London 2012 day seven: Laser and Radial medal prospects firm up
With the Stars, Finns and 49ers on layday, more pre-medal race medals started firming up in the classes that were racing on day seven of sailing at London 2012.
The Lasers and Radials completed their ninth and tenth full fleet races today with just the medal race to sail on Monday.
In the Men’s class Tom Slingsby has got on a roll and added two bullets to his scoreline to the one he got in the second race yesterday. He is now 14 points ahead of Cyprus’ Pavlos Kontides who posted a solid 7-4. But he in turn is another 21 points clear of third placed Swede Rasmus Myrgren.
Because of this Slingsby and Kontides are now untouchable in the gold and silver spots - it is just a question over who gets which, and with Slingsby’s lead, the Cypriot is going to have a hard time putting six boats between him and the Aussie favourite come the medal race. Meanwhile the crucial fight for bronze will be between the Swede Myrgren and Croat Tonci Stipanović who is just one point behind him. One of these two will go home without a medal.
Of all these the silver of Kontides is most significant. As we have mentioned on previous days, he has been punching well above his weight in this regatta and, already assured of at least silver, this is the first medal in any Olympic discipline (save the Paralympics) Cyprus has got since they gained independence in 1960. One can only imagine the reception he will get when he returns home.
“This is the most important day of my life for me and all my compatriots - Cyprus is on the Olympic table with at least a silver,” Kontides declared. “I still have to relax and clear my mind: We still have the medal race on Monday and nothing is decided yet about the Gold. I know it is a lot of points and it is going to be hard, but I have to give my best and try and fight until the end for every point and every place between me and Tom and who knows? Maybe I will be able to win gold.” Fighting talk.
While there is significant separation between the leaders in the men’s class, in the Laser Radial it is the complete opposite story – it is the closest of all the classes with one point separating the top four. Three are the usual suspects – China’s Lijia Xu, Belgium’s Evi van Acker and the Netherland’s Marit Bouwmeister - while Ireland’s Annalise Murphy, who shone so brightly for the first days of this regatta, opening with an unheard of four consecutive bullets, was more of a dark horse going into this Games. Unfortunately one will go home without a medal.
Sadly Britain’s Ali Young was black flagged in today’s first race and with this any chance of a medal disappeared.
The most stand-out performance across the sailing events so far has been that of Dutch RS:X Men’s windsurfer Dorian Van Rijsselberge, who with a 1-2 score today has a third as his worst result after eight races – the lowest score line of anyone across the sailing events.
Britain’s Nick Dempsey had his best day today with a 2-1. This has pulled him up to second place in the RS:X Men, albeit on equal points with German Toni Wilhelm, but he is still 15 points adrift of Van Rijsselberge with two races left to sail tomorrow, before Tuesday’s medal race. The only chink in the Dutchman’s armour is that he has choked on big occasions when he has been leading in the past. However at present the charismatic Van Rijsselberge seems his usual cool and laid back self and is showing no evidence of anything that might make him falter.
In the RS:X Women, Britain's Bryony Shaw had a reasonable day with a 7-5, but her performance this week hasn’t really been medal-worthy and she will have to sail the races of her life tomorrow if she is even to come close to defending her bronze medal from Beijing. At present Spain’s Marina Alabau is looking good in first place, but only holds a three point lead over her training partner, Israel’s Lee-El Korzits, who closed in after her 2-1 today.
The 470s are still earlier into their series. In the Men’s class Aussie favourites Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page came into their own today, showing their multiple World Championship-winning form when they posted two bullets, following on from with the one from yesterday’s second race. However Britain’s Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell are sailing wisely and with a 3-4 they have lost the lead to the Aussies but remain second and in close contact, only four points behind. Patience, in particular, is strutting around with an attitude of invincibility, which will be fine if the talented Olympic newbies manage to keep the wheels on and keep posting solid results. It could present a problem if they suffer a bad result. Similarly it will be interesting to see how well Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes bounce back when the 49ers resume racing tomorrow, after their bumpy performance on Friday.
In the 470 Women, Kiwis Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie posted the most consistently high results – a 2-5 to ease them into the top spot overhauling Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark. The Brits had a solid day with a 4-6 leaving them two points off the leaders. So to summarise the Brits are putting in a fantastic performance in both 470 classes but we have all our fingers and toes crossed that it remains this way against the more experienced teams.
But in Weymouth, there is an air of calm at the moment in anticipation of tomorrow’s storm, when we will see the heavyweight bouts in the Finns and the Stars. With Dane Jonas Høgh-Christensen holding a two point lead over Ben Ainslie going into the medal race there will be fireworks and everyone is anticipating some sort of repeat of the Sydney 2000 Laser final, but with the added complication that third placed Dutchman Pieter-Jan Postma is still in the running for gold too. The Finn race takes place on the Nothe course at 1400.
Before this, at 1300, is the medal race for the Stars, the first time the Men’s Olympic keelboat has raced on the Nothe course in front of spectators. This is now a three-way battle between the Brits, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, who hold a lead of just eight points over Brazilian Olympic legend Robert Scheidt and his crew Bruno Prada, in turn just four points ahead Swedish veteran Freddie Loof and Max Salminen. Fourth placed Eivind Melleby and Petter Morland Pedersen are out of reach of the medals, so the top trio will all get medals, just the colours have yet to be decided tomorrow.
The forecast shows the wind backing into the south again and blowing at 14-17 knots. For the Nothe this is an on-shore breeze with less effect from Portland than a southwesterly so wind conditions should be more stable.
Prepare for what is likely to be a historic day of racing on the water.