Ben Ainslie disqualified from race 2
British Finn sailor Ben Ainslie’s hopes of a Gold medal took a serious blow late on the first day after he was disqualified following a protest by French sailor Guillaume Florent.
The port and starboard incident took place on the first upwind leg around 5 minutes into the race and did not involve a collision between the two boats. With so many pairs of eyes on the Finn class and in particular on Ainslie, news of the disqualification took spectators and commentators by surprise.
Earlier in the afternoon and minutes after coming off the water Ainslie had seemed relaxed about the day’s racing as joked about his disappointing 9th position in the first race shrugging it off claiming that in his last two Olympics he had had similarly bad results.
In a statement after the disqualification was confirmed Ainslie said, “As far as I’m concerned there wasn’t an incident and I wasn’t in the wrong. He tried to make something of it as it was the Olympics and as there were no witnesses and no jury [boat]. I am frustrated, disappointed and angry and all I can do is get my head down and sail the best I’ve ever sailed to be in with a shot.”
The news has dealt the Finn favourite a serious blow pushing him from 4th overall to 19th in the 25 boat fleet. With a disqualification in the second race and a disappointing 9th in the first, few write off Ainslie’s medal chances, but there’s little doubt that this adds serious pressure too early in the event.
According to GBR team manager Stephen Park, “Ben felt that he was clear to cross. Ben had asked the Frenchman if he was clear to cross and believed that he had been given a positive response, carried on was happy that he was crossing clearly and at the last minute the Frenchman said I don’t think you’re crossing.”
After this, Park said that Ainslie had spoken to the Florent regarding, ‘silly calls in race two of the regatta’, to which Ben’s understanding was that the Frenchman had accepted that there was no incident. By the time Ainslie was aware of the protest he had already left the venue but was alerted to the problem by his support team.
“He’s the favourite at the event and there are obviously some people out there who are keen to have a pop at him. Unfortunately this happened on day one of the regatta,” said Parks. “There is a potential opportunity to reopen the protest if we have clear video footage that shows that the Frenchman didn’t alter course.”
Clearly the task that now faces Ainslie is a tough one, his discard gone and a ninth to count.
“It’s tough but if anyone’s going to do it Ben’s your man, ” said Parks.