Patience and Bithell pile pressure on Australian favourites


The battle to be top sailing nation between Britain and Australia looks like going to the southern hemisphere but, Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell in the 470 dinghy are giving the pre-Olympic favourites, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page a scary run.

Red, white and blue lies just one point behind the green and gold after eight races and these two are 28 and 29 points ahead of the Italian duo of Gabrio Zandona and Pietro Zucchetti.

The Aussies, who have set up camp in a pub overlooking the Channel in Portland, bagged their first sailing medal, one of four they expect, when Tom Slingsby made up for the disintegration of his campaign in China to take gold in the Laser class, in which Paul Goodison took the medal for Britain. Second-placed Pavlos Kontides was winning Cyprus’ first ever Olympic medal.

The party at the Cove Inn was then boosted as Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen won the 49er gold medal with the medal race to spare and the Kiwis, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, secured the silver. Both countries will have to start the medal race on Wednesday but the only medal to be decided is the bronze,  with the British pair of Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes in with a shot. So are the French, the Danes, the Portuguese, the Finns and the Austrians. It will not be easy. 

Goodison was all but knocked out of contention at the end of the first day in Weymouth, suffering from severe back pain. He made it through to the top 10, but ended 7th. In the women’s Laser Radial, Lijia Xu of c

China turned bronze in 2008 to gold in 2012 with Marit Bouwmeester of The Netherlands, coached by Mark Littlejohn but able to ask for additional tips from boyfriend Ben Ainslie, taking silver.

The major disappointment was for Ireland’s Annalise Murphy, pipped by Belgium’s Evi van Acker for bronze; but there is long-term potential contained in the fifth place achieved by Britain’s Alison Young.

Nick Dempsey, as usual talking down all expectations, goes into the Tuesday’s sail-off in the men’s windsurfer in silver medal position but knowing that the Dorian van Rijsselberge cannot be beaten for the gold. In the women’s division, the 2008 bronze medallist Bryony Shaw is seventh and it would take a truly extraordinary set of circumstances for her to be on the podium.