London Olympics: Fisher's View: Saturday - a day of contemplation

August 4, 2012 - Weymouth, England - Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED) coached by Aaron MacIntosh (NZL) leads the Mens Windsurfer (RS:X) by a 15pt margin

Bob Fisher puts the day in context at the 2012 Olympics in Weymouth:


The rest day for the top ten Finn and Star sailors would provide them with ways of assessing their battle plans, while for others there was the mountain of qualification races to tackle. Those mountains are steep and the peaks more unattainable as each race is completed; as in the Finn and Star, there were pre-series favourites, none more so than the Viktor Kovalenko-coached Australian 470 pairing of Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page.

The Aussies had, for them, a shaky start to the series and trailed the British team of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell after two days and four races, but Saturday saw their star in the ascendancy. Two bullets by comfortable margins, after leading from the halfway stage in each race, puts them four points clear of the Brits.

And the men's team was not the only British team to lose the overall lead on the day; the women's team of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark also slipped up and handed the lead to the Kiwi pairing of Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie. The Kiwis must bless their fortune as the British pair suffered a breakdown in the mainsheet system when they had been third and dropped to sixth in this close fleet.

At the time, they had been ahead of the Kiwis, but it took some time and not a little distance for Mills and Clark to repair the damage and get back into the scrap but the sixth place gave Aleh and Powrie a two point lead after four races.

If the blokes of the Finn and Star classes were having their headaches ashore, plotting and planning their strategies for the morrow, the women in the Laser Radial class were setting up their own with Just one point separating the first four, and you wouldn't be wanting to put your pension on the outcome. Three of them have form - world and European championships in the class for Marit Bouwmeester of Holland and Evi van Acker of Belgium, while the leader, Lijia Xu of China won the bronze medal at Qingdao four years ago.

Only the statuesque Irishwoman, Annalise Murphy, who started the series with four bullets, seems out of place. At six foot and one inch tall, Murphy will be hoping for the stronger winds in which she asserted her superiority. The others have each scored two wins since her outstanding opening two days. For most, she would be an outside bet for a medal, but this is sailing and the permutations are almost limitless.

Three consecutive race victories in the Men's Laser class have almost made the gold medal a shoe-in for Australia's Tom Slingsby. This was the promise that he had made and that had been boosted even by his competitors. He is 14 points clear of Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus and 35 in front of the next in line, so only the Cypriot could beat him. No bets taken.

There will be those who miss church to ensure their seats in the Nothe gardens to watch the blood-on-the-water battle in the Finns. It will be a case of who wins between the golden Brit, Ben Ainslie and the great Danish pretender, Jonas Hogh-Christensen. For Ainslie the aim is to become the most successful Olympic sailor of all time and in doing so, equal the four consecutive medals of the Great Dane, Paul Elvstrom. National fervour will run through Hogh-Christensen to win and also preserve his countryman's record.

It could be a very golden day for Britain with Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, the defending Olympic champions in the Star class, aiming to repeat their performance of four years ago. They have a six point lead over Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada of Brazil, a matter of three places in the medal race, and one can be certain that the British pair know their match racing and will keep a close rein on their major rivals.

Sunday will be a very different day.