and the Dutch with the Brits taking a 6th.
Further out to sea the pressure was definitely on in the Finns and the Ynglings on the last day of racing before their medal races tomorrow (Sat). Of the three races that were planned, only one was run in both cases.
For Ainslie a second place was clearly a solid result, especially given that his closest competitor Zach Railey (USA) ended up with a 19th after he chose to hunt down his nearest opponent, the Frenchman Florent in his defence of a silver.
“At the point that I was around 8th or 9th in the race I realised that it was quite likely that I would be dropping that race, so I decided to put myself in the best points position for the medal race tomorrow,” said Zach Railey. “Going into the race today I was 3 points ahead of third, now I’m eleven.”
The move places Ainslie 12 points ahead, a comfortable lead and one that guarantees him a silver, regardless of the outcome tomorrow.
“It’s only half a job,” he said playing down his advantage. “I’ve got 12 points but you can never have enough in these kinds of conditions. It is a good thing for me that it’s only a race between me and the American. I need to stick to him like glue.”
Which might have sounded like a match race to some, yet with 12 points between them, Ainslie felt that a loose cover would be a more appropriate strategy.
For the British Yngling girls, the situation was much clearer after a race that saw the Dutch win and the Brits come 5th leaving the teams just one point apart. In the double points scoring medal race this means a match race for gold is now a certainty for tomorrow (Sat).
“We know we can do it, we’re a very close team. We’ve been in this situation in a medal race before,” said Pippa Wilson. “It’s great to be in our current position, but we want gold.”
In the Laser fleet Brit sailor Paul Goodison nailed his race in what he described as, ‘almost easy once I had got out in front’. A result that left him sharing the overall lead with Swedish sailor Rasmus Myrgren.
RSX sailor Nick Dempsey had a similarly good day winning his race, a result that moved him up into third in the overall stakes, one point off second and seven off first. His face and demeanour said it all as he walked up the slipway.
Star sailor Iain Percy looked comfortable with his 7th given the potential to be dumped by the conditions, although it was clear that he means business after a season’s build up that hasn’t gone smoothly.
But for some of the other British sailors things weren’t going well. Rogers and Glanfield in the 470 had a ‘shocker of a day’, as they were hung out to dry as they closed in on the weather mark. With 22 points between them and the leaders, Australians Wilmot and Page and three races left before the medal race, there is plenty of pressure on the British pair.
In the women’s fleet, the British duo Bassadone/Clarke is fighting for a pace in the medal race despite a decent day on the race course scoring an 8th and a 3rd. A 34 point deficit to the Australian Rechini/Parkinson pair who have sailed a consistent and impressive regatta so far, leaves a huge gap to cross.
The British 49er crew face a similar mountain with 31 points between them and fleet leaders Outteridge and Austin, also Australian.
With the action of medal races less than 24 hours away and the end of the runway insight for others, the pressure is mounting rapidly. Tomorrow looks like being an even bigger day.
BRITS IN A NUTSHELL (Overall results so far)
Yngling 1st equal with NED
470 men 4th
470 women 8th
RSX Men 3rd
RSX Women 5th
Laser 1st equal with SWE
Laser Radial 10th
Light and…..brilliant. Nick Rogers tells Matthew Sheahan about his tricky day in the 470 class
UK Laser sailor Paul Goodison talks to Matthew Sheahan after his opening day at the 2008 Olympics
British 470 sailors Nic Rogers and Joe Glanfield describe their first day on the race track
Ben Ainslie after the second day of racing plus penalties
** USEFUL LINKS **
British Olympic Organisation website