Cover photo: © Sailing Energy / World Sailing …..
Enoshima, Japan – August 3, 2021 – By Richard Aspland, British Sailing Team – All photos © Sailing Energy / World Sailing
Days like this simply don’t happen all the time. Yes, there were three Olympic medals, but the way in which they were won was just extraordinary.
Where do you even start?
Well, the Finn had its last ever Olympic race as the class won’t feature at Paris 2024, but what a way to finish.
Defending champion Giles Scott had assured himself of a medal going into the final race, and just had to stay within four boats of his nearest rival, Zsombor Berecz from Hungary, to secure the gold. Easy right?
There was a moment that went through Giles’s head at the start thinking that he might be over. Better safe than sorry, he went back around to start again, in doing so dropping to the back of the fleet but more importantly making sure his score would count.
From that point on though it was a fight. He pulled back some boats. Then they got ahead. His rival moved to the front.
On the final run in Berecz was leading, Giles was seventh. He needs to finish in the top five to keep his dream of being double Olympic champion alive.
We’ve said it before and we will say it again. This is Giles Scott. Around the final mark and in the short run into the finishing line he passed three boats. Three. He crossed the line in fourth securing the gold and with it the title of two-time gold medallist. Unless things change, Giles will always be the reigning Finn Olympic champion.
If you thought that was exciting then the 49er was a full-blown thriller.
Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell had to put a boat between themselves and sailing’s superstars, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke from New Zealand.
They raced perfectly maintaining a position ahead of their Kiwi rivals, but the problem was the German team of Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel. They were fighting the Brits for the race win when they needed to be in between Britain and New Zealand.
Neck and neck the whole race, the Germans had the lead on the final run. It was nip and tuck to the line. Inch by inch, it was on a knife-edge. You could feel the British sailing fans blowing their TV screens to get Dylan and Stu over the line – and it worked. By the narrowest of margins, they had won; the Germans were second and the kiwis third.
Dylan and Stu were crowned champions, Burling and Tuke in silver and the Germans were rewarded with a bronze for their effort.
It wasn’t as tense in the Nacra 17, but it was still a race full of suspense. John Gimson and Anna Burnet knew they had a medal already in the bag as they started the race in second overall, but they needed to put a lot of space and boats between their Italian training partners, Tita and Banti.
A slow start made things difficult for John and Anna, but they moved ahead of the Italians. Now it was just a case of moving ahead of some more of the fleet.
Unfortunately, the Italians stuck to the Brits like glue and finished just behind them – but it was a wonderful silver lining for John Gimson who had been trying for 20 years just to make it to the Olympics. Now he and Anna had a medal to boot.
In a world-class field littered with world and Olympic medallists, Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey had excelled in the strong winds and held on in the light to be in with a shout of a podium spot.
Again though the wind gods were not smiling on them, and with more light winds they finished their Olympic bid with a seventh-place race finish and a great sixth place overall.
After all the excitement in the medal rush, Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre secured themselves an Olympic medal with a whopping 25-point lead over fourth in the women’s 470.
The pair start the double-points medal race tomorrow with a 14-point buffer back to second as Eilidh looks to replicate her father’s feat of an Olympic gold medal and Hannah goes for the title of most successful female Olympic sailor. You wouldn’t bet against them on their current consistent form and sheer drive and determination.
Luke Patience and Chris Grube have also given themselves an opportunity to medal in the men’s 470 with another two top ten results to sit fifth overall.
Luke and Chris will race tomorrow at 6.33am before Hannah and Eilidh go for glory in the final race of Tokyo 2020 at 7.33am.