Morning Toast, 2012 Olympics, Day 9

Two more medal races on tap. If you thought the Star medal race was exciting, wait until you see the set up for the Radial race.

What’s On Tap For Today

Laser Radial: Medal race at 1300 on the Nothe Course

Laser: Medal Race at 1400 on the Nothe Course

49er: Races 14 and 15 on the Nothe Course, starting no earlier than 1500

470 Men: Races 7 and 8 on the Weymouth Bay West Course, starting at noon

Women’s Match Racing: One match will be sailed, Denmark vs. Spain, to complete the Round Robin.

RS:X classes and the Women’s 470 have the day off

The Finn and Star regattas are completed

Weather: A beautiful day on tap, with building breeze from the SW. It's currently coming from 250 degrees at about 12 knots. It's expected to build to the mid-teens and back to 230 before returning to 250 late in the day. Warm tempertures, for Weymouth, and mostly sunny skies. Break out the sunscreen.

What to Watch For Today:

Maybe it's happened before, but I haven't heard of it. But today in the Laser Radial medal race is a true winner take all event. The four top sailors are so far clear of the rest of the fleet that none of them can finish worse than fourth. And since they're only separated by one point, each of them has an equal shot at gold. Three sailors will come back to shore with a medal, one with a monumental heartbreak. There is no complicated match involved here. Beat the other three across the line and you win gold. The interesting dynamic may occur if one or two of the sailors jump out to an early lead—though as we saw yesterday, nothing is safe in these conditions on the Nothe course—and then the remaining two or three are left to fight for the silver and/or bronze medals. I could envision a situation where the third-place boat, among the four contenders, looks at her chances of moving up, decides that its better to ensure bronze than take a chance at silver, and match races the fourth boat out of the race. Annalise Moore of Ireland jumped out to a strong lead in this class with amazing speed in the windier conditions. Will she be at a disadvantage against lighter, and more experienced, sailors in the medal race? Many people think so, but this is the medal race and anything can, and will, happen.

I put my money on one of the two favorites, Marit Bouvmeester of the Netherlands and Evi Van Acker of Belgium to take control of this race. Moore was a dark horse for a medal in these games. If she gets ahead of any of the other three, she might decide that bronze is good enough and start covering the trailing sailor. If it’s very light, Xu Lijia of China should not be discounted, she won the bronze in the Qingdao Olympics, which were very light and shifty.

In the Laser the situation is very much the opposite. Tom Slingsby of Australia and Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus have secured either gold or silver. Slingsby has a 14-point lead going into the medal race, which means Kontides would need to put seven boats between himself and the Australia, first and eighth, second and ninth, third and 10th. That's a big ask, but with nothing to lose, Kontides might as well try to force Slingsby into a bad start. Slingsby, on the other hand, simply has to hamper Kontides enough that he can't get third or better.

I expect these two to mix it up in the pre-start. Slingsby has the advantage since he can sacrifice a good start to hold up Kontides.

The race for bronze should be a straight up match race between Rasmus Mygren of Sweden and Tonci Stipanovic of Croatia. They’re separated by just one point, and fifth is 18 points behind Stipanovic. Provided they both finish, the bronze will go to who beats who across the line. In 2008 Mygren went into the medal race in Qingdao in silver, but was match raced off the course by Paul Goodison of Great Britain since he was the only threat for gold. Mygren ended up in fifth. We’ll see if he’s sharpened his match race skills in the four years since. This battle could also work in Slingsby’s favor. If these two find themselves well behind the fleet, then Slingsby would need to only beat one other boat ensure himself of gold.

The 49ers will hold their final two fleet races on the Nothe after the medal races finish. Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen of Australia hold a 20-point lead on second. If they can maintain that, they'll simply need to finish Wednesday's medal race to ensure gold. Meanwhile Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of New Zealand are 26 points ahead of third. Burling and Tuke could use the two races today to try to narrow that gap. But since Outteridge and Jensen are currently throwing out a 10th, and have won the last two races, it will be difficult to do much.

The battle for third is very tight. Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes of Great Britain are third, with 90 points, but four teams are within six points of that position. With that many team so close, today will simply be about sailing as well as possible. There’s no way to cover, or even track, that many boats in one race, especially in the 49er.

The Men's 470, the top two teams, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page of Australia and Luke Patience and Stu Bithell of Great Britain are starting to stretch away. Behind them, it's very competitive, with third through 10th separated by only 14 points. As the breeze gets lighter, this class gets more competitive and the scores get more inconsistent. The top teams have a buffer, and neither has sailed a throwout yet. This should give them the confidence to sail conservatively, avoid the big finishes, and extend their lead.

Finally the Women's Match Racing will finish off the Round Robin today with a single race, Spain vs. Denmark. It's actually quite an important race. With a win Denmark will move into a three-way tie, with New Zealand and the Netherlands, for the final spot in the quarterfinals. I'm not sure how the tie will be broken since among that trio, each has beaten on and lost to one. A win by Spain will move them into a three-way tie for second with Russia and the United States. This tie is easier since, among that trio, Russia is 2-0, Spain 1-1, and the United States, 0-2. This would put the U.S. into fourth, which might not be a bad thing since third place goes against France, one of the best match racing teams in the world and one best avoided in the opening round. Fourth place will take on Finland, the 2012 World Champs, but a less regarded team than France.