If you wanted to build a dream scenario to start an Olympic Games sailing competition it would go something like: a comfortable win, in conditions you sail well in and with a few rivals struggling to make an impact. Maybe follow it up win another race win. Right?
Well sometimes dreams can come true, and today they did for Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey in the 49erFX.
The pair don’t mind a bit of wet, cool and blustery stuff, so when they arrived to start their Olympic campaign they were in good spirits.
They shot out of the blocks with a commanding first race victory, an easy half minute buffer back to second place. They had to fight a bit more in race two with their American rivals but again they got the win.
They consolidated top spot with a sixth-place finish but returned home from a job well done on the water.
Their male counterparts, Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell, had a little bit of a wait to get their racing going with a postponement and a race abandonment. They did finally manage to squeeze a race in before the 5pm time cut off and took a second place, very narrowly being pipped for the win by the Irish team.
Here’s something you don’t see every day. Not one, but two, full houses of race and leader board positions.
Giles Scott began his Finn Olympic title defence with a ninth in race one and a ninth in race two to sit ninth overall.
Ali Young continued her steady climb up the Radial leader board with a twelfth in race one, twelfth in race two, and you guessed it, sits twelfth overall.
(Well we thought it was interesting anyway)
In the Laser, Elliot Hanson has been steadily moving up the overall standings day by day. The Lasers were playing catch up on their schedule so they had three races and Elliot had a third and 10th in the first two races of the day. Again, they managed to squeeze in a final race before the cut off time but Elliot finished at the back of the fleet in 28th – a result can use as his discard. He now sits in eighth.
Elliot and Ali will now take a break from racing as the windsurfers return to join the Finn, 49ers and 49erFX tomorrow. The 470 teams begin their Tokyo 2020 racing, as do the Nacra 17, which means everyone will have had some competitive time out on the waters of Enoshima.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Charlotte Dobson, 35, from Rhu, Scotland, said:
“It was a great day. I think if someone had told us we would have those results on day one yesterday we would have grabbed their hand off. Today was about being a bit boring but brave if we saw an opportunity, and that’s what we did a little bit today.
“It is really tricky sailing these boats in shifty conditions were there is such differences in pressure. You’re in the middle of a manoeuvre and you get a massive wind shift it doesn’t make you look great when you capsize in an event like this but it’s so easy to do. I’m grateful that we avoided it today and I hope it’s not our turn tomorrow.
“There’s a range of results and I think that is the nature of puffy, windy racing, certainly in Japan. We have seen this in preparations over the last couple of years so I think, you know, the boring things, it’s going to be a long series and just try and stay out of trouble. We will try and put together a series, it’s not very exciting, it’s boring, but if we can have as many boring days as possible then that is great.
“The lead up to this regatta has been less than seven knots, and then you have these conditions. I don’t think everyone is dialled in to the conditions yet but we have been racing these types of conditions here for the last four years. You just have to get the notebook out and try to remember the tempo of those days and how those days feel.
“Sometimes it was fast and sometimes it was slow today. I don’t think it was much of a boat speed day. I think it was the type of day that Sas does really well which is make the boat quiet and she’s all over making the boat go well so I can get my head out of the boat and look around so we have on maximum focus on where we should be.”
Saskia Tidey, 28, from Portland, Dorset, said:
“It was a super tricky day and a day where you have to have teamwork involved. My job as crew is keep the boat fast in the water and not create any noise or distraction and Charlotte is head out of the boat and see where the next gains are coming from. It was up and down with wind strength today so super, super hard, but we had a good one.
“What’s important for us is not to do anything that surprises us or anyone else, with the conditions out there we just need to keep it consistent and back each other to deliver what we already know.”
Dylan Fletcher, 33, from Thames Ditton, Surrey, said:
“Yeah a good start. Not quite as good as my fiancés [teammate Charlotte Dobson] but we’ll take that. Second place. There’s some rivalry but we do wish each other the best.
“I’d love to start the Olympics with two bullets but ultimately we’ve got to focus on our role and we’re just happy that our first race was solid, so we’re happy with that.”
“I guess every country has had different levels of lockdown and restrictions but for us we’re lucky we had a strong British squad to train with and they really helped push us and it has been fantastic.
“I think it’s definitely been an unusual Games but ultimately you’ve just got to do it on the water and hope that that’s enough.
“In the 49er class especially Britain has been really strong but at this point we’ve never won Gold so it would be amazing and quite a fairy tale if we could finish that off here.”
Stu Bithell, 34, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, said:
“Yeah we had a good race, second going down the last run. I think the Irish got a little bit conservative and opened the door a little bit. There was an opportunity for us to try to nip ahead of them on the finish line but they just managed to hold on and it was quite good fun actually on the slipway just winding them up a little bit, but it’s all good fun. We like the Irish.”
“There’s rivalry throughout everyone really. Everyone’s here to do a job and there’s going to be fierce rivalry to the end I imagine.
“I think we’re feeling confident. It’s not been the perfect lead up for anyone, we’ve certainly not had as much time in venue as we had hoped this year and neither has anyone else so yeah we’re obviously happy with how things have gone today, and not just results, but some of the processes in place, so yeah we’re really happy with those.”
Giles Scott, 34, from Huntingdon, Cambs, said:
“It was a long tricky day. Super shifty in the first one and racing underneath the headland with a 40 degree shift which I got caught on the wrong side of. And a fair few spins in the second race. Not the best of starts but a long way to go and I’ll attack more tomorrow.
“It’s so changeable the weather. I think it’s meant to come on shore tomorrow which will be nice. This morning it was a bit windier and also tomorrow, so I think I have to go home, reset, refuel and come out tomorrow swinging.”
Elliot Hanson, 27, from Macclesfield, Cheshire, said:
“I had a really solid two races and felt like I was sailing well, but I made a big mistake in the third and paid the price.
“I basically did the exact opposite of what I should have done, but hindsight is wonderful. It’s a shame to end the day like that – I’d have preferred it if my scores were the opposite way round so I finished the day on a high.
“I’m now carrying a big score as my discard so I’m going to have to be squeaky clean for the last four races. I’m still in the mix though, so I will go back, regroup, enjoy a rest day tomorrow and come back out fighting on Thursday.”
Ali Young, 34, from Bewdley, Worcestershire, said:
“There were pretty big shifts out on the course today. There were big pressure differences so it was tough racing. It was polar opposite of what we had in the training beforehand. Every day seems to be different conditions and it’s about trying to adapt to each new day.
“I feel like I am battling hard but not making much progress. Today was fun racing but it just didn’t turn out that good for me.
“I’ll do a little review of how I’ve got on so far and see what I can change to attack the next four races.”