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20 August 2008, 06:16 am
LOOF And EKSTROM Lead Tight Race For Star Sailing Medals
Fredrik Loof (rear) and Anders Ekstrom of Sweden
Fredrik Loof (rear) and Anders Ekstrom of Sweden hold a two-point lead going into Thursday's Medal Race

2008 Beijing Olympic Games
Qingdao, China

Fredrick LOOF and Anders EKSTROM of Sweden hold a two-point lead over Great Britain's Iain PERCY and Andrew SIMPSON ahead of Thursday's Star Medal Race.
Brazilian pair Robert SCHEIDT and Bruno PRADA are 14 points behind the regatta leaders on 47 points after placing third in three races on Wednesday. France's Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU are on 51 points.

The 10 qualifiers for the Medal Race are chasing Fredrik LOOF and Anders EKSTROM (SWE) who sailed to second, first and seventh place finishes in Wednesday's racing. Iain PERCY and Andrew SIMPSON (GBR) posted a first, a second and a sixth.

Wednesday's weather was the best of the Opening Series. The fleet started in a brisk easterly of 8-11 knots.

SIMPSON said he was surprised by the conditions. "We were expecting 6 knots, but we got 12 to 13 knots. There were a lot of tactical things involved today. The sea breeze was clocking to the right. The downwind was very fast."

The boats at the top of the leaderboard sailed conservatively, while those in the back of the rfleet looked for something special to put them in medal contention. The Swedish, British and Brazilian crews were never far apart from one another, but with consistent performances earlier in the series, it's the Swedes and the Brits who hold the upper hand going into the Medal Race.

LOOF and PERCY are old rivals from their days in the Finn single-hander dinghy, with PERCY a gold medallist in the Finn in Sydney, when LOOF won bronze. LOOF says that teaming up with EKSTROM has brought a new dynamic to his sailing, "EKSTROM and I have been training together for the last two years now. I'm a bit on the quiet side and he's definitely on the aggressive side," he said.

Asked about tomorrow's Medal Race the British and Swedish team appear to be taking different approaches. "We have to win the race. It's for the gold and that's the plan," was SIMPSON's response. LOOF sounded a different note, "Tomorrow's race cannot be a straight match. I have to play a little bit more cautiously."

Both teams will know they disregard the Brazilian challenge at their peril. SCHEIDT is a winner of two Olympic gold and one silver medal and a formidable opponent in the Medal Race.

Sweden, Great Britain, Brazil, France, Switzerland, Poland, Portugal, Germany, New Zealand and Italy will start Thursday's Medal Race.

Eight teams have a chance of a medal as just 18 points separate third through to eighth places.

RAMBEAU said the Medal Race could change everything. "It's still wide open for everyone and we are prepared for that."

John DANE (USA), at 58 the oldest sailor at the 2008 Olympic Games, finished the Opening Series in 11th place. In the final race of his Olympic career DANE finished fourth.

Overall Results - click here

ISAF (source: Olympic News Service)
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