Sailing Olympics – Day 12 – Congrats and Consolations

Listen to GBR Star crew Andrew Simpson explain the day that kept them in second overall on the eve of the Star medal race

To win a gold is outstanding, but to be the first to win gold must surely be the ultimate. If the thousands that had gathered along Qingdao’s sea wall to wave the red national flag at the medal ceremony were anything to go by, this message hadn’t escaped the local population. Today Jian Yin had made history, China’s first gold medal in sailing was finally in the bag, the crowds were out to celebrate and so were the press. So much so, that half way through a packed press conference for all three medallists, held just a couple of hours after the racing had finished, the front page of the first evening edition of the Qingdao Daily newspaper was handed out in which Yin’s success on the race course was laid out in pictures and words, blow by blow.

For a newspaper to beat the end of the press conference was impressive, not even the bloggers could better this.

Yin’s achievement is no accident and deserves to be celebrated. In Athens she took silver and on the international circuit she has been in the top five on at least two occasions. From the opening day in Qingdao, talk of the dock among some of the top women in this class was of her unbelievable strength and power. Today the early gossip was proved correct.

In silver position, a long term player who admitted to a career in board sailing that spanned more than 25 years, more than the age of some of her competitors. Yet in taking the silver, 38 year old Alessandra Sensini proved that experience still counts for a great deal. This is the fourth time she has taken a medal away from five Olympic games making her the most prolific female Olympic sailing medallist.
“I now have the complete set,” she said referring to the gold and two bronze medals that she has already won. Would she be back in 2012?
“After each Games I’ve said this is my last one but I keep coming back,” she said. “I really don’t know what I’ll do next time.”

Meanwhile Bryony Shaw, with her bronze medal around her neck, simply couldn’t stop smiling – nor could anyone else in the team.
Her first Olympic experience had delivered the goods after a very tough event.

“I’m so relieved, I’ve had such an up and down week,” she said grinning from ear to ear and trembling with excitement. “The colour of my medal was determined by how the other girls sailed and I take my hat off to the Italian and Chinese girls.”

But this was the second award Shaw had received recently, the other was pinned to her sailing top, a Blue Peter badge which she has been wearing all week.

“I taught one of the presenters Zoe how to windsurf and she presented me with a badge and said here’s your lucky charm.”

Seems to have worked.

But an hour later the mood within the British camp was more sombre after high hopes of another medal evaporated after 20 minutes of racing.

“It’s pretty tough, in a race that was only one lap. I don’t think I did anything wrong, sometimes you’re the right side of the shift, sometimes you’re not, especially when you’re close to the shore,” said Nick Dempsey, the disappointment written across his face. It was of little consolation to him that the press were as shocked as him, but it was true.

In his previous Olympics, good fortune had played into his hands and he left with a bronze medal, while the Brazilian sailor Ricardo Santos crashed out of the medal zone and into fourth.

“When it’s close like that you can only do your best and at the end of the day you can’t always get it right,” he said.

Meanwhile in the Stars, the tension was building as Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson had two blistering races in which they pulled off a first and a second. Had they not have got their forestay caught under the bow while leading in the third race, something that Simpson says has never happened before, their overnight position could have been even better.

As it was, just two points between them and Swedish combo Loof/Ekstrom means that it’s all on for tomorrow’s medal race, especially since Scheidt and Prada have clawed their way back into third overall. They trail Percy and co by 12 points but no sane person would write the Brazilian off.

In the Tornado class the news is not so good for British supporters. Despite a good start to the day, where McMillan and Howden scored a 2nd and a 3rd, their third race left them in 12th. The day’s performance got them into tomorrow’s medal race but it won’t get them any further, sadly the pair is out of medal contention.

Could the last day provide a sixth medal for Great Britain? Given that tomorrow looks like being the last day of the sailing Olympics, this race is one to get up early for.

After the disappointment of Athens and a long time in a cash strapped America’s Cup campaign, Percy wants another medal badly and so does his crew. Simpson, has been both Iain’s and Ben’s training partner for previous Olympic campaigns, now it’s time to do it for real.

“It’s a great feeling to be racing in the Olympic Games after trying to beat Iain and Ben over the last 12 years,” he said. “It’s great fun racing with Iain, at times its brilliant.”

Tomorrow could be that day.