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Posted by on Aug 1, 2012 in Racing Sailboat, Sailboat Racing, Sailing, UK, US |

Olympic Sailing: Shifty Weymouth is Not for Quitters

It was a case of big seas and plenty of breeze for the Finn and Star classes as they faced shifty conditions in Weymouth on day three of the regatta.

Gael Pawson, editor of uk.boats.com, brings word on the US team at the 2012 Games…

One things that stands out among the two oldest classes competing in this summer’s Olympic Games (the Star competed in its first Olympics in 1932, the Finn in 1952) is the good-natured joking between nations – ashore anyway. These are sailors who know one another well; in many cases they have been racing against one another since they were kids.

The US Star class team of Brian Fatih (crew, left) and Mark Mendelblatt (skipper, right), shown here in an earlier regatta, will have an uphill struggle to close the point gap with class leaders. Photo copyright Mick Anderson, courtesy US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider.

The US Star class team of Brian Fatih (crew, left) and Mark Mendelblatt (skipper, right), shown here in an earlier regatta, will have an uphill struggle to close the point gap with class leaders. Photo copyright Mick Anderson, courtesy US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider.

The boats might be older designs, but the racing is close and exciting, especially in the 16-21 knots and 0.5-1 metre swell in Weymouth Bay. In the closely-fought Star class, GBR’s Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson continued to dominate, and go into the layday with a four-point lead over Brazil’s Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada. “It was a fun day, great sailing,” said Iain Percy at the finish. “It is a lot of fun sailing with guys like Robert [Scheidt] and Freddy [Loof] — all the way round it’s a proper battle.”

The atmosphere in the Star seems more considered, almost gentlemanly. Even at a crowded leeward mark rounding, the shouts seem to be slightly more “if you please” than “oi!”

“It really is a privilege to be sailing against some of the others in our fleet, Robert and Bruno, Freddy and Max and the Polish — there is a great amount of respect out there on a day like today when you have all fought, nipped, and tucked, and you have all come away thinking it’s been a good day’s racing,” Percy explains.

But even the home sailors were struggling with the unpredictable conditions. Percy highlighted some of the challenges that wind and current had delivered: “The tide’s been turning a bit earlier than expected and today was a funny one — in an ebbing tide it would normally be a left-hand track, but with the breeze coming over Portland it was a different kind of day.”

For the US duo of Mark Mendelblatt and Brain Fatih, it wasn’t so much fun. They came into this regatta hoping to be in the fight, but an eighth and a ninth see them lying sixth overall, 20 points adrift of the leaders.

Denmark and the wind gods

In the Finns, Denmark’s latest sensation, the wide-smiled, red-headed Jonas Hogh-Christensen, notched up a first and a second. He’s now beaten the great Ben Ainslie in all six races and carries a 10-point lead over the gold-medal favourite. He was obviously delighted with his day, while Ainslie was happier with his 4,3, which means he lies second, with a day off and the welcome prospect of lighter winds on Thursday.

The USA’s hope, 2008 silver medalist, Zach Railey, has struggled with his form so far in this regatta, but saw a glimpse of a silver lining as he had his best day so far with a 2,8 scoreline, giving him a positive boost going into the layday. Of the amazing performance by Jonas Hogh-Christensen, Railey joked: “He must have taken the wind gods out to dinner before the regatta.” Jonas is an old friend from Optimist racing days and the pair were seen joking between races.

Of his own performance, Railey said: “Today was better. I did nothing different, just had the shifts go the way I thought. It’s been hard to get the wind correct, but I am still fighting hard. I just need to have good races.”

He appeared to be in good spirits, despite the obvious frustration at his performance over the first couple of days. Zach holds no illusions about his position: “I am in quite a hole from the first few races, but I will not quit.”

Racing continues for the Laser, Radial, 49er, RSX and Match Racing classes. The Finns and Stars return on Thursday.

- Gael Pawson

Editors’ Note: Gael is providing special reports on the US Sailing Team throughout the events in Weymouth.