Mixed fortunes for GB sailors
Wednesday 13 August 2008
Two of Britain's best medal hopes continued their march towards the podium today, but the third was facing disappointment after one of the most challenging days of the Olympic sailing regatta so far.
In the light and unstable conditions, the daily green algae clean-up armada took second place as the new threat of an oil slick offshore occupied the organisers' attentions. Neither upset the rhythm of Ben Ainslie scoring a second in the only Finn race of the day and the Yngling trio of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson matching him.
Both extended their leads, to six points for Ainslie over his main rival, the American Zach Railey, and the Yngling women to five over their Dutch rivals. "It was a long day on the water," said three-times Olympic medal winner Ainslie. "It was pretty marginal whether we should have raced at all. Hanging around in the sun and heat was a bit of a brain fader."
Perhaps he should take a leaf out of the American book, whose team have developed an ice-filled rib and back bib plus soft helmet which they carried on the coach boat to wear between races.
Webb, with Ayton a gold medallist in Athens, is in particularly bullish mood. "There's a confidence and belief in ourselves," she said. "We are just sailing very well together. We are on form, we are on fire. It is the others who are having to take the risks."
But the day could not have started worse for Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes as they were disqualified from their first of three races in the 49er performance skiff for being over the line at the start. Added to the disaster of a 14th and two 15ths on the second day (Monday), it saw their golden dream evaporate. "I think it's fairly unlikely we'll be in the medals now," said Morrison. "But we keep going forward and try to do ourselves proud." A third and a second in the remaining two races showed just how potent they can be.
And, while Morrison and Rhodes appear to have accepted that their medal hopes are effectively at an end - apparently their coach, 2000 silver medallist Ian Barker agrees - Morrison wanted to emphasise that they would be looking to move up from eighth overall. "You don't change how good a sailor you are in a few short days and we started here good enough to win," said Morrison.
The 2004 silver medallists Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield kept themselves in contention in the 470 dinghy with a ninth and a sixth, which pushed them up to third overall, just one point behind the French pair, Nicolas Charbonnier and Olivier Bausset, with whom they were in a mark rounding tussle, came off worst and had to take two penalty turns.
Less happy were their women counterparts, Christina Bassadone and Saskia Clark. "We couldn't have crawled out of a paper bag today," said Clark.
Punctuated with a few colourful expletives, Bassadone let her feelings about the day be known, added that after the first race they had lost confidence about what was going on, and then dragged her boat up the ramp on its trolley to go through its hosing down ritual and a personal regroup with Clark. They are, however, still in 11th overall and only one point off the top 10 medal race cut. They could still make it.
Paul Goodison also swept up the ramp with a little black cloud over his head after adding another 15th to his scorecard from his one race of the day, but he is seventh overall and only four points off fourth.
In contrast, Penny Clark was beaming from ear to ear after winning her race. "I know I'm really, really quick in light winds," she said. "The techniques are very much like on the lakes back home." Added to a second, but pulled back by what she hopes will be a discardable 22nd, she is fifth overall and on the up.
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