Ben who? Giles Scott is over the horizon in the Finn fleet at the Tokyo Olympics, showing yet another clean pair of heels, thumping the fleet with two bullets to climb what was looking to us mere mortals like the North Face of the Eiger after day one. It’s a huge performance from Giles. It’s massive. Four straight race wins in Olympic competition is something of dreams, the likes of which we see from names of the past – Elvstrom, Coutts, Ainslie, Schumann – it’s a performance up there with legends of any sport and with six races done, you get the feeling that the rest of the fleet is looking at the minor places and chasing the sub-steps of the podium.
If you want to win at the Olympics, you have to perform. Nothing is gifted to you and crucially you have to do it under pressure. After a head-scratching first day of racing for Giles when he recorded two 9ths, he’s come alive. The America’s Cup was an undoubted distraction to his dinghy programme and he’s taken time to come back after a middling series of regattas leading up to Tokyo but form is temporary, class is permanent. He’s back and he’s brilliant.
Possibly the most precious of all medals in the discipline, the final ever Finn Gold, is a coveted prize for whoever wins it. Giles has the marker of intent down and a place amongst sailing’s greatest awaits. Four fleet races left and then the double-points medal race for the top 10. It’s looking good.
And as the light faded on Enoshima Bay, the RS:X windsurfers came ashore with Kiran Badloe, the blue mohican-clad Dutch surf dude with more smiles than a Cheshire Cat, virtually guaranteed Gold after a devastating display taking the final two races at ease from a pretty supine fleet.
Badloe seemed to be able to start at will – on port tack or starboard – and pump his way in the 13 knot breeze higher, faster and more accurately than anyone else. It was a cakewalk and only gear damage or disqualification will not see him on the top step. Thomas Goyard from France and Italy’s Mattia Camboni will duke it out for silver and bronze – everyone else needs a miracle.
The 470’s in both the Men’s and Women’s fleets are having a good old ding dong but there’s very familiar names creeping ahead of the chasing pack and it’s all about consistency.
In the Men’s fleet, the Aussie duo of Mat Belcher and Will Ryan are looking imperious but being pushed hard by the canny Scot, Luke Patience, who’s time to shine is now. In the Women’s fleet, perhaps a little doubt is creeping into Poland’s Agnieszka Skrzypulec who scored a second in the opening race and then a discard 5th whilst Hannah Mills and Eilidh MacIntyre banged in a bullet in the last race to keep things tight at the top. The 470’s are always close. This will go the wire and with Enoshima serving up tricky conditions, anything could happen. Again, consistency pays.
Emma Wilson goes into the medal race of the RS:X Women just a couple of points behind China’s Yunxiu Lu with all to play for. Emma will medal but with six points separating the top three, and just two points either side of Emma, the base metal colour is too close to call. Go out and demolish the fleet tomorrow Emma and let fate decide…I’ve got a feeling she’ll do it.
In the ILCAs, Matty Wearn is off beyond the horizon. The hoped-for show-down with Scheidt is fading fast as Wearn banged in two bullets whilst the Brazilian went backwards and will struggle to eke his frame onto the podium at this rate. Wearn was the hot favourite having ousted the defending Olympic Champion to qualify and he’s proving the selectors right, coming really good just when it matters. Tough to see any other outcome than another Aussie Gold in the Lasers.
And in the women’s fleet, it’s Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom who is sailing off with the title. Interesting to see the three top spots taken by Nordic countries with Finland and Sweden in second and third. Must be something in the water up there or the fact that the Nordic countries have the best Olympic pathways via Optimists, Europes, Lasers and have the big-time temperament to match.
And finally…the Mixed Nacra’s. Not my favourite fleet as I think they’re a bit Mickey Mouse but two very clear leaders in Italy’s Ruggero Tita & Caterina Banti and Team GBR’s John Gimson with Anna Burnet who are pulling away and divvying up race wins for fun. I’m expecting a British medal here but only keeping a watching brief on the fast cats…I’m sure my enthusiasm will pick up as the series unfolds. Apologies to the cat fans amongst you…
And thank you to readers who responded to me both publicly and privately to secure viewing of the regatta. I ended up taking out a Discovery+ subscription and I guess it will do. I was restricted to watching RS:X racing today but beggars can’t be choosers. It’s crumbs from the table and I still contest that World Sailing is asleep at the wheel on this one – pictures on social media aren’t really good enough in the always-on era and asking fans to video themselves for some inane montage is crass beyond belief. I know there’s huge rights deals that have been signed but come on…our sport is suffering, marginal as we know it is, from a woeful tactical approach and lack of exposure.
Sort it out for Paris 2024. Please…