Sunday, August 14, 2016
Heartbreak off Rio
By Gary Jobson
Today was the start of the Medal Race finales in sailing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. There was a long wait for suitable wind to get the racing underway, but once the RS: X Men's and Women's finals started, we were given a real treat.
The Gold and Silver Medals were already decided in the men's sailboard. Holland and Great Britain clinched their positions two days ago after their 12-race series. The Bronze Medal was up for grabs. Four sailors could still claim Bronze, at least mathematically. Poland, Greece, France and Germany all had a shot. The top ten boats out of 36 boards qualify for the Medal Race. The points earned are carried over, but now the points are doubled. At the first mark, Piotr Myszka, POL, was well ahead of his rivals. On the run, Pierre Le Coq, FRA, found a strong gust and passed Myszka. He still needed to get one boat between them. Ricardo Santos, BRA, was his target. There was a four-board battle with Byron Kokkalanis, GRE in the mix. The four boats changed positions on the next leg, with Le Coq getting a better position to pass Brazil and finish 7th with Myszka in 9th. The Frenchman got the Bronze. And, just for good measure, Dorian Rijsselberghe, NED easily won the race, confirming that he was the Olympic Champion.
The RS:X Women's division followed. The wind was getting lighter. The race committee hustled to get the race under way. Italy and Russia were tied for the lead with 55 points, and four boats: France, China, Netherlands and Israel were all within 6 points. The Race was only 21 minutes and 28 seconds. The lead changes were frequent. Russia fouled at the start and the umpires called for a penalty turn. Stefania Elfutina, RUS rounded the first mark a distant tenth. Bad luck! Israel's Maayan Davidovich was close to the lead on the first leg, with Charline Picon nearby. Peina Chen, CHN won the last three races of the early round, and was particularly fast downwind in light air. Lillian De Geus, NED led at the first mark.
Picon was six seconds back. Eventually, Picon and Chen were in a match race, leaving De Geus alone to win the race. The lead between Picon and Chen changed several times. Picon got the last puff before the final turn and crossed the line ahead to take the Gold. Chen earned Silver. Both looked exhausted and surprised that they had achieved success. Further back, Russia's Elfutina kept plugging and moved into sixth, which was good enough to hold on the Bronze medal. All three were all smiles an hour later at the medal ceremony, with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background.
On Monday, the Laser and Laser Radial races will be sailed. American Paige Railey barely made the cut, but will be sailing. Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and Finland all have a chance to medal. The big question in the Laser is whether Robert Scheidt, BRA can overcome a ten-point deficit to win a record sixth Olympic Sailing Medal. It will be tough in a ten-boat fleet, but it will be great fun to see if the 43-year old master can find a way to pull it off. The crowds on the beach will be immense to see one of Brazil's most famous athletes perform.
Americans Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha, in the Women's 470, are having a great series. They are in second place. They have three more races tomorrow before the Medal Race scheduled for Wednesday. The USA 470 Men's team, Stu McNay and Dave Hughes, stand in sixth and are also in position for a medal if they put together three good races tomorrow.
As reported earier, American Finn sailor Caleb Paine introduced video evidence to the International Jury and was able to get his disqualification dismissed from Race Six. He is five points away from a Bronze Medal. The boat ahead of him is Ivan Gašpić from Croatia, who protested Paine in the sixth race. Gašpić did not show up on for the hearing. It sounds like there might be some strong motivation for Caleb. We will cover this race live on Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, we will cover the Nacra 17 Medal Race. Americans Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee made the cut, and will also be in their Medal Race. Unfortunately, they broke their trapeze wire in two races and had to take DNFs (Did Not Finishes). With the extra points the best they can finish is fifth.
Paris Henken and Helena Scutt are back out on the water Monday in the 49erFX. This young crew are the Cinderella story so far in the sailing Games. The pair had an impressive 4-1-5 yesterday and stand in ninth place. If the keep it up, they will surely move up the leaderboard. They have six races scheduled on Monday and Tuesday. Their Medal Race will be on Thursday. Thomas Barrows and Joe Morris were able to finish fourth in one race yesterday, but were disqualified for a port-starboard incident in that race. They are looking to improve and tomorrow is their opportunity.