July 29, 2021

By Philip O’Connor

ENOSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) – A typhoon earlier in the week threatened to give Tokyo 2020 Olympic sailors more than they could handle, but as the opening series of races reaches its climax, they are trying to take the wind from each other’s sails, literally and figuratively.

Men’s 49er class leaders Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell have a target on their backs after a strong start and the Britons found their competitors ‘tacking on’, or blocking the wind, in a bid to catch up.

“They just ‘sit on our wind’, as it’s called. They give us less wind coming from behind them, and it makes it very difficult to get free, especially when it’s consistently happening and happening downwind,” Fletcher explained.

“It’s brilliant really, it’s a compliment in a way, but it’s not nice when you’re battling it out,” his team-mate Bithell added.

A slate of 21 races across nine classes is set for Thursday with the first four starting almost simultaneously, leaving a handful of spectators following from the shoreline not knowing where to look at times, as the boats bobbed on the choppy waves.

“It’s pretty nice, pretty much perfect conditions for sailing, 10-12 knots, a little bit lighter than yesterday and the waves are a little bit smaller as well, it was really enjoyable,” said Irish sailor Robert Dickson, who together with Sean Waddilove lies in seventh place in the 49er category.

With six races in the opening series down and six more left to go to decide the medals, there is plenty of time left for changes in field positions.

Meanwhile in the women’s RS:X windsurfing event, Yuxiu Lu of China rattled off three excellent races, finishing second, third and second again to take control, putting herself in pole position for Saturday’s medal race.

Yuxiu leads Briton Emma Wilson by four points and French Olympic champion Charline Picon by six, but Picon is not giving up hope of retaining her Olympic title just yet.

“We are close, and everything could happen on the medal race,” she told reporters. Asking what the gap is to pole position, Picon said, “Six points? I play for gold.”

For Wilson, whose mother competed in the same event in both the 1992 and the 1996 Games, being so close to winning an Olympic medal is a situation that’s hard to fathom.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” she told reporters. “I’ve watched the Olympics since I was a little kid, it’s always been a dream.”

(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.