real deal

Early this morning (China Time) it was the turn of the 470 with 5 medals up for grabs.

In the Women’s 470 the only way the GBR team could have lost the gold was to score a DSQ and the NZL pairing of Aleh & Powrie to take the race win but that combination was always in the realms of fantasy.

But the Kiwis would have to be looking back as much as forward with Haeger & Provancha just a point behind and JPN & FRA were just – and I mean JUST – outside the medals with 2nd to 5th covered by just 4 points (2 Medal Race places)

Other than a sail round for GBR keeping out of trouble this was potentially going to be another “I’m looking at you looking at me” type race.

After a windless day the day before there was decent breeze out on the bay with just shy of 20 kts.

At the first top mark the World ranked 7th Americans had sailed themselves into Silver Medal position by leading the race but the Kiwis were just 7 seconds back with the GBR women in 5th, as if it mattered. They just needed to keep out of trouble.

By the next mark USA had a further cushion of SLO overtaking NZL but still only 11 seconds to the good, 1 bad tack or tactical wrong call could swing it all back. GBR had slipped to 9th but their job was effectively done in the series races.

The second upwind spun it all round with the American’s having a nightmare dropping from 1st to 6th but only 4 seconds behind the boat that really mattered, the Kiwis, with just the downwind and the short leg to the finish it was all on an as the Netherlands and Japanese could also sneak in and spoil the party. Agonisingly, by the bottom mark USA had slipped to last as a result of a penalty turn and out of the medals at 7th overall. The silver went to Jo Aleh & Polly Powrie (NZL), going some way to justify their pre-event billing with the podium completed by world ranked No 2, Lecointre & Defrance (FRA)

A real up and down race, perhaps a taste of things to come.

Over in the Men’s 470 Medal Race the Gold also looked pretty secure. Greece had to win with Croatia in 6th or worse to pinch the top spot.

Also in the mix were the Australians but for them, they had to win with the Croatians back in 7th. Croatia just had to stay out of trouble and within 5 of Croatia and 6 of the Aussies. In effect it was more Fantela & Marenic’s (CRO) race to lose than anything else. Do they try and stay in touch with TWO boats or just sail as they had during the whole event as the above losing combination had not happened to them the whole regatta – decisions, decisions. And then what do the other two boats do with each other? Plenty midnight oil burned by their coach no doubt.

Bang went the gun and it was clear that AUS & GRE saw each other as the main threat as the 3 protagonists came off the line together. As GRE and AUS paid close attention to each other this gave CRO the opportunity to gradually edge away to secure their gold although the action was down near the rear. Easy to miss that SUI was leading with USA in second. Up the second, and final beat the Aussies covered the Greeks every move turning the medal race into a match race with just Appendix C missing. At the second top mark Will Ryan made an expensive and uncharacteristic mistake by falling out of the boat – not fast – allowing the Greeks to sail past to round the top mark 3 seconds ahead. Downwind the battle continued with AUS getting 2 seconds in front at the penultimate mark and it was all over.

So Fantela & Marenic (CRO) win Gold, sealing Rio as easily Croatia’s best ever Olympic Regatta. The silver of Belcher & Ryan (AUS) conformed their number 2 spot in the World Sailing ranking while mantis & Kagialis (GRE) finished in bronze just one slot higher than their world rank. While not winning a medal, Mcnay & Hughes (USA) will be pleased to be up there in the mix which might help to quieten the criticism of US Sailing a little – but probably not.

That left us with just 15 minutes or so to grab a coffee before the next 2 boat race.

Sorry, but in the 49er Burling & Tuke (NZL) were a class apart and 34 points clear. Biggest question burning in my mind was would they go for a tootle round or try and blitz everyone and enjoy the moment. Behind them there were two boats fairly comfortable for a medal (AUS & GER) and just 1(GBR) which could spoil their party. The rest, really, were (mathematically) just in the way. Sorry but that’s how it lined up.

As expected GER and AUS headed up the first beat locked together. Rounding the top mark, AUS had the boat in between they wanted, but not the one I wanted, it was GBR ha ha! While at the front it was those Kiwis again looking like they wanted to finish their regatta in style.

At the bottom mark there was no change in the front half of the fleet but down the back AUS were quietly chipping away by putting the Poles in the way as well as the Brits. Another lap in and it was looking pretty secure for the Australians while GBR went for a swim (it wasn’t that windy) while up front the Kiwis were doing a horizon job finishing just 1 minute after last placed GER rounded the previous mark.

Quite staggeringly the gold medal was won with less than half the points of the silver Burling & Tuke (NZL) 35 while in silver Outteridge & Jensen (AUS) on 78 with Heil & Ploessel (GER) a further 5 points back.

The final Medal Race of the regatta was quite a prospect. Just like the Laser Radial off the Nothe 4 years ago, the finishing order between the top 4 teams would be the gold/silver/bronze and leather  positions. ESP, BRA, DEN & NZL the four teams in the mix. Could the Spanish emulate Iker & Xabi from a few Olympics back, could the Brazilian helm outdo her famous dad and go one better in medal colour. Denmark also had history to emulate if you remember the dramatic 49er medal race off Qingdao – for me one of the greatest examples of Olympic sailing sportsmanship ever – or would the Kiwis produce a double alongside Burling & Tuke. If the men were anything to go by, it would only take a little over 20 minutes to find out.

Off the line it was the two southern hemisphere boats that got the best of it with a Kiwi double on the cards but Torben’s daughter was right with them both heading right but like London 2012 it was the four for the medals that led the fleet.

Up the first beat the lead see-sawed between the Brazilians and the New Zealanders with the Kiwis rounding second with the home team just seven seconds back. The Danes followed just 2 seconds later with the Spanish back in 8th place. NZL extended on the run, DEN hung on to BRA and the Spanish already looked like being out of the medals altogether.

Up the second beat the two leaders (for medals) split right and left – as if those of us watching didn’t have enough excitement going on and when they came back to the top mark NZL still had it with BRA having halved the gap and DEN in bronze.

Down the 2nd run they closed even further to 6 seconds rounded the mark and promptly split again while the battle for bronze had heated up with ESP now just 4 seconds behind DEN. As the two leaders came to the cross BRA was ahead and rounded the top mark for the last time in the lead by 10 seconds.

It was all on down the final leg with NZL only just behind, a match race to the finish with Martin Grael, along with her crew Kahena Kunze going one better than her father, Torben with an Olympic Gold Medal for Brazil, the fourth for the Host Country and Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech just failing to propel New Zealand to joint medal top spot in the regatta. And let’s not forget the other battle which was won by Jena Mai Hansen & Katja Salskov-Iversen of Denmark.

A fitting finale to the Rio Olympic Sailing Regatta.

Wrap up later today, time to catch up on my sleep. Its 0250 here in Shanghai

See ya on the water

Shanghai Sailor