“To be a great champion, you must believe that you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.” Muhammed Ali at his finest with the chutzpah and the prose that defined not only his sport of boxing but global sport, business, life forevermore. And down at Enoshima Harbour we’re starting to see some remarkable performances and the cream rising to the top as the vagaries and chance of the opening races give way to the very best sailing talent shining through.
Ten race series are no hiding place for luck or those who play the lottery. You can never beat the bandit of sheer brilliance that rises like Japanese kelp from the seabed of Sagami Bay and what we are seeing now at the Olympics are some familiar names topping leaderboards and toppling the early runners.
Everything is tight, as you would expect at an Olympic Games, and the Land of the Rising Sun hasn’t been making things easy weather-wise with the remnants of a typhoon passing up the east coast throwing the coaches’ playbooks out of the window.
It’s been seat of the pants sailing largely up to now. Compasses have been lying to the sailors. Unexplainable wind holes have decimated ambition whilst striking that most evil of emotions, hope, into others. It’s the hope that kills.
Capsizes at this level should be rare, but they have been commonplace and some of the greatest on the planet have been left scratching their heads and going back to the drawing board where they find the word ‘consistency’ written as a reminder in capital letters. Everyone’s having a shocker. It’s now all about damage limitation and hoping for fair, even breezes to leap-frog up the standings and let their talent, hard hours and years of dedication come to the fore. Medal thinking is for the daft, the hopeful and the optimists.
But let’s look at what happened overnight. Giles Scott came out and lit the after-burners. Two bullets rockets him, Bezos, Musk or Branson-esque, into the stratosphere but sub-orbital for a medal just yet at 4th overall. You simply can’t do a better recovery from two opening 9th’s than to ace the pack on the second day with a clean sweep. Giles now looks upwards at the Turkish, Hungarian and Spanish challenges that curiously, almost unbelievably scored 1,2,3 respectively in both races yesterday and is waiting for inconsistency to creep in. It will happen. Giles will medal.
In the ILCAs it’s looking like a straight fight between the favourite Matt Wearn from Australia and everyone’s favourite Robert Scheidt from Brazil. The fact that Pavlos Kontides, no slouch in a Laser, is sitting pretty at the top to ruin the story is but a target to be shot down by the big guns who are coming fast. If Wearn goes into the medal race a few clicks up on Scheidt, we’ve got Sydney 2000 all over again and all bets are off. Brilliant series.
And hold on, the British girls, Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey, have balaclavas on and flick knives in their pockets and they’re busy mugging everyone downtown in the 49erFX fleet. They’re stealing wins on the line and capitalising on mistakes elsewhere and sit in a commanding position at the mid-way point. Excellent stuff. Hannah Mills banged in a useful 4th and 3rd on the opening day but faces a mighty challenge in the 470 women from Poland’s Agnieszka Skrzypulec who struck a marker of intent with two opening race wins. Long way to go though.
But what about Emma Wilson in the RS:X Women’s windsurfing? Blimey…Emma’s on fire. Two big wins in races 7 & 8 put her clear at the top and this is medal territory writ large. The RYA are licking their lips at the prospect of a haul and Emma looks a dead cert to medal…oh I shouldn’t say that, should I? Okay, I’ll whisper it…”G.O.L.D.”
Pete Burling and Blair Tuke meanwhile had a disaster in the opening race of the Men’s 49er but stated on social media that they were coming out fighting and recorded a 3,8,2 to sit in fifth. But is it game over for Gold already? The British pairing of Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell have consistency to burn and are overnight leaders a squeak ahead of the charging Spaniards and the always-there Aussies. Cigarette paper distance will decide the 49er’s.
It’s all to play for down in Enoshima and oh how I would love to watch some of this racing live. If you ever wondered what the IOC thinks of sailing as a sport, check out the coverage. Nil to non-existent. World Sailing can’t even show a video catch-up of the regatta post racing and the broadcasters couldn’t care less about the opening races.
Maybe we’ll get some airtime if the medal races feature British athletes but it’s a poor show all round and we’re not getting the gossip, the intrigue, the tales of the tape…nothing. It almost feel like sailing as a sport is being punished by the IOC and no matter what App you download, what channel you subscribe to, what platform you access or what money you are willing to pay, sailing just isn’t there. Terrible situation.
How on earth do we inspire the next generation when our sport just isn’t covered whilst teenagers falling off skateboards without helmets on or kayakers descending rapids hog the airwaves – even horses jumping over fences get a look in…bring on the breakdancing, I am done with the coverage of our sport.
Hopefully the above brings some of you up to speed with what’s happening in our fabulous sport and in what’s turning out to be an Olympics for the history books. The cream is rising and it’s full-on racing everywhere you look. The weekend promises much – it’s all about delivery and performing now.