As Finn class racing begins on Day 2 of the 2016 Olympic competition, favourite Giles Scott admits: "I’m not massively happy with how today has gone, but there is still a long way to go"
Giles Scott might not be a household name, but it should certainly have featured on the many ‘ones to watch’ lists compiled in advance of this Games.
Heading to Rio 2016 as a ‘rookie’ attending his first Olympics, Scott nonetheless began racing today as favourite for Olympic Gold in the Finn class. Competition began on Tuesday, 9 August.
Scott is a four-time world champion who has never previously been selected for the Games due to two factors: the one-nation, one-boat rule of the Olympics – which allows each country only a single entry in each class – and the dominance of Sir Ben Ainslie, who took Britain’s Finn slot and Gold at the past three Games.
But while Ainslie’s loss to the GBR camp will be felt, Scott is stepping into his shoes not as a future talent, but as a hugely established sailor with years of dominance in the class behind him. He has won four of the past five World Championship events in the class, and finished first or second at every single Olympic classes event he has competed in since 2011 (you have to go back to Hyères regatta of that year, when he finished 7th, to find a worse result than runner-up), including both Olympic test events at the venue. He set out today for the first Finn races as the man to beat.
Finn, men’s heavyweight dinghy
Racing on the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf) course, which has the reputation of being the most unpredictable of all the race areas thanks to the wind effects of the iconic dome-shaped land mass, Scott could finish no better than 17th in his first Olympic race, before recovering to third place in race two. This leaves Scott in 10th overall at the end of the first day.
“It was tricky, the Sugarloaf course is notoriously difficult,” he commented after racing. “The wind was that little bit further right than yesterday, which basically means the breeze comes straight down over Sugarloaf, which provides really tricky, unpredictable winds. There is a lot of scope for big gains and there is also a lot of scope for some big loses so managing those is particularly difficult.
“I think the vast majority of the sailors had a good and a bad score apart from the Slovenian sailor, so I’m not massively happy with how today has gone, but there is still a long way to go.”
The Slovenian sailor, Vasilij Zbogar, had the most consistent day in the shifty conditions to score a 3rd and 1st to lead the fleet overnight.
Scott added: “I came off the start line a lot better in race two and didn’t get dictated to in the first half of the first upwind, which just allowed me to get my head out the boat and make my own decisions, but it was still an incredibly hard race.
“It’s certainly not the way you want to start an Olympic Games but unfortunately these things happen in regattas, and they have certainly happened to me over the past four years, so it doesn’t make things easy but there is still a lot to play for.
“I felt no more nerves than at the first race of a World Championship, it all felt very normal. But there is still an awfully long way to go and we will just have to see what the rest of the week brings.”
“I was fast today,” commented leader Zbogar, now aged 41. “Those were my conditions and even if it was unpredictable, my speed was helping me get to the right place. I need to do well in these conditions because the next two days are going to be stronger winds. I am 10kg too light and 10 years too old!” In third is Alican Kaynar of Turkey.
Racing for the Finns resumes at 5pm (BST) tomorrow. The men’s heavyweight dinghy are scheduled to be the first class to venture out on to the ocean courses (Niterói).
Julio Alsogaray (ARG) and Pavlos Kontides (CYP) shared the honours on the second day of racing for the men’s one-design class, both also scoring a 14th. Alsogaray can discard that to count three top four positions, and now leads the fleet overall on 21 points.
Initial leader Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) is second overall on 25 points, while Sam Meech (NZL) had a very solid day with scores of 5,6 to rise to third, just a point behind the Croatian.
Consistency proved hard to achieve throughout the fleet. Robert Scheidt is giving his Brazilian fans something to worry about with scores of 27,4 to put the five-time Olympic medalist in eighth overall. Reigning world champion Nick Thompson (GBR) scored 9, 15 to lie 12th overall.
Reigning Olympic Gold medallist Lijia Xu (CHN) bounced back from last night’s protest hearing, which saw her disqualified from Race 2, to score a third and first place, and retake the overall lead.
Annalise Murphy (IRL) took 4,7 today, which combined with her win in the opening race yesterday puts Murphy into second overall, just five points behind Xu. Third placed Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN), meanwhile, is the only sailor to have kept all of her scores inside the top 10. Rindom sits just a point behind Murphy and just a point in front of Marit Bouwmeester (NED), the London 2012 silver medallist.
RS:X men and women
Nick Dempsey (GBR) continues to fly at the front of the Men’s Windsurfer fleet, winning Race 4 and then coming fourth. He found himself in the water and finishing in 14th place in Race 6, but lodged a protest which was successful and will give him average points over nine races – the veteran Olympian, now attending his fifth Games, is so far having a low-scoring regatta so this should put the Briton in a strong position ahead of Dorian Van Rysselberghe (NED), his nearest rival in second.
There was a lead change in the women’s fleet, with Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) running away with a 1,1,4 scoreline to depose yesterday’s winner, Charline Picon (FRA), from the top of the leaderboard. The French sailor still had a very respectable day in difficult conditions to sit just a point behind the leader. Britain’s Bryony Shaw lies in 10th overall.
On site reporting courtesy of Andy Rice/World Sailing and Imogen Stanley/RYA Team GBR