There was more wind than expected for the second day of racing at the Olympic Sailing Competition which was just as well as the lumpy, confused wave pattern made it hard to get into the groove.
When the Pacific swell hits the shoreline of Enoshima and the concrete harbour walls, it reverberates back out to sea, turning the field of play into something akin to a washing machine. Finding a rhythm through the water is difficult, made all the harder by the breeze shifting first one way, then the other, without much discernible pattern. Many suffered, but a few managed to make sense of nature’s chaos.
The ILCA7 and ILCA6 all took to the water in a 10-15 knot easterly breeze and successfully completed their scheduled races.
Men’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 7
Finland’s Kaarle Tapper was not on many people’s radar as a likely candidate to be topping the leaderboard in the mightily tough ILCA 7 fleet. But after three races that’s where the flying Finn finds himself. Following on from a second place on the opening day, Tapper took third in the first race of today, followed by a 14th which in this fleet is not all that bad either.
Four points behind the Finn are two great friends and training partners, as well being Olympic silver medallists from the past two Games, Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) and Pavlos Kontides (CYP). While the Croatian is nominally in second overall on tiebreak with worst race discarded, he’d rather have the more consistent set of numbers held by the Cypriot. Counting all scores, Kontides has the lowest points in the fleet and is the only sailor to have kept his results inside the top ten.
His results of 4,7,5 don’t tell the real story of why the Cypriot is doing so well this week. In yesterday’s race Kontides hauled himself back from 27th to fourth, and today was a similar story of coming back from the dead. “Very changeable conditions – big windshifts and changes in current as well – which gave a lot of opportunities for gains, but also losses. I was finding myself deep after the first lap in both races today, but fortunately I was able to finish well.”
In full hiking conditions and big waves to navigate, it was a full-body workout for the ILCA Dinghy sailors on the Enoshima course. Sweden’s Jesper Stalheim was leading the race for a while before yielding to 2020 World Champion Philipp Buhl from Germany. Stalheim dropped to third and found himself pinned by another boat as he was approaching the windward mark. The Swede misjudged the current pushing the fleet on to the mark, and after hitting the mark it went from bad to worse as he capsized in the course of taking his penalty turn. Meanwhile Milivoj Dukic overtook Buhl and made it a memorable first race victory for Montenegro at the Olympic Games.
Although Buhl would love to have won the race, he was philosophical about finishing second. The German was quietly content with his performance so far at his second Games. “I’ve got five years more experience since Rio 2016. Winning the World Championships last year helps me to be a lot more relaxed now. I think it took a lot of pressure away from this event. Now I just go with it, rather than in Rio where I felt like I had to do it,” he emphasised.
Stalheim must have been kicking himself to have made a mess of his opportunities in the first race of the day. But he kicked himself so hard that he shot into the lead of race three. This time, no mistakes, and the Swede hammered home the win.
Women’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 6
Line Flem Høst (NOR) is the surprise package of the Olympic Sailing Competition so far, the Norwegian sailing an unbelievably consistent regatta in such unpredictable conditions. “I was actually feeling kind of shaky, a bit nauseous, not quite ready,” admitted Høst. “So it was really great to have such a good day and really feel like I was in the zone.”
Vasileia Karachaliou (GRE) rose up the rankings too, on the back of 6,1 scores and sits two points off the lead. “It’s nice to win a race, but it’s just another regatta, even if it’s the Olympics. My most important goal is to try to keep all my scores in the top 10, and then see what happens at the end.”
Until the fourth race this afternoon, Anne-Marie Rindom had been the only athlete to keep all her results inside the top 10, but then the Dane proved that even she is fallible in the vagaries of Enoshima as she finished 13th late this afternoon.
However the bronze medallist from Rio is still in bronze medal position in Tokyo. “I’m a little bit disappointed about that last race. But all in all, I think I managed to keep to my goal, which is to be present in the moment, to look out of the boat and not be affected by my emotions, which is not that easy because there are a lot of emotions at an Olympic Games.”
Following a hard first day on the water, defending Olympic Champion Marit Bouwmeester (NED) really needed to up her game and she came away from the day with a 7,2, lifting her to fifth place overall, two points behind Italy’s Silvia Zennaro. Bouwmeester had been leading the fourth race before being passed by Karachaliou, but at least the Dutch two-time Olympic medallist is in striking distance, 16 points off the overall lead. Two years ago when she won gold at the Hempel World Cup Enoshima, she celebrated with singing ‘Barbie Girl’ at a karaoke bar. Bouwmeester admitted the gold medal looks like a big challenge, but promised, “If I win, I will sing Alphaville.” Alphaville’s best known song from the 80s being ‘Big in Japan’.