Day four review: Testing times for Team GB sailors
Team GB’s sailors endured another mixed bag of results at the Olympic sailing regatta in Qingdao on Wednesday (13 August) – a rest day for the windsurfers.
The wind conditions across Fushan Bay were the lightest they’ve been since the start of competition, with a full race schedule possible in just four of the seven classes to be racing on this fifth day.
Ben Ainslie and the trio of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson extended their lead at the top of their respective Finn and Yngling fleets, with both British boats finishing second in their only race of the day.
Triple Olympic medallist Ainslie has gained a six point advantage over American Zach Railey after seven races for the heavyweight dinghy class, but admitted that it was tough going out on the Yellow Sea off Qingdao.
“It was a pretty difficult race – the wind was very, very light out there on the course and it was a little bit scary at times!
“It was probably the lightest day’s sailing we’ve had so far and when it’s that light, any change in wind in percentage terms makes that much more effect on the fleet. So if you get slightly more breeze than most of the other boats you can make a huge gain.
“If you get it wrong, you’re kind of stuck!”
The Yngling girls – two-thirds of whom are defending champions from Athens – continued their confident form, pulling five points ahead of their nearest rivals, Mandy Mulder, Annemieke Bes and Merel Witteveen of the Netherlands.
Sarah Webb confirmed Ainslie’s view of the light conditions on racecourse E: “It was right on the edge, but it was a good race, it was a fair race – it was great for us to have got a race in and for it to have gone our way so from our point of view, we’re very happy.”
“There was an individual recall at the start,” she explained. “We were very close and we weren’t entirely sure whether to go back or not, but Pippa was pretty confident that we weren’t over so she made the call, we backed her and off we went up the beat.
“We came through, pulled up through the fleet again and ended up with a really good result,” Webb added.
Having led from start to finish, Penny Clark scored a race win in the only race of the day for the Laser Radial fleet, to see her up to fifth place overall after three races, while Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield are up in third place overall in the 470 men’s class with a 9,6 from their two races on Wednesday.
Meanwhile for Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, hopes of a medal in the 49er class have moved further from their grasp when they were called up for a false start in their opening race of the day. The Team GB sailors contested the call in an ultimately unsuccessful redress hearing, claiming the pin end start boat was drifting.
“We felt there was a problem with the first start,” Morrison explained. “We felt one of the race official boats was moving, so I felt we at least had to ask them that question to see if they agreed.”
The 2007 World Champions rallied to post 3,2 in their second and third races on Wednesday, pulling them up to eighth overall.
Morrison admits today’s first race penalty, combined with three scores in the teens from Monday’s races, have seriously dented their hopes of an Olympic podium place – but the Exmouth pair are holding their heads high.
“It’s not quite going to plan as of yet and unfortunately it’s getting a bit late in the day.
“I think we probably can stop thinking about winning a medal – we’re just thinking about doing as well as we can from here on in.
“You never know, people might go mad and you might win a medal, but I think Ben and I have sort of put that out of our minds now. We’ll try and do ourselves proud and carry on – we’re not going to give up – and just see where we get to and hopefully that’ll get better each day.
“Seventh would be better than eighth, sixth would be better than seventh, fifth would be better than sixth – and then who knows what happens? We’ve worked for a lot of years to do this event – we’ve not exactly perfected our performance as I think the results show, but we’re not giving up.
“It ain’t all over ‘til the fat lady sings!”
Four-time European Champion Paul Goodison finished 15th in his only race of the day in the single-handed Laser class, while Christina Bassadone and Saskia Clark are poised in 11th with 15,13 from their two races on Wednesday.
You can follow the racing online at www.rya.org.uk/beijing2008, where you will get updates from the dinghy park and the results as they come in, as well as the news from the Team GB camp. You can also leave messages of support for the team and your comments on the racing and Team GB’s prospects.