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Boards at the Olympics: Day One

The first day of racing in the RS:X competition proved as exciting as we all hoped.

Winds of between 12 and 16 knots blew through the Weymouth Bay West course, picking up and dropping off slightly at times, but providing the racers with fantastic although tricky conditions throughout the day.

The course was an LS2 – in english an upwind downwind course, with a downwind slalom leg to finish. Racers cross the start line, head to an upwind gate where they can chose which buoy they gybe around to commence the downwind section of the race. They then sail all the way downwind and through another gate at the bottom. They do this twice, then after going through the downwind gate for the second time complete a short downwind slalom course (similar to what’s seen on the PWA but a little shorter!) before heading through the finish line.

Races today were approx 30-35 minutes long and this is the general aim for all races this week on the RS:X.

The men were the first to head onto the water, the ones to watch out for DEMPSEY Nick (Great Britain), van RIJSSELBERGE Dorian (Holland), MIARCZYNSKI Przemyslaw (Poland), WILHELM Toni (Germany) and TOBIN Jp (New Zealand) all seemed ready to a good start to the racing.

RS:X Men's start. Image credit Simon Bornhoft.

In the swell and slightly inconsistent winds the start of the first race was all important, the sailors lined up and shot down the line as the seconds ticked away. Dorian was one of the farthest down the line, taking off from the pin end with incredible speed and managing to head up wind in clean air with the rest of the fleet trying to maintain their positions behind him. Nick seemed in a great position but then unfortunately as the start got closer, it appeared that he lost power and struggled to get off the line with speed.

By the first upwind Dorian was away, already with a considerable lead against the rest of the fleet which he consolidated throughout the race, pulling further and further away from his competitors, finishing a very respectable 42 seconds ahead of the Polish rider Przemyslaw, who in turn finished a further 40 seconds ahead of the German Toni Wilhelm in third.

Nick was in 12th position at the first upwind mark, however he quickly clawed his way through the fleet, picking off on average two sailors per leg which is no easy feat in a fleet of such calibre. The slalom leg of the course on the final stretch to the finish saw drama as always, as the Canadian racer dropped his penultimate gybe allowing Nick to sail past him and finish up in fifth place.

It quickly became apparent it paid to hit the left side of the course (looking out from the start and up to the windward mark) and as the races continued the couple of racers heading right dwindled to none. The wind did not seem to be shift too much through the day, but it did seem a little windier on the left which may have been why it seemed to pay. 

As the second race got underway the conditions looked fairly similar, again Dorian headed straight for the pin end and shot away from the rest of the field. There was some confusion on the live results as it seemed Dorian was too fast for the tracker, we were sure he was in the lead despite it being reported Toni from Germany was winning. It was later clarified that Dorian had been missed around the windward mark as the ratifiers had not expected him so quickly, that at least goes someway to explain just how fast his board speed has been today! That and the fact that he finished over a minute ahead of the next rider in race two.

The German and Polish riders were extremely close the whole way around the course, with Przemyslaw just pipping Toni to the second position. JP Tobin of New Zealand seemed to find his form in the second race, finishing in a much more expected position of fourth.

Nick was 10th at the first upwind mark and again seemed to be picking up places through the race as he did in the first one, although not with as much success as in the first race. Nick almost took the rider from the Republic of Korea on the final reach to the finish, but couldn’t quite make it.

Nick Dempsey crossing the finish line. Image credit Simon Bornhoft.

It is clear Nick has the board speed and skills to be taking race wins, although his frustration was clear as he crossed the finish line in the second race, fourth at the end of day one is a very solid position to be in. Which as Nick said yesterday, is exactly what he was hoping for.

Tomorrow the RS:X men will be completing two races on the Nothe course at 12.00. The forecast is looking windy, almost pushing the boundaries of what is considered safe to race in for the RS:X so it looks like it could an action packed day.

We will follow up with a further report on the RS:X women’s racing from today very shortly.

On the next page we have a full interview with Bryony Shaw from day one, plus check out the live updates from today’s racing below. 

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