Fickle day for sailing in Rio


Day 2 of the Olympic Sailing Competition produced lighter winds more expected at this time of year in Rio, and the south-easterly breezes were mostly around five to seven knots with only occasional moments in double figures.

This made for a challenging opening day for the Finn sailors competing in the Heavyweight Men’s One Person Dinghy, who raced two heats on the notoriously fickle Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain) race course.

Men’s Windsurfer – RS:X

Nick Dempsey (GBR) continues to lead the Men’s Windsurfer competition after another good day on the water, marred only by a 14th place in Race 6. Currently the London 2012 silver medalist leads by a point from the reigning Olympic Champion, Dorian van Rijsselberghe (NED), who has the added benefit of a fifth place as his discard, to Dempsey’s 14th. That could be a critical difference later on in the regatta.

“Good day today, with a four and two firsts,” said van Rijsselberghe. “I’ve been lucky! Sometimes lucky and sometimes good. Everything is going well, we have done six races so we are not at the halfway point yet. But I’m feeling good, I’m happy about today and just need to try to keep going like this.” With the wind dropping throughout the afternoon, it was physical day of pumping the sail to keep the board moving. “The last race was almost unraceable. But it is what it is.” The reigning World Champion Piotr Myszka (POL) moves up third place ahead of Byron Kokkalanis (GRE).

Pedro Pascual (USA) had a 37th place in the fifth race today, which is his discard. He finished 28th and 29th in the fourth and sixth race respectively, landing him in 30th overall.

Results, RS:X Men – Top 5 (6 races; 1 discard)
Nick Dempsey (GBR) 9 points
Dorian Van Rijsselberge (NED) 10
Piotr Myszka (POL) 16
Vyron Kokkalanis (GRE) 20
Pierre Le Coq (FRA) 25

Women’s Windsurfer – RS:X

It was Flavia Tartaglini’s (ITA) turn to rip up the race course in the Women’s Windsurfer on day two of competition, the Italian running away with a 1,1,4 scoreline and deposing yesterday’s winner, Charline Picon (FRA), from the top of the leaderboard. The French sailor still had a very respectable day in difficult conditions to sit just a point behind the leader.

Tartaglini commented, “I was not expecting these good results, to tell you the truth. I was feeling ready, but in others regattas I have also felt ready and then things have not gone so well. I’m trying to go day by day and race by race. We still have more than the half of the races to finish the Olympics, but at least this evening I’m going back home very happy.”

As to her growing rivalry with the French sailor, Tartaglini observed, “Charline was leading yesterday and today she was behind me in all three races. But that means just that today I have had a good day. She’s one of the strong contenders, so maybe I’m also one of them. Today was my best day, I hope I will continue in this way. I have the speed and I have the training, and we are all there in the fight.”

Stefania Elfutina (RUS) sits just five points back in third overall, and is having the regatta of her young life. “I’m young, yes, I’m 19 years old,” said the Russian. “But I think that’s not a problem to be able to fight for the medals together with the most experienced women. Nobody expects anything from me, so I just do what I love, and sometimes I can do it well and be in the fight.”

Maybe the challenging nature of the Rio race courses are playing to Elfutina’s strengths. “Today the racing conditions were very complicated, with the currents and the wind, but it was hard for everybody. In the last race the wind dropped and we had to pump a lot. I feel tired, that’s for sure. We had three hard races today, so it’s nice to have a rest day tomorrow to charge some new energy.”

Marion Lepert (USA) didn’t have as good a day today as she did yesterday, finishing 13, 11.8 (average points), 23. The 23rd place in the sixth race is her discard to date. She is in 12th overall. In the second race of the day (Race 5), Lepert was involved in a collision with a Brazilian athlete. Lepert won the resulting protest and was awarded redress by the jury, which will make her Race 5 score equal to that of the average points of the rest of her scores during the regatta.

Results, RS:X Women – Top 5 (6 races; 1 discard)
Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) 12 points
Charline Picon (FRA) 13
Stefania Elfutina (RUS) 18
Lilian De Geus (NED) 20
Maayan Davidovich (ISR) 24

Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial

Last night Lijia Xu (CHN) was disqualified from Race 2 after a successful protest by Paige Railey (USA). But the reigning Olympic Champion bounced back even stronger on day two of competition, scoring 3,1 to retake the overall lead. The Chinese sailor is currently able to discard her disqualification from her scores, but it still means she has to be careful for the rest of the competition. “I was very sad last night,” said Xu. “But when I saw the TV footage I accepted that I could have taken my penalty turn sooner. Today though I am very happy with how things have gone. With injuries I have not spent as much time sailing as I would have liked, so now I am so happy to be back together, me and my boat.”

Annalise Murphy (IRL) was by far the strongest sailor in strong winds four years ago at London 2012, but her Achilles’ heel was her light airs performance. Not any more if the Irish sailor’s results are anything to go by. Scores of 4,7 combined with her victory in the opening race yesterday put Murphy in second overall, just five points behind Xu.

Even more consistent than the two sailors ahead of her, however, is Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN), who is the only sailor to have kept all of her scores inside the top 10. That level of consistency could play into the Danish sailor’s hands further down the track. Rindom sits just a point behind Murphy and just a point in front of Marit Bouwmeester (NED), the London 2012 silver medalist who is having a quiet but steady regatta.

In a very tight fleet, Paige Railey (USA) sits in 10th overall after two races today in which she finished 9th and 21st (which was discarded). Railey said that Tuesday’s racing served up some tactical curveballs. “We’ve spent a lot of time here, so I felt pretty prepared for stuff that was going to happen, and the conditions here,” said Railey. “It’s always the regatta curse, that whenever you start the racing it seems to be different than when you did all the training.”

Despite a tough second race, Railey remains undaunted. “You just kind of have to roll with the punches and go day by day,” said the two-time Olympian and World Champion. “It’s very difficult conditions, and everyone is up and down. We’ll see if things start to steady out over time.”

Brenda Bowskill (CAN) had a 15th and a 20th today. She is in 19th place on the leaderboard. Despite a few frustrations, Bowskill is focused on moving up the leaderboard. “This course was different. You definitely had to be on a corner, and I wasn’t but I fought back in both races. I maintained good speed, I just need to better my starts. I am keen to get more racing in,” Bowskill expressed.

Results, Radial Women – Top 5 (4 races; 1 discard)
Lijia Xu (CHN) 7 pts
Annalise Murphy (IRL) 12
Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) 13
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) 14
Evi Van Acker (BEL) 16

Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser

Victory for Julio Alsogaray (ARG) in Race 4 has lifted the Argentinean to the top of the leaderboard in the Laser, displacing Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) who now sits in second overall. Sam Meech (NZL) had a very solid day with scores of 5,6 to rise to third overall, just a point behind the Croatian. Best performer of Day 2, however, was Juan Ignacio Maegli (GUA), whose scores of 3,7 lift the Guatemalan to sixth overall.

Robert Scheidt (BRA) is giving his Brazilian fans something to worry about with inconsistent scores of 27,4 to put the five-time Olympic medallist in eighth overall, yet the 43-year-old veteran seems unperturbed and continues to believe he can get on to the podium. With just four of the ten races completed before the Medal Race, there’s little reason to doubt his optimism. “The first day’s racing was much harder today,” said Scheidt. “Today was more straightforward. Still tricky, but I think what we have seen over the first two days is very typical for Rio.”

Charlie Buckingham (USA) finished 10th and 22nd (his discard to date) today. He sits in 16th overall. He recovered from a 17th midway through the race to finish 10th in the first race of the day. Lee Parkhill (CAN) finished strong today, with a 33rd in the first race, but a 9th in the second. He is in 33rd overall.

“It was less shifty on this course. Good starts and getting out in a lane early was key,” said Parkhill. “In the first race I had a good start, I should have committed to my lane. Fortunately, I executed well on my second race and pulled in a keeper.”

Results, Laser Men – Top 5 (4 races; 1 discard)
Julio Alsogaray (ARG) 7 points
Tonci Stipanović (CRO) 13
Sam Meech (NZL) 14
Tom Burton (AUS) 20
Pavlos Kontides (CYP) 22

Heavyweight Men’s One Person Dinghy – Finn

Vasilij Zbogar overcame the fluky conditions on the Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain) race course to lead the Finn fleet after their opening day of competition. The double Olympic medalist scored 3,1 to lead Alican Kaynar (TUR) by 3 points. “I was fast today,” said Zbogar. “Those were my conditions and even if it was unpredictable, my speed was helping me get to the right place. I need to do well in these conditions because the next two days are going to be stronger winds. I am 10kg too light and ten years too old,” smiled the 41-year-old.

Few would have expected the Turkish sailor to be doing so well amongst such elite company, yet Kaynar is closely followed by another surprise in thirrd place overall, Facundo Olezza Bazan (ARG) who won the opening race and followed up with a ninth in the next. The Argentinean might have been forgiven for celebrating a victory in his first ever Olympic race, but not for the 21-year-old. “As soon as I crossed the finish, there was no celebration, only focus on the next race. And tonight there will be nothing special. I am just taking it day by day, race by race.”

Jorge Zarif (BRA) also put down some good scores in the top six to sit in fourth overall, while four-time World Champion Giles Scott (GBR) struggled with the unpredictable light airs to find himself in tenth place after opening scores of 17,3.

Caleb Paine (USA) has two solid scores to start the regatta and sits in 8th place overall. In the first race, Paine finished 7th, recovering from a 22nd earlier in the race, Paine posted a 10th in race 2.

Paine struggled early on, but executed a dramatic comeback in the opening race of the men’s heavyweight Finn class. “It was exciting racing. [The breeze] was coming in from both the left and right, and it would die and then build,” said the 2012 Sailing World Cup series champion. “The first race I rounded fairly decently around the weather mark, right in the middle [of the fleet], but then unfortunately there was a wind shift and I got passed by quite a few boats. I hung in there and was able to catch up on the final beat, going from the bottom five to 7th.”

Paine’s resilience paid off, and he credited his overall mental approach. “It’s just tenacity,” said Paine. “Being able to realize that the race isn’t over until its over, and to keep pushing all the way through until the finish line. You never know what can happen in a sailboat race, so you might as well push all the way.”

Tuesday’s races were Paine’s first as an Olympian, and the significance of the moment did not escape the San Diego native. “The Olympics is what I’ve been training for for the last six years, and now to be able to do it is a fantastic feeling, and exciting,” said Paine. “It’s interesting to hear stories about the Olympics, and then experience it yourself, while knowing I can rely on those stories in a way that hopefully gets me a medal.”

The Finn fleet is scheduled to move from today’s flat and shifty “Pão de Açucar” course on Guanabara Bay to the open-ocean “Niterói” course tomorrow, which often features sizable waves. Wednesday’s forecast also calls for strong wind. “I think it’s going to be a little easier [tomorrow] in the sense that it’s not as shifty,” said Paine. “It will be a physically taxing day outside, with big breeze. Grinding and boat speed are going to be key.”

Canadian Finn sailor, Tom Ramshaw finishes were 19th and 12th to secure his spot in 16th after two races. Ramshaw, a newbie in the Finn class, treated the first day of Olympic competition just like any other regatta. “I felt good, I didn’t have any nerves. It’s the same guys I have been sailing with everyday.” Ramshaw did spend some time training in Rio over the last few months and is well aware of the unpredictable conditions.

“It’s so tricky with winds changing under the mountain. In the first race the breeze shifted 60 degrees and I wasn’t on the right side of that. Missing one big shift or puff can be costly against the best athletes in the world. We are supposed to have more breeze tomorrow and I’m looking forward to that,” Ramshaw added.

Results, Finn – Top 5 (2 races)
Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) 4 points
Alican Kaynar (TUR) 7
Facundo Olezza Bazan (ARG) 10
Jorge Zarif (BRA) 10
Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) 14

Sailing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will continue on Wednesday, August 10, which will be the first day of competition for the Men’s and Women’s 470 classes and Americans Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.), Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.), Annie Haeger (East Troy, Wisc.) and Briana Provancha (San Diego, Calif.).

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