Race Day 5 Round up from Weymouth
Seventh Heaven as Brits Up Ante on Water
Britain’s sailors enjoyed a “champagne” day five of the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Regatta with the team picking up SEVEN race wins at Weymouth and Portland today (Thursday 2 August)
A double bullet for the 49er pair of Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes was the highlight of the Brits’ day but further race wins for debutants Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell (470 Men), Ben Ainslie (Finn), Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (Star), the Match Race Girls and Nick Dempsey (RS:X) made it a very profitable day.
Morrison and Rhodes turned on the style as two superb race wins propelled them into silver medal position overall. The pair were in indomitable form as they firstly led from start to finish on the first race of the day – their seventh race of the event – before producing an equally emphatic display in race two to triumph by nine seconds. Most importantly the teams in the overnight medal positions – Australia, New Zealand and France – all finished outside the top eight boats in race one, and outside the top five in race two.
Morrison said: “It was as good as it could have been today. We’ve been sailing really well all week and didn’t really do anything different today. Our boat speed was up a notch from yesterday. We kept our heads in some very big gusts and did a fantastic job. We’re always confident in these conditions and managed to do it when it counts. You don’t want to get too excited when you do well or too down when you do badly, it’s very boring but it’s the reality of what we need to be like until next Wednesday.”
Patience and Bithell got their Olympic career off to a “champagne” start as they surged into an early 470 Men’s class lead. The double World Championship silver medallists wasted no time in signalling their golden intentions, picking up a second and first from their opening two races of the event. The pair received a personal good luck message from HRH The Princess Royal via the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club ahead of the event.
Patience said: “It’s a nice way to start for sure. It’s been a few years building up to this point and it feels like it took forever to get here. It’s just nice to have day one under our belt. It was just champagne sailing out there! Me and Stu just stuck to the things we said we would. We started well and I got my head down and made the boat go 100mph. Today we have had a good one.”
Ben Ainslie ominously threw down the gauntlet to his rivals by moving to within three points of the gold medal position with an emphatic display. The three-time Olympic champion went into today’s races – following yesterday’s rest day – 10 points behind the early pacesetter Jonas Hogh-Christensen (DEN).
But Ainslie came out all guns blazing to not only pick up his first race win of the regatta but also beat the Dane twice, the first time he has got the better of Hogh-Christensen in their eight races so far. The British sailor was further fuelled after he claimed Hogh-Christensen and the Dutchman Pieter-Jan Postma had conspired to force him to take penalty turns in race two, calling that he had hit a mark.
He said: “[They] basically teamed up to say I hit the mark when I didn’t. There is not much I can do about that in a protest meeting unfortunately. I’m old enough and wise enough not to fall for that trick and had to take the penalty turn. I think it’s a mistake by them because I’m pretty angry and hopefully I can channel that into the racing tomorrow. I didn’t hit the mark so if that’s the way those guys want to play it then fine but they probably didn’t want to fire me up for tomorrow.”
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson extended their advantage at the top of the Star leaderboard with another clinical performance. They overcame iffy starts in both races to add first and second places to the overall scoreboard. Those results moved them nine points clear of Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (BRA), with just two races of their opening series to come tomorrow before Sunday’s medal race showdown.
The British Match Racing Girls got back to winning ways picking up victory in their one and only race today. Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor saw off the challenge of Sweden to head into their rest day tomorrow tied fifth overall in the round robin phase of the competition, with a 55% win ratio.
Nick Dempsey had a mixed bag in the final two RS:X Men’s races before their rest day tomorrow. The Athens 2004 bronze medallist rounded the first mark in 17th but battled back well to climb through the fleet to 10th. However undoubtedly disappointed with that score the 31-year-old came out and blitzed the field in race two, leading the fleet from start to finish, to end the day sat fourth overall. Bryony Shaw vowed to come out fighting after their lay day after finishing the day lying seventh overall.
Racing is scheduled to resume at 12pm tomorrow. The British 470 Women’s duo of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark are the final class to get their London 2012 campaign underway while the Lasers and Laser Radials return to action after their rest day.
The Olympic Sailing Regatta runs from Sunday 29 July – Saturday 11 August.