Tokyo 2020: Big wind and waves
Published on July 28th, 2021
Enoshima, Japan (July 28, 2021) – Enoshima is famous, notorious even, for its big wave action, and that’s what the sailors got on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition. Alongside the big waves across Sagami Bay, the sailors thrived in 14-17 knots of consistent south westerly breeze that gave them a stern test.
Eight out of ten fleets were racing today, with only the Laser and Laser Radial having a rest day. Some sailors put down some big markers with dominant performances in the 470 Women and Nacra 17.
In the Men’s and Women’s Skiff events, both halves of an engaged couple are sharing the limelight in their respective boats, Dylan Fletcher (GBR) taking the lead in the 49er and his fiancée Charlotte Dobson (GBR) maintaining top spot in the 49erFX.
All US Sailing Team athletes competing across nine classes have now logged at least two races in their event. Americans finished the day in the top 10 overall in four events as large swells and varied winds from 5-15 knots returned to Enoshima.
Men’s Windsurfer – RS:X
Kiran Badloe shot back into the lead, looking very comfortable in the stronger breeze. Scores of 2,4,1 put the Dutchman eight points ahead of second placed Mattia Camboni, the Italian who had held the lead before today’s racing. France’s Thomas Goyard is in third place, five points adrift of Camboni.
The biggest mover of the day was Kun Bi, the tall Chinese sailor reveling in the big wind, big wave conditions with results of 1,3,2. Another windy day like that and China could be challenging for the podium.
Badloe is keeping in touch online with his friend Dorian van Rijsselberghe, the double Olympic Champion whom he beat to Dutch selection. “We have a little chat every now and again, so that’s good. He’s given me a couple of pointers. Stay calm. Do your thing. And he just reassures me that if I just do what I do, the end will be alright.”
American RS:X board sailor Pedro Pascual (Miami, Fla.) retained his position in the standings with scores of 7, 5, (14), and sits in 9th overall. Pascual reported that maintaining solid upwind speed in the big waves was key to competing with the leaders, along with pumping technique. “With heavier winds and especially with the waves, you’re pumping with the legs the whole time, unlike in the light air,’ said Pascual.
“You’re trying to absorb the shock of every wave, and trying to take pressure off the fin so that you don’t spin out or stop accelerating. My goal for tomorrow is just to focus on the starts. I just need to be able to have a clear lane after the start and build the speed that I’m capable of.”
Women’s Windsurfer – RS:X
Emma Wilson (GBR) won the first two races of the day to move into the lead of the RS:X Women’s fleet. Although a U-flag disqualification for breaking the line too soon in the final race was not the ideal end to the outing, the British windsurfer was very upbeat about her performance.
Winning the last race of the session put Yunxiu Lu just one point off the lead, the Chinese sailor looking very strong in the wind and the waves.
Although the defending Olympic Champion Charline Picon didn’t win any races, the Frenchwoman remains very consistent and only three points off the lead. The top three have formed a breakaway on the rest of the fleet, and it’s 14 points further back to Italy’s Marta Maggetti. The chasing sailors need a really good day tomorrow to threaten Great Britain, China and France for the medals.
“It was a very hard battle with Emma [Wilson] and Yunxiu [Lu], they both had very good races,” commented Picon, “but they also had one bad one, so the situation between us is very interesting. They had a better day than me but I still had a good one so we are in a good battle.”
American RS:X board sailor and two-time Olympian Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.) went 16, 15, 8 in her three races, and is in 15th overall. Nikola Girke (CAN) is in 24th place after finishes of 23, 23, 22.
Men’s Heavyweight One Person Dinghy – Finn
Points are tight after four Finn races, but Alican Kaynar (TUR) is doing just enough to stay in the lead after his spectacular opening day. Now, though, the Turk is on equal points with the Hungarian, Zsombor Berecz, in second place.
Just a point off the joint-leaders is 23-year-old Joan Cardona, the Spaniard continuing to prove that he can hold his own against the seniors on the biggest stage.
The day belonged to defending Olympic Champion Giles Scott, however, with the Briton winning both races and reveling in the big waves. After a slow start to the regatta, Scott’s double-bullet day puts him just three points off the lead. He’s known for being able to work the waves perhaps better than anyone.
Scott commented, “[Wind] pressure was super strategic today and there were really nice waves to surf. So you find a bit of pressure and get it, get a few good waves, you can extend away. But in this heat, there’s a little bit of energy maintenance needed too, to make sure you have something in the tank for upwind.”
Scott was relieved to have overcome a difficult first day. “It was a shaky start, but I’ve got a bit of a history of shaky starts so let’s hope I continue more like today.”
In the Finn, American Luke Muller (Ft. Pierce, Fla.) finished 12, 15 in two races and fell to 12th overall. Tom Ramshaw (CAN) had is in 14th place after finishes of 11, (14) today.
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Reigning World Champions Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom won the opening race of the Men’s 470 competition in 16 knots of wind and big waves.
However, the Swedes got in a mess on the first leg of race two, forced to take penalty turns and pushed back in the fleet, leaving them with a 15th place at the finish. More consistent were the Olympic silver medalists from Rio 2016, Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) who hold a one point lead after two races, just in front of this year’s European Champions, Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Willcox (NZL).
The next five boats are all on 11 points, three points off second, and they are Spain, Great Britain, Japan, France and Greece. Jordi Xammar and Nico Rodriguez (ESP) had a slow start to their regatta with a tenth place but made amends with a commanding race win in the second race.
Xammar was unworried by the poor first race. “Winning the second race, I think we showed ourselves that we can come back from bad situations. Perhaps we were a bit hasty with our first decisions, but this is something normal for a big event like the Games.
“I have discussed this with my psychologist. We did not worry. It is normal, because the first day is always more complicated. The goal was to get through the first day safely. We are ready and we have a brutal desire to perform well.”
Four-time US Olympian Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and two-time Team USA athlete Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.) finished 8, 12 on their first day of racing, which places them in 11th overall. Jacob Saunders and Oliver Bone (CAN) are in 16th overall after finishes of 12, 17.
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
It’s not like Agnieszka Skrzypulec and Jolanta Ogar are unknown in the 470 fleet, but the Polish team were not expected to win both races on day one of the 470 Women’s competition. Poland hit the afterburners to run away with the overall lead ahead of a couple of the favorites.
Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz (FRA) sit three points behind the leaders, and two points further back are Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR). Even at her third Games, Mills confessed to having butterflies in her stomach. “I think I was really nervous today. The first day is always the worst. Just waiting and waiting and waiting and you just want to start the sailing.
There was just an anticipation to get going,” said the defending Olympic Champion, who enjoyed the racing. “We were expecting more wind than we got, but the waves are still pretty big. For a first day, it was just phenomenal conditions. It’s what we remember about sailing in Japan, and it’s amazing.”
In the Women’s 470, American team Nikole Barnes (St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.) and Lara Dallman-Weiss (Shoreview, Minn.) made their Olympic debuts with a 14, 7 scoreline and are in 10th overall. “We’ve gotten the first two races under our belt, and we’re just excited for the rest of the regatta,” said Barnes, who won bronze in the I420 at the Youth Worlds in 2011.
“There’s always something to improve on, and it’s easy to make mistakes. So with that, you’re just finding ways to make the boat faster and push harder.” Barnes said that her first day of Olympic competition elicited a wide range of emotions, and that part of the day’s challenge was managing the culmination of years of hard work.
“I was a bit nervous going into the first race, and tried to fool my coach into thinking I wasn’t,” said Barnes. “We just kept it light on the coach boat though. We just tried to have fun with it and performed better in the second race. We’re happy when we sail happy, and when you’re on a sweet wave it’s awesome to remember that ‘this is my job, and it’s awesome.’”
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell improved throughout the day, winning the last race and moving into the overall lead of the Men’s Skiff – 49er fleet. It was the Spanish who had the best day in the gnarly waves, with scores of 1,2,5 putting Diego Botin and Iago Marra (ESP) just a point behind the British.
In third place are the Australian brothers, Will and Sam Phillips, who are known for coming on strong in the strong breeze. On the same points in fourth place are Bart Lambriex and Pim Van Vugt (NED), with two 49er Olympic Champions in fifth and sixth overall. The 2016 gold medalists Pete Burling and Blair Tuke are fifth, a point ahead of 2008 gold medalist Jonas Warrer and his crew, 20 years his junior, Jakob Precht Jensen.
Stu Bithell was impressed by the steadiness of his helmsman in the big conditions, “Dylan was very good actually, not as twitchy as he can be! Nice smooth gybes, and really good in the last race. We grabbed the bull by the horns, won the starboard end and managed to dominate the race from there.”
Canadian team, William Jones and Evan Depaul, had finishes of (20) UFD, 16 and are in last place today.
Women’s Skiff – 49erFX
Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey (GBR) may not have won a race in the big waves today, but 4,2,5 scores keeps the British in the lead by five points from the Dutch, who had the best results from the outing.
Double World Champions Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz (NED) notched up two races wins and a sixth, looking very comfortable in the difficult conditions. Two points behind them are the reigning World Champions from Spain, Tamara Echegoyen and Paula Barcelo.
Bekkering admitted sailing the skiff in those waves is constant stress, “You can’t push the boat to 100%, otherwise you capsize, so it’s quite stressful concentrating so hard, but the stress is enjoyable too. It’s part of what makes sailing these boats so fun.”
American team Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) entered the day in 2nd overall and fell to 8th after a scoreline of 7, 10, (16). “Today had some gnarly conditions, big waves, big breeze, but was really fun,” said Roble, a two-time collegiate All-American.
“We’ve been training a lot in these conditions and we’ve improved a lot as a team. We’re proud of that, and we put up two keeper scores, but had a bit of a digger in the third race. We had an unfortunate capsize coming into the finish line, but was a fun day overall. We’re looking forward to ‘resetting’ on our day off and coming back recharged.”
While the capsize was a setback, Shea noted that being prepared to overcome with such events is an essential part of campaigning for the Olympics. “When in doubt, we fall back on the routines that we’ve developed, and we’re really disciplined about that,” said Shea, a two-time U.S. Match Racing Champion.
“After today, I’d rather go home and curl up with [a movie], but we’re going to go back and check the mast because that’s part of the process. And these routines help us in moments where we get nervous, when there are helicopters, when there’s a lot going on, and when it’s chaotic. We take a step back to help bring us back to the moment.”
Canadian team of Alexandra Ten Hove and Mariah Millen had finishes of 16, 14, 15 in their three races today, and are in 17th.
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17
Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti made a big statement on the opening day of the Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17 racing, winning two races and coming third in the other. The Italians have always been fast downwind, especially in big waves that can bite without warning.
If it was not for misjudging their approach to the finish line of the third race and letting two boats slip past, Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza (ARG) would be sitting in second place overall, but the defending Olympic Champions are in fifth.
Instead, it’s the young German team of Paul Kohlhoff and Alica Stuhlemmer who hold second spot, on equal points with Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin of Australia. Places second to sixth are separated by a single point, so this competition looks set to be very open and competitive all the way to the Medal Race.
Lange was buzzing from a high-adrenalin day on the water, and he was still buzzing from sharing flag bearing duties with Carranza at the Opening Ceremony. He commented, “Fascinating, indescribable. I think the picture of the Opening Ceremony, sharing the moment with Ceci, it’s the best picture of my career.”
As for the opening day of racing, “It was a lot of pressure. Three laps for us – it’s not our sweet game, but we managed to perform well. We’ve got the speed, so we’ll see what we can do this week.”
American Nacra 17 sailors Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, FL) experienced their first Olympic races today. Gibbs and Weis consistently battled in the front half of the foiling multihull fleet on their way to a 9, 7, 12 scoreline and a 9th overall ranking.
The 49erFX are the only fleet who will enjoy a rest day tomorrow with the 49er scheduled for two races to catch up on those lost during yesterday’s action. Racing will start at 12:00 JST and every fleet will start to enter the business end of the competition with races now coming thick and fast.
Race schedule is staggered for the ten sailing events from July 25 to August 4.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Program
Men’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 7
Women’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 6
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy – Finn
Men’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Women’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17
Original dates: July 24 to August 9, 2020
Revised dates: July 23 to August 8, 2021
Source: World Sailing, US Sailing