49er Gold for Outteridge/Jensen, Silver for Burling/Tuke
As the Laser and Radial medal races were causing much distraction, so the 49ers were completing race 14 and 15 of their lengthy series. And the result....both the gold and silver medals have been decided ahead of Wednesday’s medal races.
Australia’s Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen were the form team going into London 2012 and secured the gold medal, rounding out the day on just 48 points, while their Kiwi training partners Peter Burling and Blair Tuke brought home the bacon to claim the silver, on 76.
Third place remains up for grabs going into the medal race: at present Danes Allan Norregaard and Peter Lang hold third place on 108 points, one ahead of Finland’s Lauri Lehtinen and Kalle Bask – both nations having previously won Olympic 49er gold. Britain’s Stephen Morrison and Ben Rhodes had a tough 17-7 scoreline today, dropping them to fifth place on 114, but still in with a realistic shot at bronze.
Like Tom Slingsby, Outteridge’s result in Beijing was disappointing. Favourite going in, he came out with a fifth place and like the Aussie Laser gold medallist, his performance with that of his crew Iain Jensen (aka Goobs) has gone some way to righting the heartbreak of four years ago.
“This week has been completely different,” said Outteridge making the comparison to their Beijing campaign. “We are a much better prepared team than we were last time. We had one slip up here where we capsized, but we recovered from it amazingly. It is so hard to compare this event to the last one. This was actually a normal sailing event, whereas China was such a strange event with the weather. We have sailed brilliantly all week long and tried not to think about the end result.”
Also significant is that despite Australia being home of the skiff and the 49er having been designed by an Australian, Julian Bethwaite, it has taken four Olympic Games for an Australian team to claim the gold medal. “It is great that we have finally done it for the country. Chris Nicholson got close so many times and we were close last time, but to finally secure the medal is great, not just for us but for the whole team.”
Outteridge was pleased to win gold medal at this point of the regatta without leaving it to the vagaries of the medal race. “We have seen what can happen in the medal races on that course over the last couple of days. This morning when we woke up – we decided as the goal, to stitch it up today, so there was nothing left to go. But even if we hadn’t done that we just wanted to make sure we were in a great spot.” He added that this was particularly important give that the forecast for Wednesday’s medal race “looking a bit funny with pretty light winds”.
“Today all we had to do was to keep it simple, and in that first race it panned out really nicely for us and in the second race it was not that stressful and we just executed what we were trying to do all week.”
Jensen added that their tying up gold while Kiwis Peter Burling and Blair Tuke got silver going into the medal was the perfect outcome. “They are some of our closest friends and they have been our training partners for the last four years. It is satisfaction after four years of work between the two teams and it shows that the work we have been doing has been paying off.”
It seems likely that Outteridge and Jensen will go again for Rio. “We were saying on the way in: reset and get ready for the next one. That equipment is obviously the base line equipment for what we want to work on for the future so we will probably put it away for a bit and in a few years time we’ll bring it out and start ramping it up again.”
While Tom Slingby and Ben Ainslie are heading to San Francisco imminently for the America’s Cup World Series, Outteridge is also heading there to take the helm of Team Korea’s AC45. “I won’t get much time to rest at home, but I am looking forward to the next challenge.” And then as Team Korea has entered the 34th America’s Cup the plan is for them to graduate up to a AC72, presumably when it is launched next year. “I’m still waiting to hear what’s going on there... But I am looking forward to driving one of those things around,” says Outteridge.
In terms of Bronze, going into Wednesday’s medal race, at present any teams between the Danes currently in third and Portugal’s Bernardo Freitas and Francisco Rebello de Andrade in eighth are still capable of winning it.
Brits Steve Morrison and Ben Rhodes are six points adrift of bronze, or three medal race positions.
“We were very frustrated by today,” said Morrison when he came ashore after today’s two races on the tricky Nothe course during which they posted a 17-7. “The first race seemed like quite – I’m thinking of words you could write... We came around the windward mark and people would just instantly get a gust inside you and then you have lost all control. It felt that every time we went around the windward mark we went around in a lull and the boats behind came around in a gust. We just got very limited in our options and it was so short because the legs were taking a couple of minutes, so if you got the wrong side of one gust it made a massive difference.
“It was all over the place. I think we kind of had a really good start in the first race and an alright start in the second, but it was so gusty and I don’t think we felt quite as quick as we have felt in other days. It was a really random wind and it was impossible to tell if you were going well or not because there was 10 knots difference in wind speed. It was a hard day.”
Morrison added that during the race the wind had occasionally veered into the northwest, a wind direction they had been told (and we were told by Rod Carr) they wouldn’t be racing in on the Nothe course as it is directly off the land. “It came right around to the northwest and it was just all over the place and we went from sixth down to 17th very, very quickly. But that is the nature of that course and trying to make sailing more of a spectator sport, it has got to be near the shore. You take what you get and it didn’t go our way today. We caught up a few in the last one and kept fighting and that is what we have to do on Wednesday. Hopefully we can make the most of it. We have a fantastic opportunity to win a bronze medal.”
As to the dominant Aussies, Morrison said: “They have just done a really good job. They seem to have really good boat speed and they have used it very well and they thoroughly deserve what they have got. Their results are amazing.”