From Hero to Zero: a Greek Tragedy unfolds

Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. Emilios Papathanasiou (GRE), 1st, race 1.
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'Yesterday, race one of the Olympic Games, and Greek Finn sailor Emilios Papathanasiou got off to a dream start. After languishing in the 20s at the first turning mark, he bounced back to win the first race as the pecking order turned inside out on the final run to the finish.


Watching from the same media boat as the Daily Telegraph's Tim Jeffery, Tim said Emilios had just made the perfect start to his Olympics. By that he meant not the perfect start for the Greek, but for Ben Ainslie or anyone else with their eye on the prize.

The Greek Finn sailor has a reputation for blowing championships, and so it proved at the start of race 2, when in a battle to get off a very congested pin end of the start line, his rudder popped off the back of the boat, apparently snagging the long anchor line of the start boat.

By the time Papathanasiou got going again, he was last. He made a few places in the latter stages of the race, but in his desperation to get back into the fight the Jury ruled that he had infringed the kinetics rule, Racing Rule 42, on two occasions in a short space of time. The first infringement required a 720 penalty, the second obliged the Greek to retire from the race. 1st in race one, last in race 2.

Still, there was always the discard. Not blown yet.

Emilios Papathanasiou GRE - photo Robert Deaves


Day 2, and Emilios starts with a very respectable 5th place in race 3.

Race 4, a different story. He's doing OK, lying in the top 10 all the way round the track, but then along comes the Jury. Another infringement, this time a DNE to his score. A non-discardable disqualification from the race.

A little over a year ago, this would have entailed Emilios being disqualified from the entire event. At least now he can continue racing until the end, but now lying in 15th overall with just over a third of the regatta completed, it would take a miracle for him to get back into medal contention.

What did Ben Ainslie make of this situation? It seems like the Finn sailors are constantly treading a fine line on the edge of RR42 infringement, and quite a few sailors are falling foul of the Jury.

'I wouldn't have said it's that high for a Finn regatta, for such light conditions. It's quite normal. The water's so choppy it's hard to do the right amount of movement in the chop with the sail fanning. Part of the game is making sure you try and stay clean, if the Jurty do come over to you it's quite often because there's a problem.'

But as for as Emilios, does Ben think the punishment fits the crime? 'I honestly don't think boats should be disqualified [for RR42]. I think that's tough. Maybe you should do a 720 on top of every penalty you get. Emilios is one of the favourites, he's a fast sailor and a good sailor. For sure you've got to police it, but I think it's a bit harsh when people's regattas are over, effectively on day 2.'

Here is a slice of the citrus ...you can read the full story on the blog.

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