London 2012 RS:X Men's medal race: Dempsey takes silver
With Dutchman Dorian Van Rijsselberge getting the gold medal sewn up not one, but two, races out from the medal race, so the fight was on for the remaining podium spots in the RS:X Men’s windsurfer today.
Nick Dempsey went into the medal race with a useful 11 points lead over Germany’s Toni Wilhelm with Poland’s Przemyslaw Miarczynski a further six points back, all three capable of claiming silver or bronze.
To win Dempsey had to finish sixth of better and there was a collective sigh of relief among British fans when the veteran sailboarder, competing in his fourth Games, got off to a great start and was fastest out of the blocks to round the top mark in third, behind the ever speedy Van Rijsselberge with French reigning World Champion Julien Bontemps second. The wind on the Nothe course was its usual shifty, gusty self, typically 12-14 knots, but sometimes dropping below 10.
Dempsey got up to second place on the third weather mark rounding as the Dutchman had an issue on the previous beat, but Van Rijsselberge cruised by on the next run, then spent the rest of the race jockeying with Bontemps, eventually pulling into the lead coming into the last mark, to seal victory in the medal race as if to rubber stamp, finally, his outstanding success in Weymouth.
Throughout the series his lowest score being a 3rd, except for the last full fleet race which he didn’t finish. Nick Dempsey came home in third place and with this claimed Britain’s second silver medal after Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson’s effort in the Star. With Toni Wilhelm coming home a disappointing ninth, the bronze went to Polish veteran Przemyslaw Miarczynski.
At London 2012 the Dutch 22-year-old who goes by the nicknamed of 'the crazy penis' has amply demonstrated himself to be in a different league to his other competitor and, annoyingly for the other competitors, made his outstanding form look easy at the same time. “It was my goal to make it look easy, but I am enjoying myself and when sometimes people think that when you are enjoying yourself everything looks easy, but it is never easy. It has been great,” he said.
There seems to be no obvious reason for the Dutchman’s dominance this week. “I think it is just the consistency I am sailing with and initiating tacks and gybes,” he said. “I am always trying to work hard for every little metre or centimetre I can get here or there and in the big picture it helped me a lot. It comes back to working hard on the race course. If you can take one place extra every day, then all of a sudden the spread is a lot less big than it is now. Every time you work hard and get every little metre in the end you get a good result.”
So not much help there.
His coach, Aaron McIntosh (above left), the three time Mistral World Champion and Sydney bronze medallist – turned Tornado sailor, provided his view: “There are so many things along the way: Dorian is a great athlete. He is a great person. He is not afraid of hard work. He is intelligent, he has initiative and he sails with heart and he has a good understanding of what a yacht race needs to be.
“We undersand the equipment really well and the way that we set it up and the way that we use it - that has certainly helped a lot. As the equipment got more and more worn in and closer to what we wanted, the better the equipment was.”
When McIntosh first started working with his protégé at the beginning of this Olympic cycle four years ago, he says Van Rijsselberge was very green. “He was a young guy with a whole lot of talent. You could see he had a feel for the board, the ability to accept information and process it correctly. He didn’t do as well in those World championships as I would have expected, but he was just green on the whole thing.
"From when we really started working together, we worked on initiative and getting himself around the race course cleanly, knowing how to manage the risk and understanding how to recognise the little intricacies on race courses. In some conditions you have to win the start to get the first bit of pressure and he recognises that really well. Many of his sails that have holes in them through frustration, but that was just part of the learning process...”
After he finished fourth in Beijing, the hardest end result in Olympic sailing, Nick Dempsey was ecstatic with his silver medal. After finishing he headed on shore at the Nothe to be united with his 3-year-old son, Thomas. “I knew the boys were on the hill and I knew Thomas was there and I wanted to go and say ‘hello’ to Thomas and friends and family,” he explained. “Those moments they don’t come around that often and if you can share them with your friends and family, so why not?”
Returning back to the Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy Dempsey was lifted up, while standing on his board, on to the shoulders of his fellow British team members and carried up the slipway (he was later outdone by the RS:X Women’s winner who was also paraded standing on her board down the length of the mix zone...)
Dempsey admitted that he hadn’t slept much last night, but that his nerves had subsided when the countdown clock had started. “10 seconds to go and I thought ‘this is a nice lane out of the start lane’. After the start it was pretty much all over. I was never relaxed but I felt I was in control.”
The British sailboarder said that earlier in the week he had come to terms with the fact that the fight would be for the silver medal. “If I had felt I had thrown it away, it would have been harder, but I felt that Dorian had sailed exceptionally well and I felt he deserved to be where he was and it makes it much easier for me if someone else wins it, rather than me losing it. So it wasn’t that hard to come to terms with it. I feel that silver was the right result for how I have sailed this week and the conditions we’ve had. Had we had different conditions, it would have been a different story, but we didn’t, so I am happy.”
Van Rijsselberge was pleased that Dempsey got the silver. “Nick is a good guy. I am super stoked for him. For anyone else out there, I think Nick is definitely the one who deserved the silver and might even have deserved gold. Nick is a great guy and good sailor – he is just a good yachtie.”