Photos: Sailing Energy

Laser medals firm up

Tonci Stipanovic, Tom Burton and Marit Bouwmeester assured of medals at Rio 2016

Saturday August 13th 2016, Author: James Boyd, Location: Brazil

Further Olympic medals have firmed up day six of the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition, with Croatia gaining it first ever sailing medal.

Tonci Stipanovic is assured of at least a silver medal in the Laser, with a strong chance of gold. Australia's Tom Burton is certain of a Laser medal too as is the Netherlands' Marit Bouwmeester in the Laser Radial.
France’s Billy Besson was nursing a back injury in the lead up to Rio 2016 but the Besson everyone knows and loves was back today. After a horrible start to this regatta for Besson and his crew mate Marie Riou, they have shot back up the scoreboard after an amazing day on the ocean, scoring two bullets and are back in contention for a podium finish.

Tonci Stipanovic has secured Croatia’s first ever medal in Olympic sailing, with silver, at least, guaranteed. The only sailor who can threaten Croatian gold in Monday’s Medal Race is Tom Burton (AUS) who sits 10 points behind Stipanovic and is also assured of a medal.
It was a tense day on the water for the Lasers, with one race on the offshore Niterói course and the last qualifying race on the Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) course. Stipanovic kept his nerve to score 7,3 while Burton also sailed consistently with a 11,4. Sam Meech’s victory in the last race has lifted the New Zealander to third overall. However the day did not go well for Robert Scheidt (BRA) who scored 26,11 causing him to tumble from second overall to fifth after failing to get to grips with the conditions.
The reigning World Champion Nick Thompson (GBR) started well with a sixth, but tailed off with a non-discardable 22nd and sits on equal points with the Brazilian Olympic legend. Meanwhile Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) has elevated himself to fourth overall, a point in front of Brazil and Britain. The best any of these three can hope for is to attack Meech for the bronze medal.
Stipanovic was understandably emotional at what he had achieved for his proud nation. “It is a nice feeling. It was a long journey from the first day. I don’t want to celebrate totally, but I know I have sailed a really good series, and it feels really good. It’s huge, this result is really huge. I think that I don’t fully understand what I have achieved yet, but it will sink in. There are a lot of people at home watching this day, I think it will be crazy when I come back home.”
Scheidt was disappointed with his day but not dejected. “I think I’m going to wait till tomorrow to think how to attack the Medal Race. I think it’s a race where you have to be more aggressive, because there are a lot of points in the game and there are some guys who have the same points as me, and so the same perspective. I think it’s going to be quite an interesting race, because a few guys behind have nothing to lose, while the top two guys are fighting for the gold. It will be interesting.”

On the tricky Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf) course inside Guanabara Bay, Thompson got off to a great start rounding the first mark in fourth in the opening race. In a decent 12 knot breeze and big waves, he held a good position on the right hand side of the course and looked comfortable before slipping down the fleet to 12th on the first run. Again he recovered well to climb back through the fleet to cross the line sixth. But after switching racetracks to the outside Niteroi ocean course, Thompson didn’t get to grips with conditions and his gold medal dream evaporated.

“It was a really frustrating day," he said. "This whole week I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do better and never really got fully firing except for one day. But I’ve still got a shot at a medal and from here I’m going to have to re-set, focus on that Medal Race and give it everything.

“The first race today was a real battle the whole way round. It was a really good race with plenty of position changes and I ended up doing ok. Then we moved out of the bay and it was a very different day, I just never gave myself a chance. I had a really poor start in the middle of the line and never got into the race. It’s a bit frustrating.”
Laser Radial
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) has moved back to the top of the leaderboard in the Laser Radials, holding a useful eight-point buffer on second placed Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) going into Monday’s Medal Race. The London 2012 silver medallist is assured of another medal and is strongly positioned to win the gold that was so nearly hers four years ago.
Like the Laser men, the Radial ladies contested one race on the Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) course and one on Niterói, and Bouwmeester proved most adaptable to the different conditions, scoring 5,2. Annalise Murphy (IRL) also sailed superbly to score a sixth and seventh which puts her just two points behind Rindom. However best performer of the day was Evi Van Acker (BEL) whose first and fifth has brought her back into medal contention after a shaky start to the regatta, compounded by the effects of an intestinal infection. She and fifth-placed Tuula Tenkanen (FIN) will have to sail a very good Medal Race to have a chance at silver or bronze, but it’s possible.
For Bouwmeester the Olympic Medal Race is familiar territory, after taking silver in the tightest of contests four years ago: “I think this time the difference is I have a few points on second and I’m certain of a medal, but the similarity is I still have to do a good Medal Race on Monday. We like the Medal Race course, it’s challenging, but I’m quite confident there even though you never quite know what’s going to happen on that course.”
Evi van Acker was looking forward to another period of rest before Monday’s showdown. “I still need to rest, after today. I’m pretty tired. I had my best day so far, and I’m so happy with the way I recovered after the bad three days at the beginning. For me the 36 hours of treatment and rest in the middle of the week was very important to have more energy and keep fighting. I made sure I had a lot of rest, a lot of food and a lot of smiling.”
The bronze medallist from 2012 will have to fight hard and sail well to be assured of another medal in Rio. “It feels like London all over again, pretty much the same people and same situation except this this time I’m a bit behind. So I’ll have to sail well in the Medal Race. But I’ll be ready to go.”

Sadly the medal hopes of Team GBR's Alison Young ended today. Young scored her first race win of the regatta in the second race of the day, but having finished 16th in the race before, the points gap between herself in eighth and Ireland’s Annalise Murphy currently occupying third is too great for Young to claw back even with Monday’s Medal Race worth double points for every position.

The 29-year-old admits she has endured a frustrating Olympics. But she insists she will be doing everything she can to go out with a bang and claim a final victory. “My aim is to go into the Medal Race, win the race and try and finish the regatta on a little bit of a high. It’s expected to be a tough race as the girls that are fighting for medals have sailed great so I’ve got to try to squeeze some good racing.

“It was nice to finish the opening series with a bullet, but the rest of the regatta has been very disappointing. I can take some positives from today but overall it’s just very disappointing.”
Nacra 17
Before today’s three races on the Copacabana course, the prospect of a medal looked very distant for the French pre-event favourites, Billy Besson and Marie Riou. But scores of 2,1,1 have shot the French out of the teens and into seventh overall. What is also playing into their favour is how none of the other Nacra 17s have managed to find consistency across the series. Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) hold on to the lead, but only by three points from the next two teams tied on equal points, Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG) and Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves (GBR). Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT) have made some good moves up the table to fifth overall after a solid set of scores on Copacabana.
Back ashore, Besson found it hard to walk and remain standing while talking to the media, due to his back injury. “It has been a good day, but we go step by step. Today has been a good day, but tomorrow will be another different day. Physically it’s quite tough. It feels like someone’s sticking daggers in you.”
Riou didn’t want to talk about Besson’s injury but commented about their performance on the water. “Today we found the good feelings with the boat and the speed. The first two days have been quite difficult for us, so it’s been good to find again the joy and the good feeling on board. We had 8-12 knots of wind and we were able to make the boat go fast, to do good starts, to enjoy it, and to get three good results. Sometimes you get days like this, when the sun is shining in the sky. We are trying and we are going to keep on trying. The adventure continues.”
Lange, aged 57, is the oldest athlete in the Olympic sailing competition and has won two Tornado catamaran Olympic medals in his long career. That experience is serving him well this week. “We have to be very calm, because the fleet is very competitive and the race course so difficult," he said. "There are still three races and the Medal Race ahead. We are very happy because we are in the fight, we came here to fight for a medal and we are doing it.
“The gold is always an option, we are confident on our preparation, but we are also aware that all is very open. I think that the one who is tenth in the overall results today can still win the gold. We have to be very calm and race well tomorrow.
“Billy Besson had an excellent day today, and that changes the overall results completely. We never counted him out of the fight [because of the injury]. He is the only one that can do what he is doing, he is a very good athlete and has a very good crew in Marie.”
Jason Waterhouse looked a little incredulous when he said, “We are still on top. It’s a strange day, it’s a surprise that we are still leading.” Lisa Darmanin was pleased to see the French back at full speed. “It’s really great to see Billy performing well, he’s the best out there and we want him to race the Olympics.”

Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) were flying in the medium winds on the Aeroporto course on a day that demanded four tiring races from the Men’s 49er crews. A race win at the start of the day combined with some other top five scores has brought the Germans to just three points off the lead, still held by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL). Heil and Ploessel have a 15-point lead over the chasing pack who are tightly bunched on points, with the best of the rest being third-placed Danish team of Jonas Warrer and Christian Peter Lübeck who won the third race of the day. Defending Olympic Champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) started the day well with a second place but are still struggling to fire on all cylinders and sit in sixth overall at the halfway point of the qualifying series.
Burling commented, “We didn’t feel like we sailed that well but to come away with four low scores was good. You only had one shot to get it right today and if you didn’t, it was hard to fight back through.” Tuke added, “It’s already the halfway stage of the fleet racing and with four races today it was a big chunk of the fleet racing. The results aren’t as pretty as yesterday but we’re really happy with things.”
Heil was happy to be in second place but did not consider the 15-point gap to third to be significant, not in Rio. “These are the most difficult conditions in the world. We saw in the Laser class they had 25 knots with three-metre waves, and then shifty races in light wind on the Sugarloaf course. It can’t be more difficult than here in Rio, but we love the challenge.”

Britain's Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign admitting they have a “few little things to tweak” if they are going to up their medal charge. The Brits got off to a solid start in the day’s opening race, coming home in seventh, but they struggled to repeat that in the next two races, finishing 20th and 15th, before holding their nerve to recover brilliantly with a fourth in the day’s last race.

Sign said: “It’s our rest day tomorrow so we will have a little chat and sleep on it tonight. We think we’ve got a few little things that we need to tweak. It looks pretty hard for us to medal at the moment so just we just want to go out on a bang on Monday and sail well to get the boat rumbling nicely through the water.

“It was pretty tricky out there for us today. When we are in our own space we are going pretty quick so it’s not massive changes that we need to make. With this fleet it’s so close, so it’s not going terribly, it’s just a case of making the boat go a little bit quicker. We’re pulling through the fleet when we are towards the back so we can’t be going that badly.”


It was an inauspicious start to the Danish campaign for a medal in the Women’s Skiff in the first race on the previous day, when Jena Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen were UFD disqualified for breaking the start line too soon. However, they have since made amends with four second places and a fourth, catapulting the Danes to the top of the 49erFX tree. Tied in second overall are two former World Champion teams, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) and Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL). Meech will be buoyed by having seen her brother move into third place overall before the Laser Men’s Medal Race in two days’ time. The 2016 and 2015 World Champions, representing Spain and Italy respectively, hold fourth and fifth overall at the halfway stage of the 49erFX qualifying series.
Grael commented, “It has been a very good day. The Danish also sailed very well, really consistent. We are happy to be in the fight. We know that we have a good speed and we can recover when we don’t start well. Now we are looking forward to a rest day and we’re looking forward to racing outside with the wind and the waves.”

Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth kept in the game after today's four races moved them up to sixth in the overall. Just like they did in the first race of yesterday, Dobson and Ainsworth flew out of blocks, this time finishing fifth in their opening race today.

Then the Brits maintained their consistency to post all four scores inside the top 10, finishing the next three races in eighth, seventh and 10th respectively.

Dobson said: “Today was a big day and we ended up with four good races in 12-15 knots. Poor Soph is exhausted!

“It was a tricky course because there wouldn’t really be too much going on but then suddenly it would get really unstable, certainly towards the end of the day. If you didn’t have good starts you would have a hard way back into the race. The adrenaline takes over but sailing has always been a mental sport and I think because the Olympics is such a long event, and there is so much hype, the people who can keep it all together will be the ones that win in the end.

“We have still got two more days of opening series racing to go, and that’s six races, plus the medal race so although today wasn’t a sparkling day it was a day that kept you in the game so we are more than happy with that.”

Giles Scott (GBR) has pulled out a 16-point lead after scoring 1,3 in races seven and eight of the qualifying series in the Finn fleet. Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) has consolidated his position in second overall while Jake Lilley’s good day on Ponte course has lifted the Australian to third overall. Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) and Ivan Gaspic (CRO) are clawing their way into medal contention and sit on equal points.
The racing resumes on Sunday 14 August at 13:00 local time. The RS:X fleets will contest the first Medal Race of the Olympic Sailing Competition as the fleet racing continues with the Finn, Men’s and Women’s 470 and the Nacra 17.

Giles Scott declared “it isn’t over” as he extended his lead at the top of the Finn leaderboard to 16 points in Rio today (Saturday 13 August).

Another race win – his third of the event – plus a third ensured Scott banked another good day at the office on Guanabara Bay, with the final two races of their 10-race opening series to come tomorrow before Tuesday’s Medal Race.

Scott proved his dominance downwind in free pumping conditions, when, having had a good first beat to round the first mark third in race one today, he pressed the accelerator to the bottom mark to round first with a 10 second lead, which he held, and extended to over half a minute, for the rest of the race.

With the wind having built to around 12 knots and the sea breeze funneling straight down the bay, the four-time World Champion Scott against impressed on the first downwind leg in the day’s second race, going from sixth at mark one to third, again the position he held until he crossed the line.

Second behind Scott currently sits Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) with Australia’s Jake Lilley in third, and Scott will know by the close of play tomorrow exactly how he stands heading into Tuesday’s final medal showdown.

But with that race worth double the points, and already carrying two scores outside of the top 10, Scott insists he cannot afford to take his foot off the pedal tomorrow.

Scott said: “I’m very pleased today. I’m certainly not going to turn my nose up at a first and third. It’s nice to put in consistent results at the top of the fleet. Vasilij and I had a good day today and behind that there were a few guys who were up and down. It’s looking good going into tomorrow but there’s still a lot to play for.

“Having the points margin is a big confidence booster, but the thing for me to focus on is that it isn’t over, you can’t get complacent, you need to attack tomorrow, like I’ve done today. Nothing really changes but clearly having that margin is a good place to be.

“Sailing is an odd sport. It’s contested over a week and the key to being successful is to know when to turn the killer instinct on and off. Clearly you can’t be aggressive for a week as you’ll just implode, knowing when to switch out of that helps me lots.”

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