You had to see it to believe it. The third day of racing for Finns at the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition was a spectacular day of sailing with big winds, huge seas and even bigger stakes. While Giles Scott (GBR) moves into an 11-point lead and Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) hangs onto second, Zsombor Berecz (HUN), rockets up the fleet to third after a great performance.
The sailors awoke in the morning expecting a nice quiet day inside the bay, but the organisers had changed the schedule to put them on the Copacabana course area outside the bay as it was deemed too dangerous for the multihulls. But dismay soon turned to delight as the conditions allowed the Finn sailors to show what they are made of – a gladiatorial battle at the extremes of what is sailable. With the wind pushing past 25 knots, and 2 to 3 metres waves, on an even larger swell, coming down the course, it was no day to be shy.
In the first race, Jorge Zarif (BRA) knew where he was going and led round the top mark from the right corner. But Berecz was not far behind and took the lead on the second upwind to take the win from Zarif and Tapio Nirkko (FIN).
Zarif said, “I think the secret today was to find a good line to cross to the right and I had a good line and good boat speed and I was lucky to cross fully to the right. And that’s it. Less current, and more wind. And then in the second one I tried to tack as soon as could after the start, but I was too late already.” He finished 18th.
The second race followed a similar format with perhaps slightly more wind and slightly larger waves. This time, Scott, got it right and, after passing Jake Lilley (AUS) on the first downwind, led round the rest of course for an impressive win. Caleb Paine (USA) crossed second, but was later disqualified following a protest on the start line, so Josh Junior (NZL) secured second with Lilley third.
Scott explained, “There was a huge gain on the right hand side of the course all day today and I was pretty slow to realise that on the first leg and let the fleet get to the right of me.” After languishing at the back of the fleet for the first lap, he “…managed to come back to 11th which was damage limitation, but then to come back and win the next race was all I could ask for really.”
The performer of the day was Junior, with a 5, 2. “I finally found the front today – far out!”
“It was a really breezy day with big waves out there. I managed to change a few things and finally got my boat going a bit faster and sailed a lot better, so I’m stoked.”
One of the pre-regatta favourites, Junior is still down in 14th. Does he think his problem was based on speed or decision making? “A bit of both. Not very good speed leads to bad decisions and bad decisions lead to more bad decision. But I think we’ll just keep trying to turn that around and see what happens.”
“A medal is lot on now. I’m just trying to get as much up the fleet as possible, race as many good races as possible and see what happens from there.”
One of the new Olympians here, Tom Ranshaw (CAN), is enjoying the Olympic experience. “I just wanted to do as well as I can but I didn’t really have any results expectations. I was a long shot to get here in the first place. I have missed a couple of small things in pretty much every race so hopefully I can just execute a little better and finish each race strong.”
“It’s awesome being here. I’m just trying to soak everything in and sail as hard as I can. I don’t want to leave here with any regrets. For the next quad I am going to have four years of preparation rather than just one so I hope be on podium, or on top of the podium for the next one so being here is a lot about getting the experience.”
“I was happy with my first race.” He placed ninth. “In the second race I slowed down a bit but still happy with how I sailed.”
On the possibility of lighter days ahead, “I think I have a little potential to do better when it’s lighter, but I am enjoying the breeze too. It was a fun day. You can’t ask for better sailing conditions really. That was the ultimate conditions for sailing a Finn for sure.”
Berecz described the day as, “the greatest day in my sailing career. I can’t be happier than this. I was a bit disappointed in the morning when they moved us from the inside course to the outside. We knew it would be windy and choppy again today as we expected more wind and bigger waves. But as we were on Copacabana we only had the waves coming from one direction so it was more manageable than yesterday.”
“I had a great first race. We had a plan. We executed it, and it worked, because I won the race.”
“In the second one I didn’t have a good start but managed to hang with the guys and I was around seventh all the way, and I am super happy with that.”
“We have four more tough races and for sure it’s going to be light, which I am happy about because I am quite tired now. So we’ll see what this brings for us. My dream is getting close. We will not change anything; we will just keep the routine.”
The disqualification of Paine drops him from fourth to 15th. That means Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) is up to fourth, with Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN) moves up to fifth, despite a day of two tenth places.
Tomorrow the sailors have a lay day, a time to rest and reflect on the second part of the Olympic regatta. Only 10 points separates third to tenth, so there is still a lot of racing to go before this regatta is over.
Racing for Finns resumes on Saturday.
More photos will be posted here. All photos free for editorial rights
Results can be found here.