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17 August 2008, 01:35 am
Danish Sailors Take Strong Lead Into 49er Medal Race
Jonas Warrer (rear) and Martin Kirketerp Ibsen (front) of Denmark
Jonas Warrer (rear) and Martin Kirketerp Ibsen (front) of Denmark take an 11-point lead into the 49er Medal Race

2008 Beijing Olympic Games
Qingdao, China

Denmark's Jonas WARRER and Martin IBSEN take a strong lead into Sunday's 49er Medal Race after a spectacular comeback on the final run of the last race of the Opening Series.
The Danes consistency was in contrast to a very up and down day from their Australian rivals and gives them a 11-point advantage going into the decisive Medal Race. Jonas WARRER and Martin IBSEN (DEN), ranked #3 in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, finished second, seventh and eighth in the day's three races (race 10, 11, 12).

In the third race of the day, a pile-up at the pin end of the start line cost them time and possibly the race. "We were at the port end of the start line. The USA team charged us while we were on starboard tack. We thought the French might protest us because we went into their water as a result of USA's charging. But in the end, the French did not protest us and USA did their penalty turns. But that completely destroyed our start," WARRER explained.

Despite their world #3 Ranking, the Danish team have been the surprise package in the 49er fleet. Denmark has a very strong 49er programme and there were a number of leading teams vying for a place at Beijing. WARRER and IBSEN won selection and have thrived in the Olympic arena. Despite the predominantly light and very shifty conditions, they have sailed a very consistent series only once recording a finish in double digits. Whilst their position at the top of the leaderboard comes as a surprise to many, it's not a shock to Danish sailing team director Michael STAAL (DEN). "I can tell they are among the best," says STAAL. "I am watching them on the rise of their development curve. They are only 29 and 26 years old respectively. They should be on their way to more medals after these Games."

Pietro SIBELLO and Gianfranco SIBELLO (ITA) started the day badly with a 17th place but came back with a pair of third places in the shifty, dwindling breezes on Course B to be second overall.

Australian World Champions Nathan OUTTERIDGE and Ben AUSTIN dropped to third overall. They looked uncomfortable early. Indecisive at the start of race 10, and unable to find a comfortable position on the start line, they were late to the start. The Aussies fought back strongly to round the downwind mark in fourth place but were caught out by a huge 120 degree wind shift, losing ten places on the next leg and eventually finishing in 12th. They bounced back to second in race 11 but dropped to 18th in race 12, sliding from first to third place overall.

"The results from today's races has turned everything upside down," admitted OUTTERIDGE. "In the third race we did pretty good up to halfway of the first beat. After that we were on the wrong side of everything. We got ourselves into a hole and when we tried to get out, we dug ourselves into a deeper hole."

After leading through much of the series, OUTTERIDGE and AUSTIN now go into Sunday's Medal Race in third overall, 14 points of the gold medal position. However they are not giving in just yet. "All the top teams have had bad days in the Opening Series, so up to this point, we did really well. There's no reason for us not to win tomorrow. We've been working so hard to get to this point," OUTTERIDGE added.

Athens 2004 Olympic Games gold medallists Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP) made their way up the leaderboard to fourth after their best day of racing so far, finishing fourth, first and second.

One of the early medal favourites, Stevie MORRISON and Ben RHODES (GBR) scraped into the top 10, while Athens silver medallists Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUK (UKR) finished the Opening Series in 15th place.

Overall Results - click here

ISAF (source: Olympic News Service)
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