The talk going into the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition was that anything and everything could happen. Well, as the Finns started racing today, it did. Out of the crazy conditions, the youngest sailor, Facundo Olezza (ARG) won the first race, while the oldest sailor, Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) won the second. After two races, Zbogar leads overall from Alican Kaynar (TUR) and Olezza.
It was a day in which most of the favourites saw a different end of the fleet to normal and would prefer to forget. Sailed under the Sugarloaf mountain it was always going to be the hardest day of the week, but no one expected it to be as hard as it was. It turned into one of the shiftiest, random days on the water that most of the Finn fleet have ever been forced to endure. It was a day was full shocks and surprises as the fleet suffered 40 degree shifts and huge pressure changes that mixed the order on almost every leg.
Kaynar was the early leader in the opening race before Deniss Karpak (EST) took the lead downwind after a huge right shift turned the first run into a reach. Olezza was next up to take the lead on the following downwind to lead through to the finish from Kaynar and Zbogar.
Olezza said, “I think it was really important to get the first shift and I got the first right shift and just split with five or six more guys and from there it was a completely different race. It was just staying in the pressure and trying not to lose any places.”
“I never thought I would actually win the first race here, but now it’s over and it’s time to think of tomorrow. I am not trying to be emotional about it, just focused. For me the races are in the bag and the next are coming, so I am preparing for that.”
The second race was sailed in slightly more stable winds, at least in terms of pressure but still lacking in any particular direction. Zbogar held a nice lead at the top after favouring the left, but on the second upwind, Zsombor Berecz (HUN) went right and popped out ahead, while Zbogar covered the majority on the left. However, the Hungarian, along with NZL, AUS and URU were all pulled out after a starting penalty to leave Zbogar the winner from Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN) and Giles Scott (GBR).
Zbogar, a double Olympic medallist in the Laser, and now sailing his second Games in the Finn, explained his day, “The fleet is really strong and everybody is very close so making small mistakes can lose you five to ten places very easily, so to be a little bit in front and be able to cover the others makes the job much easier. We knew the left was much better but with this place you never know actually.”
“It’s a better to have a good day than a bad start, but there are two days ahead with strong winds, which I will try to get as less points as possible and be close to the leaders.” He explained he was a bit lighter than the others, but also a bit older.
On the second start. “I was just next to these guys that were UFD. It was just a matter of seconds. But when there is a small group that start to push you have to push as well. The course was very tricky to get clear starts. So my goal today was just to be free of the others, because I have good speed and I don’t need to push the start as much as the others.”
“By the end of the week I think the average points will quite high.”
One of the day’s casualties was four time world champion Giles Scott (GBR), who picked up a 17, 3 to sit in tenth overnight. “The Sugarloaf course is notoriously difficult. The wind was that little bit further right than yesterday, which basically means the breeze comes straight down over Sugarloaf, which provides really tricky, unpredictable winds. There is a lot of scope for big gains and there is also a lot of scope for some big loses so managing those is particularly difficult. I’m not massively happy with how today has gone, but there is still a long way to go.”
“It’s certainly not the way you want to start an Olympic Games but unfortunately these things happen in regattas, and they have certainly happened to me over the past four years, so it doesn’t make things easy but there is still a lot to play for."
Local favourite Jorge Zarif (BRA) faired better and lies in fourth overall after a 4, 6. ”I feel like I had two bad starts and had to recover a lot, which was quite bad because the conditions were really tricky. If you ask someone if there are OK with a fourth and sixth, then on a normal day some guys would say no, but on a day like today it’s two good results.”
“On the Sugarloaf race area it’s the worst one to keep a good average. It’s the worst to predict anything and we can see that in the results.”
Sixth overall Høgh-Christensen was more outspoken, “The wind was shifting 30-40 degrees with pressure and there was swell coming across the race course at the bottom half. The wind was going all over the place. But it is what it is. We knew it was going to be tricky on this course and there was a good chance that we would have some randomness in races and we sure did. But we’re through this course and onto the next one, at least until the medal race.”
two races, Zbogar holds a three point lead over Kaynar and a six point lead over Olezza.
All three sailors have been involved in the training programme at Luca Devoti’s Dinghy Academy in Valencia, as well as Zsombor, and Alejandro Foglia (URU), who lost first and third place in the second race with a UFD each.
Devoti said, “The guys from the Dinghy Academy did extraordinarily well.” Referring to the UFDs he said, “It’s a bit of black and white. They sailed very fast but of course starting over is very costly. It’s the most expensive mistake. The conditions should change a lot for tomorrow.”
“Vasilij is an unbelievable champion, very experienced and very consistent. Facundo is a champion to come if he manages to control his mind.”
With a lot of the favourites now sitting deep in the results, this Games could come down to clearing the mind each day and starting afresh. It has certainly been the incredibly tricky start that everyone expected.
Racing continues at 13.05 on the Niteroi course, outside the bay, on Wednesday, with some forecasts predicting strong winds.
More photos will be posted here.
Full results can be seen here.