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Olympic Daily Debrief, Day 1 —Thrilling Start to the Competition

Nick Dempsey dominates in the RS:X. The dinghies are too close to call.

August 9, 2016
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Olympic Sailing Regatta Laser Radial

The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition

China’s Lilly Xu leads Canada’s Brenda Bowskill around the top mark. Xu took back the reigns she held in London today, but with a DSQ in the second race sits deep in the fleet. Sailing Energy/World Sailing

China’s Lily Xu had a dramatic start in the Laser Radial class’ first day of racing. Her surprise return to the class just over a year ago and her lack of stellar results since created some skeptics, in addition to a recent shoulder injury that limited her training. While her sailing was strong, she fell to 23rd place in the standings after a DSQ in race 2. The incident involved a port-starboard crossing at the weather mark with American Paige Railey. While Xu did her penalty turns after rounding, the jury found that she failed to complete them soon enough after the infraction.

Railey nailed the remainder of the second race and finished in second. With her eyes on the prize and her signature unshakable confidence, she currently sits in seventh overall. “I’ve been waiting for this moment, I’m so happy for it to start,” she says. “It’s just eight more races before the final, so I’ll keep plugging away.”

Netherland’s Marit Bouwmeester currently sits in first overall, with Denmark’s young Annie-Marie Rindom right behind her. Rindom has been nipping at Bouwmeester’s heels since she burst onto the Radial scene just a few years ago. Ireland’s Annalise Murphy, who is currently third overall, won the second and last race. “I’ll be looking at any mistakes I made in the first race, and I certainly didn’t sail perfectly in the second race,” says Murphy. “I’m going to go home tonight and totally forget about today because every day and every race course is completely different, so we can’t think any day will be the same as the next.” Behind Murphy is another class favorite, Belgium’s Evi Van Acker.

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Great Britain’s Nick Dempsey had a banner opening day for the Games, with two firsts and a second in the Men’s RS:X. “Today was absolutely perfect,” he says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the Games.”

Nick Dempsey Great Britain Windsurfer

The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition

Nick Dempsey dominated the day’s three races to kick off the RS:X competition, with two bullets and a second behind London gold medalist Dorian van Rijsselberghe (NED). Sailing Energy/World Sailing

The windsurfers were put on the Pao racecourse, and with a slight wind shift in the middle of race one, the windward mark was solidly in the wind shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain. Netherland’s Dorian Van Rijsselberge used the mark rounding pile-up to his advantage in race three, passing Dempsey at the rounding and holding the lead through the final leg of the race. “”I saw the opportunity and went wide around the group,” says Van Rijsselberge. “It’s not being lucky, it’s about being smart and taking the opportunity when you see it.”

On the women’s side, Italy’s Flavia Tartaglini had two excellent races once she shook off the dust from the first. She won the second, but in the third race she hit a log, dropping her back in the fleet. “It was not enough to go backwards to clear it,” she says. “I was second or first and by the time I jumped in the water and got back up, I had a big loss. I caught back up and finished fifth. Hopefully I’ve run out my bad luck for this regatta.”

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Leading Tartaglini is Frances Charline Picon with a 1-2-1 and Russia’s Stefaniya Elfutina in second. “I had a lot of pressure and to begin like that? Well I couldn’t have imagined that yesterday because I was a little bit stressed,” says Picon. “I’m happy, but I need to stay focused.”

USA’s Marion Lepert performed well today, with a third place finish in the second race. Lepert is part of a deep fleet of talent and in her first day of her first Olympics performed well. She trains in San Francisco Bay, and the conditions here in Rio weren’t unlike her comfort zone. Tomorrow has a similar forecast and could be Lepert’s time to shine.

Though the Laser fleet saw some serious shakeups in its top performers, Croatia’s Tonci Stipanović stuck to the left in both races which paid off, giving him a first and a fifth for the day and seating him atop the standings.

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Brazil’s Robert Scheidt had a difficult first race, finishing 23rd, but redeemed himself for the hometown crowd with a win in the second. Great Britain’s Nick Thompson and Australia’s Tom Burton both posted a eight and a 17th in opposite races, which was a disappointing performance for two dominant sailors expected to blow the fleet out of the water on day one.

In the end, this is just the first day of six, so while the medals can’t be said for certain, the leaders have made their statements early.

The World Sailing full results page seems to be having some technical difficulty, but the Rio Olympics website has the full results posted: https://www.rio2016.com/en/sailing

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Flash Quotes from the day

“The Naval course was really shifty and we had quite a bit of current as well. It was a challenging day and it’s expected to be difficult all the way through the week.” — Alison Young, Radial, Great Britain, on the Escola Naval racecourse area.

“The competition today showed that age isn’t a negative factor. I am really well, physically, and really active. The temperature is going to be cold on Wednesday and will be really tiring, physically. I am ready for anything, bad wind or good wind.” —Robert Scheidt, Laser, Brazil, on his age (43) compared to the younger sailors in the fleet.

“Tomorrow will be a lot better for me for sure and a chance to prove myself. Today was pretty much ideal conditions for the RS:X. Tomorrow we’ll be on the Escola Naval and the forecast is similar. I hope it’ll go more my way.” — Pedro Pascual, RS:X M, USA, on a tough first Olympic race day.

“I think this was an advantage back when we just started sailing here because people hadn’t really known the place well. But the teams have been here for a long time and they’ve been studying the race areas with measuring equipment and with technological stuff, so I think we are leveled out.” — Patricia Fritas, RS:X W, Brazil, on her perceived advantage in her home waters.

“Everything pretty much. I was fast, I was really fast. I haven’t been that quick for a while. I know that in training I’ve been doing really well, so you’re always hopeful that you can transfer that to race day.” — Nick Dempsey, RS:X M, Great Britain, on his dominance on day 1.

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