London 2012: Patience and Bithell assured of at least silver
The 470 Men held their final two full fleet races on the Harbour course.
In the first race the Coster brothers from the Netherlands led the fleet out to the fleet, with the Brits and Aussies starting mid-line. Half way up the beat the Aussies and Brits had pulled bow forward but at the top mark it was Belcher and Page who rounded firt ahead of the third placed Argentineans Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente with France's Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos holding third with the Brits sixth.
The Aussies led down the run with the Brits pulling up to fifth on the next beat with Patience and Bithell pulling into second at the end of next run. From there the Aussies led around the race course, slowly extending while maintaining a cover on the Brits but in a final dash for the finish line the Brits were overhauled by Croats Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic who took second.
In the second race, the final with the full fleet, there was one general recall before the race got underway with the Brits and Aussies again mid-line with the Brits to weather. Up the beat there was a more equal split to both side of the course with the Aussies going right and the Brits staying left. This worked in Patience and Bithell's favour rounding the top mark second behind Italy's Gabrio Zandonã and Pietro Zucchetti with the Aussies in sixth. But after the reaching leg, down the first run the Aussies powered through into fourth. Up the next beat the Brits headed right with this time the Aussies heading out to the left but both tacked back in with the Brits still in front at the cross, rounding the top mark with Belcher and Page on their transom.
Down the next run it had become a three horse race between the Brits, trying to fend off the Aussie advances, and the Italians with the Aussies match racing the Brits a little beyond the port layline into the gate and gain the lead as a result. From there the two boats extended away from the rest of the fleet with the Aussies tightly covering, Belcher and Page picking up their second bullet of the day.
Today's two races left Belcher and Page four points ahead of the Brits but with the gap back to Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente now an enormous 35 points, the Aussies and Brits are assured of gold and silver, but not the colour. Meanwhile the bronze medal will be a fight mainly between the Argentinians and the Italians Zandonã and Zucchetti three points behind, but with Kiwis Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders and France's Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos with an outside chance.
"It feels fantastic, feels great," said a beaming Luke Patience, as the young Scot came ashore. "We’ll celebrate the small success of that...!"
Bithell with his now familar bulliness added: "The Australians are such good racers, they are very consistent and we have been consistent this week as well. Percy and Bart potentially lost a gold medal on the flukey-ness [of the Nothe course] – well, let’s get one! It is going to be great. A bit of randomness, we’ve have trained there a lot – bring it on!"
Patience pointed out that it is hard to defend on the Nothe course. "I’d sooner be attacking than defending on the Nothe."
Of today's racing Bithell gave his assessment: "The first race they just piped us – fair play. The second race we tried to ruffle their feathers a little bit before the start and we did that and we went to try and win the race. We got out into the lead, but they just kept coming back, so there was a slight missed opportunity there, but that is racing and we’ll refresh and regroup ready for Thursday."
The Brits will no doubt be seeking advice from some match racing experts between now and Thursday.
The daddy of the 470 Men's fleet, Beijing gold medallist Malcolm Page was understandably happy with their two bullets today. "It was a great day for us," he said. "Ideally we would have liked some more points at the end of the day between us and Luke as a bit of an insurance policy. But they they have had a great week and the gap to the rest of the fleet, like we have, is very surprising. The 470 Men’s fleet is very competitive, but for the two of us to show such dominance here this week is I guess a credit to both our preparations."
Belcher said that there was the opportunity for more heated match racing in today's final race. "We could have had a serious match race in that last race, but we both said 'let’s go and race it' and it is a mark of respect for each of our teams. But we are watching where they are and they are watching us – we could tell that from the first day that it was going to be us and them."
So no now Mr Nice Guy? "We’ll see of course," said Belcher. "We have got to have a look at the conditions to see where we are and we’ll take a decision on the day and see what falls to us."
Unfortunately the medal race on Thursday looks set to be a strange one. While the sailing at London 2012 has been blessed so far with winds consistently in the high teens making for exciting racing (although most would have prefered more of a mix of conditions) on Thursday there looks set to be no wind as an area of high pressure moves across the UK.
470 Men's results after 10 races
|1||AUS||Mathew Belcher||Malcolm Page||3||-9||2||1||1||1||3||5||1||1||27||18|
|2||GBR||Luke Patience||Stuart Bithell||2||1||4||2||3||4||1||-6||3||2||28||22|
|3||ARG||Lucas Calabrese||Juan de la Fuente||5||-24||3||9||17||8||2||2||5||6||81||57|
|4||ITA||Gabrio Zandonã||Pietro Zucchetti||6||-26||1||8||6||13||8||4||11||3||86||60|
|5||NZL||Paul Snow-Hansen||Jason Saunders||-28||3||5||4||16||3||7||9||13||12||100||72|
|6||FRA||Pierre Leboucher||Vincent Garos||9||10||11||6||10||2||-19||11||4||11||93||74|
|7||POR||Álvaro Marinho||Miguel Nunes||12||2||16||5||11||7||17||3||10||-28||111||83|
|8||CRO||Sime Fantela||Igor Marenic||-28||13||9||10||8||5||15||1||2||22||113||85|
|9||AUT||Matthias Schmid||Florian Reichsteaedter||1||4||7||19||4||16||-24||10||14||14||113||89|
|10||SWE||Anton Dahlberg||Sebastian Östling||4||6||8||14||13||9||14||-24||22||13||127||103|
|11||ESP||Onan Barreiros||Aaron Sarmiento||7||8||12||-27||24||6||10||13||15||9||131||104|
|12||NED||Sven Coster||Kalle Coster||8||5||19||7||21||-24||9||22||6||8||129||105|
|13||GER||Ferdinand Gerz||Patrick Follmann||13||-17||13||16||9||10||11||14||9||10||122||105|
|14||USA||Stuart Mcnay||Graham Biehl||15||22||10||3||-23||23||6||18||7||4||131||108|
|15||ISR||Gideon Kliger||Eran Sela||17||11||17||11||2||14||5||12||-28||23||140||112|
|16||SUI||Yannick Brauchli||Romuald Hausser||11||16||18||22||14||12||12||7||-23||7||142||119|
|17||RUS||Mikhail Sheremetyev||Maxim Sheremetyev||21||18||14||13||5||20||4||-25||18||17||155||130|
|18||JPN||Ryunosuke Harada||Yuugo Yoshida||19||12||-25||12||7||11||21||17||17||15||156||131|
|19||GRE||Kampo Kampouridis||Efstathios Papadopoulos||14||7||20||15||18||-28||27||19||8||20||176||148|
|20||CHN||Weidong Wang||Daokun Deng||20||15||6||26||-27||17||22||26||12||16||187||160|
|21||FIN||Joonas Lindgren||Niklas Lindgren||22||19||22||17||12||15||-26||21||21||18||193||167|
|22||KOR||Gunwoo Park||SungMin CHO||23||14||15||24||20||-25||20||8||24||21||194||169|
|23||IRL||Ger Owens||Scott Flanigan||16||25||24||25||15||22||25||-27||16||5||200||173|
|24||TUR||Deniz Cinar||Ates Cinar||10||23||-26||18||22||21||23||16||19||26||204||178|
|25||CAN||Luke Ramsay||Michael Leigh||24||20||21||21||19||19||16||20||-26||19||205||179|
|26||RSA||Jim Asenathi||Roger Hudson||18||-27||27||20||26||26||13||15||25||24||221||194|
|27||CHI||Benjamin Grez||Diego Gonzalez||-25||21||23||23||25||18||18||23||20||25||221||196|