Olympics Daily Debrief, Day 4 — Chutes and Ladders, but Mostly Ladders

The American Finn and female 470 squads are becoming experts at climbing up the fleet.

Team USA 470 Rio Olympics
The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition
Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha, USA, climbed up the fleet in Thursday's final race.Sailing Energy/World Sailing

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article reported that USA's Caleb Paine was DSQ in the race discussed below as the result of a protest. On Saturday, Day 6, the jury decision was overturned and Paine's second place finish was reinstated.

Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha certainly like keeping their fans on the edge of their seats. Off the starting line in tenth, they slowly made their way up the fleet, making an incredible climb on the final downwind leg from ninth to second place.

“We didn’t take a lot of risk, and we focused on one boat at a time,” says Provancha on the team’s tactics for finding passing opportunities. “Every little thing you do right helps you make up lots of ground.” In the last race of the day the wind kicked up and a number of boats capsized, but Haeger and Provancha’s conservative and steady progression in the fleet paid off, earning then a second place finish.

Team New Zealand Olympic Sailing Regatta
The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition
New Zealand's Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie said the second day of 470 racing on the Niteroi ocean course was survival sailing. A number of crews were washed off the wire and capsizes were common as the breeze increased during the last race.Sailing Energy/World Sailing

“There was a lot of chicken-jibing happening that last downwind leg,” says Provancha. “We did not do that, I’m proud to say. We were just working our hardest to stay upright and get to the finish line.”

Though their high-fleet finish is certainly a highlight on their scorecard, it’s the first race of the day where their true perseverance showed. In the pre-start, their halyard slipped out of the halyard lock. “We heard the pop about ten seconds before the start, and it wouldn’t click back in,” says Provancha. “It was so windy and we had to put so much Cunningham on that it kept slipping though the race.” Without two feet of their halyard, they still managed to round out the top ten and sail into 6th overall.

New Zealand's Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie, who currently lead the class, said the day was all about survival sailing. "It was about as much as we could handle in the 470," says Aleh. "We were getting totally airborne at points. The goal was to keep Polly on the wire and keep the mast in the air."

Caleb Pain Team USA
The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition
USA's Caleb Paine rounds a mark just behind Great Britain's Giles Scott. Pending a protest, Paine finished just behind Scott in the final race of the day on Thursday.Sailing Energy/World Sailing

Further outside on the ocean course, it became more evident that USA's Caleb Paine should consider adopting the nickname "comeback kid." In both his final race yesterday and today, Paine staged impressive recoveries in the Finn. Today he posted his best result so far, climbing from ninth to second in the final leg. "I kept looking for a good lane and something to tack into," says Paine. "The goal is to get the boat to foot and really let it loose." Like his teammates in the 470, the final leg was the most chaotic in the building breeze and swell, but Paine held on and crossed just behind Great Britain's Giles Scott. "I need to get my starts a little better from time to time," says Paine of his habit of starting behind and finishing ahead. "I definitely like making it hard on myself there's no doubt about that."

Paine's second place finish in the race is pending a protest against him, from Croatia's Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic.

Six of the ten classes competed today, and results are available at sailing.org.