Ben Ainslie secures second-place finishes in opening Olympic sailing races


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The Independent Online

Three-time gold medallist Ben Ainslie struck a satisfied figure after securing second-place finishes in both of today's opening Olympic sailing races.

The 35-year-old is the undoubted star of Great Britain's sailing team and the bookies' favourite to top the Finn class podium.

Ainslie has previously struggled at the beginning of Olympics, but flourished on the home waters of the south coast this afternoon.

He finished the day with two second places behind Denmark's Jonas Hogh-Christensen, who he joked had the spirit of countryman Paul Elvstrom behind him - a man Ainslie would overtake as the most decorated Olympic sailor ever should he win gold.

"It was a good day," he told Press Association Sport. "They were tough conditions out there, especially on the Nothe Course [in the first race].

"There was very, very shifty winds but it was a good start. It was ok, but there is a long way to go.

"I think Jonas was on a hotline to Paul Elvstrom today.

"He sailed fantastically well so all credit to him and we'll see how things develop for the rest of the week."

Thousands congregated in the Nothe Gardens to watch the racing on what was the first occasion ticketed spectators have been able to watch sailing at the Games.

Home supporters, though, had hearts in their mouth early on as favourite Ainslie rounded the first mark of the opening race outside the top 10, before producing a superb downwind leg to rise up the fleet.

"I needed to show how to do it downwind in the first race as I didn't have such a great first leg," he said.

"I had to get my work rate up downwind and pull through and thankfully I managed to do that.

"It was very, very difficult conditions. When you're racing that close to the shoreline and the wind is unstable it is very, very hard.

"It is very difficult to predict the wind so I didn't quite get it right but I was close enough to the leaders to pull back."

The opening races both finished with the same top three of Croatia's Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic then Ainslie in second and Hogh-Christensen.

The Dane was pleased with his performance but keen to stress this it is only the beginning of the regatta.

"It was a great day, but Ben and Ivan are close behind and we're very early in the regatta," Hogh-Christensen said.

"I need to keep cool, take it one day at a time and focus on tomorrow.

"I got the shifts right, got a good couple of starts and it was a great day. There was great weather and a great crowd as well so it was good fun."

The other men's class to start today was the Star and saw British pair Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson recover from a difficult start to end the day in fifth overall.

The reigning Star gold medallists endured a poor first race in which they ended 11th, but responded superbly to end the day's final race in the top two.

After some confusion over the final result, victory was awarded to Brazil's Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada - much to Simpson's disappointment.

"We thought we were ahead but it sounds like it was unbelievably close or we need to look at it," he said.

"It has changed back and forth apparently so that is a worry in itself so we better check that.

"It's a bit annoying if we didn't beat them but it is a good marker for the rest of the week."

On a poor first race, Simpson added: "We got it wrong, to be honest. We made a big mistake.

"It was very tricky, very unlucky. It is super frustrating and that is a polite way of putting it."