Earlier on Sunday, an enthralling Medal Race provided a dramatic finish to an incredibly day at the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center. The Danish crew of WARRER and IBSEN went into the race as favourites with an 11-point overall lead on the Italian SIBELLO brothers. Australian young guns and reigning World Champions Nathan OUTTERIDGE and Ben AUSTIN lay in third overall, three points further back and just one ahead of MARTINEZ and FERNANDEZ and German brothers Jan-Peter and Hannes PECKOLT.
Winds of around 15 knots and gusting much more and heavy rain had swept across Fushan Bay all day along and the weather worsened as the 49er Medal Race got underway just before the time limit at 16:30. It was to prove a sensational race, with four different crews in the gold medal position at one stage or the other.
The drama began before the race even got underway as WARRER and IBSEN broke their mast whilst out on the water waiting for the race to start. In one small moment, the hopes of a gold medal appeared to have vanished completed. In a desperate attempt to compete in the race they returned to the marina and hastily rigged the Croatian boat (which had not qualified for the Medal Race).
The 49er Medal Race got underway in very gusty conditions with big waves and heavy rain causing low visibility. Almost instantly their was carnage out on the race area. The Spanish gold medallists from Athens, who where lying fourth overall going into the Medal Race but now had a great shot at gold with the Danes seemingly out of contention, capsized just a few seconds after the gun had sounded and were straight away relegated to the back of the fleet. The French team led up the first beat, whilst the Danes made it to the start in their borrowed Croatian boat just 4 seconds before the time limit ran out.
France rounded the top mark in first followed by the Austrians and then the Italian brothers, which at this stage put the Italians in the gold medal position. Big swells and gusts made for incredibly tough conditions on the downwind legs and it didn't take long before the fleet was left decimated. The French were the first to capsize followed by the Germans, putting the Austrians into the lead with the Italians second and the hotshot young Aussies in third. At this point it looked like being a straight shoot out for gold between Australia and Italy. The Italians held the upper hand on the overall scores and the Aussies had to put at least one boat between them and the SIBELLO brothers to claim gold.
On the final upwind OUTTERIDGE and AUSTIN hit the accelerator and pulled ahead of the Italians with the Austrians next on their hit list. But Austria capsized, crucially robbing the Aussies of the potential one-boat gap they needed between them and the Italians. Australia rounded the final upwind mark in first, 20 seconds ahead of the Italians who still appeared to be in the gold medal position. But suddenly everything changed as the SIBELLO brothers capsized letting the Spanish, Germany and British teams past and leaving the Australians flying down the run on their way to victory. Now though it was the Aussies turn to flip the boat.
All of a sudden the fast finishing Spanish were in the lead and across the line first to win the Medal Race. Germany followed in second, Great Britain were third and the Italians fourth. At this stage the drama had swung full circle and now it was the Spanish who were looking set to win gold, with the Germans winning silver just ahead of the Italians. After several more capsizes the Australians eventually finished in sixth place out of the medal places.
The only question mark that now remained was the Danes. Sailing a boat they were completely unfamiliar with and starting way behind the rest of the fleet they had nevertheless picked up two places with the American and Austrian boats failing to finish the race. If they could cross the line in eighth or better, they would be in the gold medal position. With the Brazilians struggling on the final run the Danes appeared to heading for seventh, but capsized near the finish. Eventually they righted the Croatian boat, crossed the line within the time limit and in seventh place. With the Danes so far behind and visibility very low they had now idea of the other race positions and wild celebrations followed as the overall race scores were displayed on the committee boat.
However, there was one final twist in the tale as the Race Committee protested the Danes for their change of boat. The protest hearing ran late into the night, with the jury decision finally released shortly after midnight.
You can read the full decision in our Protests & Communications section here.
Due to the official race results being delayed, the medal ceremony for the Skiff event will take place tomorrow.
Overall Results - click here