Hold on. What’s this? The rather familiar names of Pete Burling and Blair Tuke are at the top of the 49er fleet tied for the lead with four races to go – has Grant Dalton been seen in Tokyo by any chance issuing a customary ‘Dalts Rollocking’ to the boys a la Auckland at the mid-way point of the Cup?
Whatever’s gone down, Pistol Pete’s gunslinging at dawn with the British duo of Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell whilst the Spaniard, Diego Botin Le Chever (great name), is keeping them both honest just a point back. Separate these three at your peril but you’d have to back the big-time, prime-time, show-time Kiwis to somehow squeak this one at the death. Some interesting equipment disqualifications shoreside down the fleet but it’s all to play for…it’s a three way Fletch, Pistol and the Spaniard showdown – blink and you’re in a cowboy western movie.
Meanwhile it was tears of the wrong kind in the women’s ILCA Radial (let’s just call it the Laser Radial shall we?) as Denmark’s outstanding Anne-Marie Rindom decided to go match-racing against the Dutch legend that is Marit Bouwmeester in the final race of their series before the double points medal race.
Rindom looked unassailable going into the race with a 26 point lead and really should have just adopted a policy of run and hide, but oh no, she diced with the ‘Bouwmaster’ coming in from astern and luffing her on the line without giving room, time, nor opportunity for the Dutch to respond. Yellow flags were waived and Rindom was jettisoned, disqualified and arrived at her chase boat in tears – and quite rightly immediately blamed the coach! As over-reactions go this was a classic but shows just what the white-heat of the Olympic pressure cooker feels like.
Rindom goes into the medal race still with an advantage of some seven points that in regatta terms is a lifetime and a margin that literally anyone else would die for, but she’s going to need some soothing words from coach and family tonight to keep a lid on her emotions if she’s going to scoop the Gold that has looked like her destiny from race one.
In horribly light airs that makes sailing television such a bore to watch, all the fleets out on the lumpy Sagami Bay were struggling and none more so than in that old bathtub, the 470, that wallowed around like a throwback from the 1970’s.
Wallowing more consistently than the rest was the sublime duo of Matt Belcher and Will Ryan from Australia but even their genius couldn’t buy a win today as they succumbed to a fourth and third to stay well clear at the top of the Men’s fleet. Luke Patience – the man with the perfect surname for this regatta – had a discard 10th in the first race and then clawed up to 5th in the second to stay in the hunt but it’s a race for silver now with the hard-charging, in-form Kiwis of Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Wilcox, a handful of points behind. Discards will be key.
Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre had a very decent day with two thirds and are ready to capitalise if the Polish duo of Agnieszka Skrzypulec and Jolanta Ogar falter, as they did in the opening race today with a 13th only to recover with a bullet…snakes and ladders in this series but Hannah is an athlete for the big-time and with four races to go, my money is on her to be very very close ahead of the medal race, if not leading going into it. Fascinating bathtub yachting at its finest.
Rather quietly, the Nacra 17 mixed fleet is progressing through its series and no change at the top. The two stand-out players are the Italians of Ruggero Tota & Caterina Banti and John Gimson & Anna Burnet from GBR, and these two are absolutely dominating the regatta. Gimson & Burnet had the better day with a bullet and a second whilst Tita & Banti had a discard fifth before recording a bullet in the last. Neck and neck – a photo finish is going to be required between these two but Gold and Silver is guaranteed in some order between the two teams – put your house on it.
And finally, the donkey derby that is that the Men’s Laser fleet saw the most random results of the day in dying breezes. Estonia’s Karl-Martin Rammo guaranteed himself a beer in his local dinghy club for life with an unlikely race win and the top five topsy-turvied as the concluding race finished ahead of the medal race at the weekend – Robert Scheidt was 24th and 16th today just for scale of how tough it was out there. Matty Wearn leads, 22 points clear of Tomasgaard from Denmark who leap-frogged up the table ahead of Croatian Tonci Stipanovic, the silver medallist from Rio 2016. Scheidt sits in sixth place overall and the medal dream looks done. Wearn will take gold for showing up – the battle is for the minor places now.
So we’re coming to the business end now of the Olympics and the simple fact is that the British Team has done remarkably well. Emma Wilson went to bed last night knowing that she’s guaranteed a medal in the RS:X Women’s windsurfing and what a feeling that must be. The UK will be cheering her loudly tomorrow morning.
And we’re looking good in a number of classes – medals can be expected, if not demanded now, in the Finn, both 470 fleets, the Nacra 17’s, and incredibly in both 49er fleets – although the 49erFX will be a tough call. If Britain gets seven medals and the final ever Finn Gold then Ian Walker, GBR’s Performance Director and all-round guru should be knighted – or at the very least be hit-up by the sailors for some very large rounds at the bar. Incredible performance from the team. British sailing is ruling the waves.
It was ever thus.