Today in Rio, Friday, the Finns have a day off; a day to recover and a day to reflect. It’s been a long three days and the results show a vastly different pattern to normal. Yes, the favourite Giles Scott (GBR) is where everyone expected him to be, but he knows as well as anyone that it is a precarious position when in Rio.
No one has been consistent. Everyone has had scores in the top and bottom half of the fleet. Nine sailors have letter scores. The only constant is that there is no constant. It is a constantly changing field, with huge place changes following each race.
But, that also means the podium is still wide open. Some have already commented that the gold is now Scott’s to lose, but he is only 11 points ahead and yesterday collected 12 points. If there is a constant it is that he has led for two days, but with the next four races expected to be held in light and tricky conditions, no one is laying any bets.
Scott commented, “I think the important thing to remember is that everyone has big scores now. I don’t think there is one person who has been massively consistent so you really have to fight for every single position, no matter where you find yourself. There is still a long way to go and it’s going to be tough.”
He may be leading the fleet but “I wouldn’t say it makes me feel comfortable. I’m pleased to be leading at the halfway stage but I’m very much aware of how much further we have to go." His 17th in Race 1 will haunt him all the way to the end, a little bomb waiting to go off should he make any more mistakes.
Second overall Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) is satisfied with his performance. He knew the windy races would be make or break for him. He has survived, almost, though said he would spend the lay day sleeping – all day – to recover. He is at least 10 years older than most of the fleet and is feeling the pain more than most, but pushes it away with a smile and a joke. He is happy to be in second.
Hungarian rocket Zsombor Berecz (HUN) was one of the fastest in training two weeks ago, and won the training regatta, the so-called, tongue in cheek with a bit of typical Finn humour, Zika Trophy, by winning most races, so his form is no surprise. Except for a start line error in Race 2, he would only be four points adrift of Scott, rather than 15.
Interestingly the sentimentalist’s favourite, Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) has the lowest ‘worst score’ of a 14th. In the last three races he has started to make his move, find some form and move up. In London he finished fourth, missing a medal by a single error. Can he make it stick this time?
London’s silver medallist Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN) has not had the regatta he imagined either. A broken sail in Race 4 meant a retirement, but he remains in fifth. With just four points separating fourth to ninth, he cannot afford any more upsets. In fact there are just 11 points between third and 11th. The battle to make the medal race will be intense and probably quite scrappy.
While many sailors have spent a lot of time here over the past three years, the jury is still out on whether that has actually made their job easier, as many are still suffering in the tricky conditions. But all the training in the world, can’t limit unforeseen random events. Silver medalist at last year’s test event Tapio Nirkko (FIN) broke his rudder in Thursday’s extreme conditions, while several sailors are sick and unable to sail to their full potential, especially in the brutal conditions of the past few days.
Four races remain before the medal race cut is made. Forecasts show light winds for these days, with the racing provisionally scheduled for Copacabana and Niteroi course areas, both outside the bay. This may of course change as the conditions change, while of course, the Finn also lost their time on the TV course inside the bay on Thursday.
Three days of crazy racing have taken their toll. The every so slightly slumped shoulders around the dinghy park tell a tale of disappointment about how it can all go wrong so quickly. After just three days, four years of training seems a high price to pay for such a reversal of fortunes, but there can only ever be one winner.
The gold medal is still a long way off but many dreams are already in tatters at the expense of Rio’s extremely tricky and challenging conditions. A lot of the sailors have overused the word tricky to describe the sailing conditions in Rio. We asked them what that word means to them.
Scott, who suffered on the first day said, “Very unpredictable, the wind comes and goes and it just makes it incredibly hard for us to predict what move to make next.”
It is manageable but, “With difficultly. Some days you get it right and some days you get it wrong. And that’s true from race to race. And that has showed in the results so far.”
Jake Lilley (AUS) commented, “I would say there’s no consistency. When you think you’ve got it figured out God’s going to change the plan on you. That’s how I’d describe it. It’s not straightforward in any way. You have to be constantly adapting a changing playing field. It’s challenging, but it has its rewards and that is what makes this venue so great and at the end of a long week the best guy is going to stand on top of the podium.”
Jonathan Lobert (FRA) has had his share of ups and downs this week. “Tricky means that you never know what can happen and means that that you are never sure of anything. So you should sail more closely to the other guys and try not to get too much distance between them.”
While Scott is still the favourite, he remains unassuming. “It’s [Olympic gold] been in British hands since 2000 and I’d like to keep it that way obviously, but I wouldn’t say that gives me any more pressures. I put pressure on myself to win anyway regardless what’s gone on before me. If anything it is a good thing. We’ve had a pathway put in front of us since 2000 from Iain Percy and since then it’s been a constant evolution.”
Racing for Finns continues on Saturday at 13.05, perhaps on the Copacabana course area. One thing is for sure though and that is that, as usual, it will be a tough fight all the way to the finish.
More photos here. All photos free for editorial rights
Results can be found here.