Tokyo 2020: Joy and anguish
Published on July 29th, 2021
Enoshima, Japan (July 29, 2021) – There were tears of joy and anguish on the boat park on the fifth day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition. Some sailors scored double wins in their races, while for others today was the moment when their hopes of a medal in Tokyo flickered away.
Ahead of the Men’s RS:X Medal Race on Saturday, July 31, Kiran Badloe (NED) put one hand on the Men’s Windsurfer – RS:X gold medal. Badloe has a significant advantage in the men’s fleet and in the women’s, the Chinese, British and French sailors are certain of a medal each.
The highlights of the day for the US Sailing Team came in the Men’s RS:X and Men’s Laser classes, where years of effort and steady improvement paid off for two athletes competing in their second consecutive Olympic regatta. In a day five that was a close copy of day four from a weather perspective, Enoshima delivered wind, waves and close racing among the world’s best dinghy, board and multihull sailors.
Men’s Windsurfer – RS:X
Kiran Badloe (NED) has a lead of 19 points ahead of the Medal Race and just has to finish the Medal Race, avoiding disqualification, to secure gold.
With a fifth in the first race of the day, the Dutchman bulleted the next races, and as he crossed the line he started to celebrate with his coach Aaron McIntosh, winner of a windsurfing bronze medal for New Zealand back in Sydney 2000.
“This is this the highlight of my career so far,” said the man with the blue arrow shaved into his hair. “I’ve won the last three world championships, but there is always something special about that Olympics. We had a tough selection criteria, battling with Dorian [van Rijsselberghe, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Champion]. This is the cherry on the cake, it’s very special.”
American RS:X board sailor Pedro Pascual (Miami, Fla.) entered day five of the event with a chance to cement his substantial improvement from Rio 2016 by earning a medal race berth. A 7th place in the final full-fleet race clinched the significant career milestone for the Miami native.
“In the final race, I just knew that I had to keep my confidence up, and not worry about the medal race too much,” said Pascual, who finished 28th in his Olympic debut five years ago. “The first two races didn’t go my way, and I figured it couldn’t be three in a row.”
Pascual earned six single-digit scores across 12 races after never fished higher than 20th in Rio. “It’s been a hard five years,” said Pascual. “I made a commitment to improving after Rio, and I’m proud and excited to represent Team USA in the medal race.” The RS:X medal race will feature 10 competitors, and will count for double points. Pascual enters the medal race in 9th overall, and a chance to move up as high as 8th.
The Medal Race for bronze and silver is going to be intense. A race win and a good all-round day for Thomas Goyard puts the Frenchman in second overall, but only two points ahead of Mattia Camboni of Italy, with Poland’s Piotr Myszka also in close contention.
Women’s Windsurfer – RS:X
The top three athletes in the RS:X Women have broken away from the rest of the pack sufficiently to know that they’ve won a medal. Now it’s a question of which colour. China’s Yunxiu Lu started the regatta stutteringly but has got better and better. Today’s scores of 2,3,2 have put China in the lead with a four-point margin over Great Britain’s Emma Wilson. Just two points behind her is Charline Picon from France.
With China holding a minor points advantage, Picon might have been tempted to focus on the battle with Britain for silver. Not a chance of it. “Six points to the lead? No, I’m going for the gold,” said the reigning Olympic Champion.
American Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.) concluded her event with a 16, 16, 16 in the 27-board Women’s RS:X fleet, ending the regatta in 15th overall. As full-fleet racing has ended, and Hall is not in the top-10 overall, she will not progress to the medal race. Tokyo 2020 is the second Olympics for Hall, who finished 20th at London 2012. Hall raced in heavy winds and big waves for much of the week, conditions she noted she has struggled with in the past, but showed significant improvement off Enoshima.
“As far as competition goes, this is one of the best regattas that I’ve ever had,” said Hall. “My speed was awesome. I was smoking around the course and I had some good fights. What I’m really happy with is that I gave 100 percent, did everything that I could, and I sailed well. I didn’t make any major mistakes and I finished with a really good regatta for me.
“In London, I was a little bit less prepared just because I was more of a rookie and I wasn’t extremely happy with my regatta. But at Tokyo 2020 I can say that I’m very happy with this regatta. I have a huge appreciation for the RS:X class, where you have to be a real athlete to sail it.”
Canadian sailor, Nikola Girke, is in 23rd overall in the Women’s RS:X class.
Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
Matt Wearn (AUS) keeps on getting better and better throughout this Olympic Games. With opening scores on day one of 17,28, it looked like the Australian was not going to live up to his billing as one of the favorites for gold. But since the wind turned to the south and got stronger, so the waves got bigger, and the change of conditions have played to Wearn’s strengths, winning both of today’s races.
“Coming back from the first day was tough mentally more than anything,” said Wearn. “You expect to have a great start to the regatta. And obviously that didn’t happen. So it was sort of back to the drawing board. And it was a little bit more frustrating that one of those results was because of a breakage as well. Obviously, that’s the last thing you want happening in the Olympics. But it’s been a couple of good days now, still another three races to go though.”
Pavlos Kontides (CYP) went into the day with an eight-point lead. He might still have been leading but for a ‘second yellow flag’, the dreaded penalty flag used by the on-water umpires who watch out for any infringements of Racing Rule 42, kinetics. The Cypriot was very unhappy with the decision against him. “I don’t want to discuss it or how I feel. I will just try to forget about everything and just focus on tomorrow.”
American Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) had one of the best performances by an American sailor in the men’s singlehanded class in recent memory, with his 3, 2 scoreline on the day trailing only that of regatta leader Matt Wearn (AUS), who notched a 1,1. “The two races were pretty similar,” said Buckingham, a two-time College Sailor of the Year. “The key was to get off the line and hike as hard as you can. It was a speed race, and I had pretty good speed today, so that served me well.”
Buckingham now stands in 8th overall, and the top-10 field in the Laser features a notably tight points spread heading into the final day of full-fleet racing tomorrow. “The goal for tomorrow is to have another day like today. The beginning of the regatta was a bit up and down. I knew I had to put in a good day today, and that’s the plan tomorrow as well.”
With two races to sail tomorrow before the Medal Race, Wearn holds a 15 point advantage over Kontides, who’s now only five points in front of third-placed Hermann Tomasgaard of Norway. Waiting to pounce on any mistake in fourth place overall is 48-year-old Robert Scheidt, the five-time medalist from Brazil.
Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial
Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) was more excited at the performance of her good friend Annalise Murphy (IRL) who rediscovered her mojo in today’s full-hiking, wavy conditions. In Rio, Rindom took Olympic bronze behind the Irish sailor’s silver and today they each came off the water with a first and a second place, Murphy taking the first race and Rindom the next.
“I’m so happy for her because we have been training together now for the last eight years,” grinned Rindom. “And I remember in Rio, we were jumping in the water together finishing second and third. She just needs those days like today. She’s such a brilliant sailor. I am so happy for her.” Rindom needs to sail sensibly to preserve a whopping 21 point advantage over Tuula Tenkanen, the Finnish sailor who leads a bunch of rivals on very similar points.
The gold medalist from Rio, Marit Bouwmeester (NED), has mounted a courageous comeback all week after a shaky start to the regatta. The Dutch double Olympic medalist has sailed with her back against the wall, but blew any realistic chances of the gold after a black flag disqualification for starting too soon in race 7. Now back in seventh, she has an outside chance of getting back to silver or bronze.
“Well, at least I don’t have to look at the scoreboard anymore,” said Bouwmeester, struggling to face up to her disappointment. “I guess my back’s against the wall but I have to make the most of tomorrow.”
Currently in the 8th spot after eight races, Canadian sailor Sarah Douglas needs to finish the preliminary competition in the top 10 to get her ticket for the medal race. “I had fun out there today. I definitely made mistakes but overall, I’m pretty happy with how I’m sailing and I’m looking forward to finishing up the event,” said Sarah Douglas.
“We’re going to be on an interesting course as the waves are kind of like a washing machine. It’s always tricky, but I think I can manage through it and I practiced a lot in that situation. I will always strive for a medal and that’s always going to be the goal. But I’m just looking to have another solid day and improve on my racing and stick to the process as always.”
Men’s Heavyweight One Person Dinghy – Finn
A second consecutive day of double bullets puts Giles Scott (GBR) at the head of the Finn fleet. In case you had any ideas that the defending Olympic Champion is running away with it, he’s not. The 23-year-old Spaniard Joan Cardona is keeping Scott honest with some good scores of his own, and sits just a point behind. Best of the rest is Hungary’s Zsombor Berecz, who is seven points off second place and has the Netherlands and Argentina breathing down his neck.
Asked if it was easy today, Scott said it was anything but that on Enoshima Course, the inshore course where the Medal Races will be contested in the coming days. “Easy! I’m not sure about that. I mean, the conditions on Enoshima Course – it’s a washing machine. It’s a great, great race course and a bit of a shame there’s not that many spectators around.”
American Finn sailor, Luke Muller (Ft. Pierce, Fla.) had a tough Race 5 to open the day, but bounced back in a big way by rounding the first weather mark of Race 6 in the lead. The 2013 U.S. Youth Champion battled with a far-launched group of leaders before ultimately finishing 4th and ending the day in 12th overall.
“The last two days I had a lot of trouble downwind, but I think I was just doing a bit too much and not letting myself feel the waves,” said Muller. “After the first upwind of that last race today, rounding in front without a lot of pressure on, I just kind of slowed things down and got on some waves. It was really nice to finish on a high going into the [Finn class] rest day. We have a lot of racing ahead and a lot of work to be done.”
Canadian Tom Ramshaw (Toronto, Ont.) is in 14th overall.
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Two wins from two races puts Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) further ahead in the 470 Men after four races completed. Belcher has won five of his eight world titles with Ryan and will miss sailing with him once the partnership ends with the conclusion of these Games.
“We’re really just enjoying the racing,” commented Belcher. “You know, the reality is in less than a week, the partnership’s got to finish because of the changes for the next Games.”
Up to second overall are Luke Patience and Chris Grube (GBR). Interestingly Belcher won gold at London 2012 and Patience took silver, and here they are again nine years later, albeit both with different crews from their London showdown. Not that this is a match race.
There is plenty of runway remaining and just a few points behind the British is a whole bunch of high-quality boats led by third placed reigning World Champions, the Swedish team of Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom.
The American team, four-time Olympian Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Rio 2016 returner Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.) finished 9, 10 on the day, and sit in 11th overall. The 4th place finishers from Rio flashed their well-documented speed in both races but encountered frustration along the way.
McNay and Hughes rounded the first mark of Race 3 in 3rd, but fell to 9th at the finish in a deep class featuring a 13-point spread between 3rd and 12th places overall. In Race 4, the veteran pair had a tough start, rounded the first mark in 15th, but recovered to 10th. Canadian team, Jacob Saunders and Oliver Bone are in 16th place overall.
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
It wasn’t quite as barnstorming as their two bullets on day one, but it’s still pole position for Agnieszka Skrzypulec and Jolanta Ogar (POL) after results of 2,5 – the most consistent set of scores from a hard-to-read day.
Ogar enjoys the physical challenge of working the 470 through the waves, operating at near max heart rate. “It’s really crazy. It’s physical, it’s endurance. But also I think Olympic sailing should go in this direction to be more spectacular. I love it.”
The Brazilians, Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Barbachan, grabbed the early headlines with a race win but followed with a tenth. The British, Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre, started with a seventh but followed up with a runaway win in race four, taking the victory by most of the final high-speed reaching leg to the finish.
The British hold second overall with France’s Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz (FRA) in third.
In the Women’s 470, Americans Nikole Barnes (St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.) and Lara Dallman-Weiss (Shoreview, Minn.) scored a (15), 13 and now sit in 13th overall. The pair has so far exclusively raced on the inshore “Enoshima” course during the first four races of their series, and will get to try their hands at the “Zushi” course further offshore tomorrow. Canadian team Ali Ten Hove and Mariah Millen stand in 17th.
Men’s Skiff – 49er
The best performers of the two-race session in the 49er were the Danish duo of Jonas Warrer and Jakob Precht Jensen. A port-tack start off the committee boat end of the start line launched Warrer towards the right-hand side where he saw more breeze and that led to a race win, followed by fifth in the next. The Danes move up to third place behind two teams sharing equal points at the top – Great Britain and Spain.
Dylan Fletcher (GBR) was feeling like the Spanish team of Diego Botin and Iago Marra (ESP) were paying him a bit too much attention. “They kept on tacking on us,” said the British helm racing with crew Stu Bithell. “But I suppose that means there’s a compliment there.”
Marra denied that they were paying any special attention to the British, saying it was too early to be focusing on any one team. Canadian Team William Jones and Evan Depaul are in last in the standings.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were looking well placed in the first race of the day, sitting in second at the top end of the first leg when Burling missed his trapeze handle through the tack and fell overboard. Salvaging a 12th from that race plus a second in the next puts the defending Olympic Champions in fourth overall and well in the hunt for the medals at the halfway stage.
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17
John Gimson and Anna Burnet (GBR) rode their Nacra 17 hard in Sagami Bay to notch up two bullets and a second place. This puts the British into second overall, closing the gap to the Italians Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti who continue to lead after solid results of 2,5,1.
Eight points back in third overall are Paul Kohlhoff and Alica Stuhlemmer (GER), four points in front of the reigning Olympic Champions Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli.
The American team in the Nacra 17, Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) had some notable moments, including rounding the first mark of Race 6 in the lead. Ultimately, Gibbs and Weis finished with a 6, 1, (13) on the day, and sit in 10th overall.
“I think we’re fast but pretty inconsistent,” said Gibbs. “We’re working on our technique downwind, and on working together. I think we can race with anyone in this fleet, and we’re just excited for the days head.” Weis added that racing a foiling class in big swells requires both mental and physical resilience.
“It’s pretty full on. You have to really be ‘on it’ every second. You can’t let up your focus for one instant. As the race goes on, and you get tired, it becomes a bigger mental challenge, but a rewarding one if you can keep the hammer down.”
The top ten in the Men’s and Women’s Windsurfer – RS:X will enjoy a day of rest tomorrow ahead of their Medal Races on Saturday, July 31.
Tomorrow’s action will see the Men’s and Women’s One Person Dinghies conclude their Opening Series. The 49erFX return to action with the 49er fleet continuing and the Men’s and Women’s Two Person Dinghy will pick up where they left off.
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