Olympics Daily Debrief, Day 6 — A Day of Firsts

Laser sailor Tonci Stipanovic secures Croatia’s first-ever sailing medal. Plus, USA gets their first race-win of the regatta.

Tonci Stipanovic Croatia

The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition

Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic's 20-point lead over third place Sam Meech guarantees him a gold or silver medal after Monday's medal race. His hardware is the first sailing Olympic medal won by Croatia.Sailing Energy/World Sailing

It hasn't quite hit Toni Stipanovic yet that on Monday he'll be standing on a podium with a medal around his neck. In the media zone, he rubs his chin pensively as the enormity of his accomplishment is laid in front of him by questioning reporters.

“It was a long journey from the first day,” he says. “I know that I sailed a really good regatta from the beginning and, whew, it’s really good. It’s huge to win this for Croatia. I don’t think I yet understand what I did, but it will come.”

Australia's Tom Burton, who is guaranteed bronze himself, is the only sailor within striking distance of taking gold from Stipanovic, but the Croatian is guaranteed silver with his point margin (48) ahead of third place Sam Meech from New Zealand.

“The eight points I gave away the other day really came back to get me,” says Burton. “It’s great to lock a medal away, but I’m sure Tonci will have a plan to lock gold away. I haven’t made the plan yet, it’s still sinking in right now what we’ve done.”

Burton is guaranteed at least a bronze, but there's a spot open on the podium for a handful of others, including Brazil's Robert Scheidt who is going for a record sixth Olympic medal. The Lasers will contest their medal race on Monday on the Pao de Acucar course.

Marit Bouwmeester Laser Radial Sailing

The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition

London Silver medalist Marit Bouwmeester, from the Netherlands, is well in the lead of the Radial class, setting her up for a podium finish to the regatta on Monday. Early in the week she was ten points behind the leader, and now holds an eight-point margin over Denmark's Anne-Marie Rindom. "Everything is still in my own hands," she says of her positions. "It's hard to have a steady series, and my execution improved through the week."Sailing Energy/World Sailing

In the Laser Radial, there are no factual guarantees, but for Netherland's Marit Bouwmeester to lose a podium place would be one of the most major surprises in the history of Olympic sailing. She's 19 points ahead of Belgium's Evi Van Acker, who currently sits in fourth after a serious comeback day today. Van Acker contracted a gastrointestinal illness in July that the Belgian Olympic Committee says she has yet to fully recover from, pointing to the water in Guanabara Bay as a probable culprit. As a result, Van Acker was unable to physically exert herself over extended periods of time. Yesterday, the Radials had a day off from racing and it appears that it did the trick for the London bronze medalist who posted 2-1-5 on her scorecard today.

Denmark's Anne-Marie Rindom lost a hold of her fleet dominance today to Bouwmeester, after a bad start in the first race and a bad call on the second beat to separate from the pack landed her in 22nd. "I made a mistake, and that's it," she says. "I haven't made many mistakes this week and sometimes you just have to make one, apparently, and that was my race." In the second, she also had a bad start, but due to a plastic bag snagging on her centerboard. But, on the second downwind leg, she found her speed, and by the last beat she was "sailing her ass off and hoping for the best." She found it, and goes into the medal race in second overall.

Paris Henken and Helena Scutt Team USA Olympics

The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition

Paris Henken and Helena Scutt, USA, recorded their first Olympic race win today, in the 49er FX. The win was also the first race win for the USA in the regatta.Sailing Energy/World Sailing

If there were a 'race of the day' award in the Olympics, it would go to USA's 49erFX team, Paris Henken and Helena Scutt today. Starting off with a 14th in the day's first contest, they made great use of their time on the live-streaming second race to dial in their speed and fly around the course, taking the lead early and holding on. They fended off Brazils' Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze in the final run to cross the line 16 seconds ahead of the hometown sailors.

That race was nearly a disaster, though. At the start of what would have been race five, Henken and Scutt were on the line when the British team came down on them and hit the American boat. Capsized on the line, Henken and Scutt scrambled to right their boat. In a stroke of luck, there was a general recall, and the Americans were given reprieve. They set back up for the new start, and from there it was all over for the rest of the fleet.

“We had a really good start, got a punch off the line, and it was pretty easy after that,” says Henken. “From there it was standard covering skills, making sure we didn’t make moves too early to give [Brazil] a chance to get between us and the next mark or the finish.”

Henken called the day her picture-perfect sailing day. “We had some waves, so we were pumping the kite downwind and really moving our bodies, playing with it,” she says. “Upwind, we could see the puffs coming and could trim the sheet in and out and float our bow higher and higher. It was really a great day to get in tune with the boat. It was fast and fun.”

The duo currently sits in ninth overall after six races. They’ve got a reserve day on the books for tomorrow before their last two days of racing.

For full results from the day and remaining fleets, visit sailing.org