Day nine of the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition is destined to live long in the memory with the first ever Medal Races held at the Olympic Games in stormy conditions on Fushion Bay.
It was a great day for Great Britain, who won two gold medals in the Yngling and Finn Medal Races, whilst the 49er Medal Race will surely go down as one of the most exciting and dramatic races ever held in the history of Olympic sailing.
Sunday began with wind and rain sweeping across Fushan Bay, making for inhospitable but extremely exiting conditions which grew more extreme as the day went on. After eight days of competition in light winds, sailors across all the fleets had to cope with a completely different set of challenges.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the wind and the rain did nothing to stop the British charge. Sarah AYTON
, Sarah WEBB
and Pippa WILSON
(GBR) won the first ever Medal Race in Olympic history to win the Olympic gold medal in the Women's Keelboat - Yngling event. The British team won their battle against the Dutch crew of Mandy MULDER
, Annemieke BES
and Merel WITTEVEEN
, who finished the Medal Race in fourth place to take the silver medal. Sofia BEKATOROU
, Sofia PAPADOPOULOU
and Virginia KRAVARIOTI
of Greece claimed the bronze.
More success for Great Britain followed as Ben AINSLIE
(GBR) won his third consecutive Olympic gold medal as he dominated the Finn Medal Race. Zach RAILEY
(USA) secured the silver medal with a sixth place finish, whilst Guillaume FLORENT
of France claimed bronze after finishing third in today's Medal Races.
The weather worsened as the 49er Medal Race got underway just before the time limit at 16:30. The drama began before the race even got underway as the Danish crew of Jonas WARRER
and Martin IBSEN
, who held an 11-point lead going into the Medal Race, broke their mast. They returned to the marina and hastily rigged the Croatian boat (which had not qualified for the Medal Race) just making it back to the start 4 seconds before the time limit expired. The races itself was simply sensational as the 10 crews battled in extreme conditions and the lead swung around continuously, with four different crews in the gold medal position at one stage or the other on the final run. Provisionally Denmark won the gold medal ahead of the defending Olympic Champions from Spain, but the final results are still subject to a Race Committee protest against the Danes for using the Croatian boat.
Away from course area A, there was also racing in the other fleets today although the extreme weather conditions meant that the full schedule could not be completed. The Lasers, Laser Radials, Star and Tornado fleets all got one race in, with the RS:X boards managing two. In the Laser fleet, Paul GOODISON
(GBR) is back at the top of the leaderboard after another day of topsy-turvy finishes amongst the leaders. In the Laser Radial, Gintare VOLUNGEVICIUTE
of Lithuania is at the top with ever consistent world #1 Anna TUNNICLIFFE
(USA) in second. World Champions Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ
and Dominik ZYCKI
(POL) lead the Star fleet after a second in today's race. Fernando ECHAVARRI
and Anton PAZ
of Spain lead the Tornado fleet, with World Champions Darren BUNDOCK
and Glenn ASHBY
(AUS) in second place overall after winning today's races.
There was a major shake up in the Men's Windsurfer fleet with two races in 20 knots plus winds. World Champion Tom ASHLEY
(NZL) now sits atop of the leaderboard after 5, 3 scores today with Saturday's leader Shahar ZUBARI
(ISR) dropping two places to third. In the women's fleet it was also a good day for the reigning World Champion with third and second place finishes for Alessandra SENSINI
(ITA) moving her up to second place overall. Whilst Jian YIN
(CHN) was not competing in her favoured conditions today she did enough to prove she's not just a light wind specialist. Scores of 13 and 7 keep her in first place overall on 16 points.
Tomorrow the two 470 fleets take centre stage with their Medal Races on course area A. The first scheduled start is at 13:00. Racing is also scheduled in the six remaining fleets.
Full race reports to follow…
View all results together with mark-by-mark roundings in our Results Centre.