Ainslie puts wind up rivals despite calm conditions

Finn champion and Yngling trio set fair after a tough opening day on the water
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It was an up-and-down time as Britain's two brightest sailing medal hopes took to the water on the opening day of the Olympic regatta. The Yellow Sea track was in typically capricious form as Ben Ainslie showed impressive authority in the Finn, while in the Yngling, Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson rode a little luck to come home smiling.

In his first race, Ainslie seemed set to reverse the pattern of previous regattas. Instead of struggling near the back, or picking up penalties, he strode away majestically from a near-perfect start and led all theway up the first leg, down the second and again up the third.

But he fell into a private wind-free zone early on the run home – there were not more than three to four knots anyway – and, also being pushed back by the tide, could only watch as others with better breeze sailed past to drop him from first to 10th atthe finish.

Those flukey wind patterns, in contrast, came to the aid of the Yngling trio, who at one point were last. But they came through from the back of the 15-boat fleet to finish second, which was particularly galling for their arch-rivals, the trio skippered by Sally Barkow of the United States, who dropped from second to 14th.

Ainslie was in command of his second race, when the breeze was slightly stronger and more reliable, and his win was enough to push him back up to third overall. Another cautious start from the Yngling women again saw them having to fight back, but they did so, finishing second and leading into the clubhouse overnight.

"It was hard work to gather and recover in the first race," said Webb. "We could have given up but we had to keep going."

Ainslie said: "We're going to suffer like that throughout the week, so you just have to put the bad results behind you, be tough and deal with the situation.

"I had a vision of Athens at one stage, where I had two bad races on the first day, so this is probably my best start ever to an Olympics. Hopefully I can build on that."