Race Day 5 - Finn Report
Determined Ainslie Throws Down Gauntlet
Ben Ainslie ominously threw down the gauntlet to his rivals by moving to within three points of gold medal position with an emphatic display on day five of the Olympic Regatta at Weymouth and Portland today (Thursday 2 August).
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 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.
Ainslie 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.
“It was another breezy day so it was tough conditions physically. The downwinds were very tough but I’ve had a better day. It was good to claw those points back and it’s going to be a lot of pressure for Jonas holding onto that lead for the next three races. It will be interesting to see whether or not he can hold it together.”
Ainslie produced a masterclass in starting in the opening race of today – race seven overall – blasting away from line and heading out to the favoured left-hand side of the course. In heavy tide and big choppy waves he rounded the first mark at the perfect angle and powered away in first position.
With Hogh-Christensen working his way back up the fleet to fourth, Ainslie’s chances were handed a boost when the Dane capsized, putting invaluable places between the pair. Ainslie then held his composure to cross the line untroubled with Hogh-Christensen back in eighth.
Race two saw Ainslie at his determined best. Although getting away from the line safely, he did not gain the advantage off the start and rounded mark one in fifth, three places behind Hogh-Christensen. Ainslie also undertook the penalty turn for supposedly hitting the mark but, fired up, kept digging in to restore the pressure on the Dane. As he has demonstrated so often, Ainslie found another gear on the final downwind leg, speed that for the first time this regatta eclipsed Hogh-Christensen’s.
Working arguably as hard as he has at any point during the regatta, Ainslie overtook, and then kept the Dane at bay, to once again get the upper hand over Hogh-Christensen, Ainslie claiming third spot to Hogh-Christensen’s fourth.
Ainslie added: “We have been developing kit over the past three of four years. Jonas has got good kit, I think he maybe has a slight speed edge upwind in the breeze because he is bigger than I am but I have the edge on the downwind so I don’t think there is anything technical that is outstanding.
“I was really inspired watching the gold medals from the girls in the rowing and Bradley Wiggins in the cycling. That was fantastic to see British athletes going out and performing so well. I analysed a bit of my sailing and there were a few things I realised I could tweak that made a difference. I also sailed a bit better today.”
The Finns enter their final day of series racing tomorrow (races nine and 10) before Sunday’s medal race showdown, scheduled for 2pm.