Ainslie in unfamiliar territory while Ayton steers risk-free course
Monday 11 August 2008
Ben Ainslie took the overall lead, the Yngling women retained their gold medal position and the women's windsurfer was an admirable third at the end of the first day, but the British sailing team failed to slip smoothly into top gear all round on a tricky day today.
As an armada of fishing boats went out to clear another algae invasion - Dong Hai, a competition director said "we are taking precautions to make sure the racing area is free from algae bloom - Olympic manager Stephen Park was in 'steady as she goes' mode but admitted that the third day of racing had not been as happy as the first two.
Even Ainslie had to card a 10th in the sixth race of his opening half of an assault on a third gold medal to add to the first he scored in the fifth.
He has a single point lead over Zach Railey of the United States going into tomorrow's day off with four more fleet races on Wednesday and Thursday, and then a double points medal shoot out for the top 10 scheduled for Saturday.
The tussle with Railey has been tough and pointed, including a personal clash in the third race, but these two are drawing clear in the 26-boat fleet. France's Guillaume Florent, who did his best to upset Ainslie in Athens, is third, nine points behind, but for Ainslie to be ahead at this stage is unusual territory for a man who has a worldwide reputation for power-packed comebacks.
"I am really happy, but there is still a long way to go and that first race today was seriously close," he said. "As for the lead, well I'll just have to hang on to it."
Read more from Stuart Alexander at The Olympic Blog
The threat to the Yngling trio of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson, with a fourth and a second yesterday, is concentrated on the Dutch trio of Many Mulder, Annemeike Bes and Merel Witteveen, who had a first and a fifth. The win was their second of the six races so far and they are just three points adrift in the silver medal slot. Next closestare the Australians, and what a good day they were having, a further 14 points behind, equal with the Americans.
"It was tough out there and you really had to be patient," said Ayton, who added: "We are not thinking about the end result. It is all going to plan at the moment. We are sailing a low-risk regatta at the moment and, unless we change our game plan, we will keep doing that."
It was more than tough for Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, who gave in to an animated display of frustration and temper at the end of the second of their three races.
Going into their second day, the British duo had the gold decal of series leader on their mainsail. After it they were ninth of the 19 with a 14th and two 15ths. They had snapped the mainsail sheet bridle on the first leg of the first race and discovered a lump of tar on the centreboard at the end of the second.
But Park's disappointment -"they just didn't have the speed today but we hope to put that right by tomorrow" - was more than matched by Morrison's who said: "maybe a day off will help. We're used to winning big events and we are used to staying in front of big events but today we struggled in the chop and the swell. We need to look at everything and go back to basics."
As one of Britain's top medal hopes, the 49er pair has some repair work to do, especially given the blistering form of Australia's Nathan Uutteridge and Ben Austin, as do the 2004 silver medallists in the 470 dinghy, Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield.
There was a big smile and a thumbs up from Glanfield on the boat ramp before saying: "We started pretty badly with a 19th in the first race, but the second was much better with a fifth, (leaving them 10th overall). Most people will be up and down. This is Qingdao, this is what we expected. A huge amount of this is risk assessment, how much you are prepared to take, how much do you need to take."
His never-say-die attitude was matched by Christina Bassadone and Saskia Clark in the women's 470. "It wasn't a day we would have hoped for," said Bassadone, "so will try to put today behind us." Bassadone also admitted she had "messed up" (though spelt rather differently) in their second race, their 8th added to a 13th making them ninth overall.
Things were much brighter for boardsailer Bryony Shaw. In a class that will be dominated by China's Yin Jian, the question of stamina in pumping a sail twice round a steaming hot course every day will be vital. "I had a smile on my face and was singing tunes in my head," she said on coming ashore after a fourth and a third, "but my heart rate was at max nearly all the way through. I race every race as though it was the last, but definitely this is going to be an endurance battle." Her male counterpart, Athens bronze medallist Nick Dempsey, with an 11th and a 9th was ninth overall overnight.
Today the Lasers join in as the Finns, Ynglings and 49ers take a day off.
The Star keelboats do not begin until Saturday but the Tornado catamarans, who start on Friday, are already embroiled in controversy as the Americans and the Dutch have measured in sails new to the class to the annoyance of others like the Austria's gold medallist in 2000 and 2004, Roman Hagara.
The British pair, Leigh McMillan and Will Howden, looked at the option several months ago and decided against. The Australians reveal their hand today and the Argentinians are making a last-minute effort.
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