The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition
The Finn class starts racing today on the Pao de Acucar course. Perhaps the trickiest of the courses, US sailor Caleb Paine says the gold medal in this class will come down to the best overall sailor across all conditions. The Pao course is shifty and the current whips around in a semi-circle. “The inside courses are really challenging and you have to make sure your head is outside of the boat,” says Paine.
The forecast is for 8-10 knots from the SSE, and on the Pao course this can spell major shifts. The Finns will really need to keep their heads out of the boat, not only for the current and wind but also debris. The RS:X sailors were on this course yesterday, and a small number had issues: France’s Pierre Le Coq caught a plastic bag on his fin and had to jump his board out of the water to clear it, and Italy’s Flavia Tartaglini hit a log that required her to get in the water to clear.
The RS:X fleets will be on their second day, so Nick Dempsey will look to extend his commanding lead. Yesterday was a stellar day for Great Britain’s board sailer, with two bullets and one second place finish behind London 2012 gold medalist Dorian van Rijsselberghe.
France’s Charline Picon had the same scorecard as Dempsey and similarly will be looking to extend. On her heels is Russia’s Stefaniya Elfutina and Italy’s Flavia Tartaglini. Great Britain’s Bryony Shaw had a disappointing first day, but her past Olympic experience could help her focus and bounce back from a slow start. She currently sits in 10th in the women’s fleet.
In the Radials, today and the third day will be indicative if the Netherland’s Marit Bouwmeester can hold onto her lead through the rest of the week. If anyone can jump ahead, it could be Denmark’s young Anne-Marie Rindom or USA’s Paige Railey who are known for their endurance. China’s Lily Xu fell deep into the fleet as the result of an infringement protest yesterday, so she’ll have her work cut out for her if she wants to climb back to the top. Without the protest she was in the lead, so if she can keep up her strong performance and stay ahead of the fleet’s strongest, she could bounce back. There’s no room for error with that 38 on her scorecard.
The men’s Laser class is such a mix of results that the second set of races will be vital in sussing out who the leaders will be over the coming days of the regatta. Croatia’s Tonci Sipanovic and Argentina’s Julio Alsogaray both net six points and hold the lead, but the rest of the fleet isn’t far behind.
The Lasers and Radials will be sailing on the Ponte course, which has the most consistent breeze of the inside tracks. Day 2 will be an opportunity for the more physical athletes to showcase their endurance. Tactics will still play a major factor, but at Ponte the current and wind are even across the course.
Who To Watch
Great Britain’s Giles Scott has won the last three Finn world championships. On the heels of his countryman, Ben Ainsle’s, dominance, this will be Scott’s first Olympics, but he’s notoriously calm under pressure and with so much past success the novelty shouldn’t be a factor. The British have won the Finn class since Atlanta in 1996, so the real surprise here will be if Scott doesn’t take a lead and medal.
France’s Jonathan Lobert tends to perform better in breeze, so the inside courses could be a challenge for him. If he’s able to pull off some good results inside, when the Finns head to the outside course on Wednesday he could pull well ahead in the fleet. In reality, there are contenders deep into the Finn fleet, including USA’s Caleb Paine, New Zealand’s Josh Junior, Australia’s Jake Lilley, Denmark’s Jonas Hogh-Christensen and Croatia’s Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic.