Mixed bag at Rio Games
Published on August 8th, 2016
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (August 8, 2016) – Guanabara Bay delivered some great sailing conditions to launch the Olympic Sailing Competition today, but it was still very, very tricky out there. The sunny skies and 10 to 14 knot winds from the south-east were just what competitors wanted to begin their Olympic campaigns, and some of the favorites romped away to a dominant start although others faltered badly. While some clear leaders have already emerged in the two Windsurfer events, the results have been shared much more equally around the Men’s and Women’s Singlehander fleets.
Men’s Windsurfer – RS:X
Nick Dempsey (GBR) could scarcely believe the fairy tale start to his fifth Olympic Games. Just days away from his 36th birthday, the British veteran managed to pick up scores of 1,1,2. The defending Olympic Champion Dorian van Rijsselberghe couldn’t quite match that level of excellence, but his freshly shaved head wasn’t hurting the Dutchman too much either as he finished the day with ever-improving scores of 5,3,1. Asked why he had shaved his head, as he had done four years earlier at London 2012, he said, “The Olympics are a good excuse to shave my head. Otherwise my wife wouldn’t let me do it.”
Dempsey was rightly pleased with his day. “A perfect start. I was pretty nervous this morning, really nervous. Training has been going really well, sailing fast. I was just nervous about something not going right, but it went so well. In the last race, the breeze dropped a few bombs on the course. It caught a few people out, a few people did well out of it, and I managed to hold on to 2nd, which was probably the best bit of the day.”
The issue of debris in the water has been a big talking point in the build-up to these Games, but Dempsey said, “Today was the best it’s ever been. When you’re winning a race and going fast, the only thing you worry about is another factor, like hitting something in the water, breaking a fin. But it didn’t, the water was fine and it’s a good result for Rio.”
Vyron Kokkalanis also sailed very solidly to notch up scores of 2,2,6, and puts him in 3rd overall on equal points with Rijsselberghe.
Pedro Pascual, the U.S. Men’s RS:X representative, finished mid-fleet in his three races on Monday. “At first it felt a little bit overwhelming, just seeing all these people and all these cameras,” said the first-time Olympian and Florida Atlantic University student. “As the day went by, you just get used to it. It’s been a tough day for me, and it hasn’t gone my way. But it’s the first day of the Olympic Games, and tomorrow will be my day.”
Pascual said his comfort level with the Games atmosphere would only increase as the event went on. “I was just trying to focus on my technique and tactics, and trying to leave everything [else] on the side, all the cameras, and everything that goes into Olympic racing. I was just trying to do my best.”
Results, RS:X Men – Top 5 (3 races; 1 discard)
Nick Dempsey (GBR) 2 points
Dorian Van Rijsselberge (NED) 4
Vyron Kokkalanis (GRE) 4
Cheng Chun Leung (HKG) 9
Piotr Myszka (POL) 9
Women’s Windsurfer – RS:X
Charline Picon (FRA) had a stunning start to her week, scoring 1,2,1 from the opening three races. Next best was Stefaniya Elfutina (RUS) who lies in second place ahead of Flavia Tartaglini (ITA). The defending Olympic Champion Marina Alabau (ESP) had a solid day to sit in 5th overall but one of the other pre-event favorites, Bryony Shaw (GBR) struggled and sits in tenth at the moment.
Picon was breathing a sigh of relief after racing. “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. I’m happy but I need to stay focused.”
Local sailor Patricia Freitas (BRA) reveled in the stronger breezes to lie in sixth overall. “We had a very good day, sunshine and strong winds, unexpected for this time of year. The Brazilian spirit is everywhere; it’s very special for us to have people watching us racing because that doesn’t happen very often in sailing. Thanks to the Bay we can set up a good place for the people to watch, and when we were rounding the mark near the beach I could recognize a few friends. It was a great spirit and great to be part of.”
Marion Lepert (USA) recorded a strong first day, with scores of 10,3,10. Lepert was in 2nd overall midway through her third race, but slipped to 10th at the finish. Nevertheless, scoring all top-ten finishes was an impressive debut for the current Stanford University mechanical engineering student.
“It was really fun, and I was happy to be able to start racing, which is what the Olympics is all about,” said Lepert. “We had awesome breeze, great conditions, and it was a perfect way to start off the regatta. We were racing on [the] ‘Pao’ [course] today, the medal race course, and so had lots of shifty winds because of the giant mountain in the middle of the racecourse.”
Lepert has repeatedly proven to be among the world’s fastest in strong breeze, and today was no exception. “The biggest strategy today was staying in the wind,” recalled the 2015 Pan American Games bronze medalist. “There were some really sharp wind lines [visible]. I solidly stayed in the top ten, and I’m happy. Consistency is my goal.”
Results, RS:X Women – Top 5 (3 races; 1 discard)
Charline Picon (FRA) 2 points
Stefania Elfutina (RUS) 5
Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) 6
Lilian De Geus (NED) 7
Marina Alabau Neira (ESP) 9
Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) won the first race in the Men’s Singlehander fleet and with a fifth in the second race, the Croatian lies in first overall. Sitting on equal points but in second place is Julio Alsogaray (ARG) with scores of 4,2. “There were plenty of places to fall down the rankings today,” said Stipanovic, “so I am very happy with the day I’ve just had. Speed was good and conditions were difficult but what we expected for Rio.”
Sergei Komissarov (RUS) sailed a good first day to lie in third overall, while a number of the favourites made harder work of the conditions. Robert Scheidt (BRA) made a bad start to his campaign to win a record sixth Olympic medal in sailing, finishing 23rd in the opening race. But the Brazilian bounced back to take a clear lead and the winner’s gun in race 2.
Scheidt enjoyed the difficulty of the day. “They were good, technical races because there was a rounding mark set very close to the coast and that influenced the wind, and it was changing the second part of the race course a lot. But this is part of the game. I already knew conditions in the Bay were going to be very variable.
“In the second race I managed to do the start better and go with the main contenders, play the game step by step,” said the 43-year-old. “I had a bit of an advantage at the first mark, and from there I managed to dominate the race. I’m pleased how I came back from the first race. There are still a lot of races ahead and a lot of points to fight for, and in the second race I showed that my age is not going to be a problem for me.”
Tom Burton (AUS) and reigning World Champion Nick Thompson (GBR) lie in 10th and 11th respectively with equal points, while the London 2012 silver medallist Pavlos Kontides (CYP) is back in 19th.
Charlie Buckingham (USA) rose as high as 10th during his opening race, but eventually finished 21st before bouncing back with a 7th in the second race. “I’m definitely sailing well, and I’m fast,” said the two-time U.S. College Sailing of the Year, who is coached by two-time Olympic Champion and three-time medalist Mark Reynolds (San Diego, CA). “I just have to go back out and do it again tomorrow. I survived the day and am feeling good.”
Results, Laser Men – Top 5 (2 races)
Tonci Stipanović (CRO) 6 points
Julio Alsogaray (ARG) 6
Sergey Komissarov (RUS) 11
Cy Thompson (ISV) 17
Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) 21
Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial
The gold (Lijia Xu, CHN) and silver (Marit Bouwmeester, NED) medalists from London 2012 were in first and second overall respectively after two races in the Laser Radial. However, Paige Railey (USA) had a protest against the Chinese sailor for an incident between the herself and Xu, Xu was disqualified and was pushed down the fleet into 23rd.
It could have been a stellar day for Gintare Scheidt (LTU). She finished in second place in the first race and won the next race. However, the Lithuanian sailor later discovered that she had fallen foul of a U Flag disqualification in race 1 for crossing the start line too soon. The Olympic silver medalist from 2008 commented, “I was very happy after the first race, because I didn’t know until later that I was over the line. I sailed the second race really well, but I still have a really bad feeling about the day. My goal was to get two top tens, and even finishing first in the second race doesn’t satisfy me. Now we have to be more safe, because there’s only one discard which in this venue is really difficult.”
Other hotly fancied sailors also struggled to be consistent, including Annalise Murphy (IRL) who charged through the fleet to win the first race but could only manage 14th in the next. Even so, the fourth-placed finisher from London 2012 currently lies in fourth overall just a single point behind Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN). “There was a lot to think about out there,” said Murphy. “Strong tide, big pressure differences up and down the race course. I was happy enough with the second race. It’s going to be swings and roundabouts here, people are going to have good and bad races.”
Two-time Olympian Paige Railey (USA) recorded a strong average across her two races, finishing with a 15,2. “The first race was just ok, I lost boats on the final leg going to the finish,” said Railey. “On the next race I came back to get a second. The average of the day is good, and it’s what I wanted to do.”
Railey said that after three years of practicing out of the U.S. Sailing Team’s Rio training base, including participating in two full-scale Olympic Test Events, she felt confident in her ability to interpret the Rio 2016 race courses. “I think I read the wind pretty well today, and if I can keep doing that I know it will pay off throughout the event,” said Railey. “I’ve been waiting for this moment, and I’m very happy for the Olympics to start. There are just eight more races before the final, and I have to just keep plugging away.”
Results, Radial Women – Top 5 (2 races)
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) 10 points
Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) 13
Annalise Murphy (IRL) 14
Evi Van Acker (BEL) 14
Ashley Stoddard (AUS) 14
Tomorrow the Finn class will start racing, with two races scheduled. The RS:X Women and RS:X Men have three races scheduled, and both Laser classes have two races scheduled.
Source: World Sailing and US Sailing