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Between the rocks and a hard race

by Mark Jardine 6 Aug 2012 11:16 BST 6 August 2012

Sunday's Star and Finn Medal Races certainly had all the drama you could wish for. The medals weren't decided until the final few seconds, with places changing all the time. This sent the huge crowd on the Nothe into wild elation one moment, and stunned silence the next.

As it was, Ben Ainslie, who'd been struggling against the new great Dane, Jonas Hogh-Christensen, scraped through to take Finn gold while Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, who'd been dominating the Star fleet all week, were 'robbed' of gold as a gust filled in at the far end of the finish line, pushing them from fifth to eighth in seconds.

The Medal Race has been divisive ever since it was introduced for the Beijing 2008 Olympics to give a focus at the end of the regatta. The thinking was that non-sailing spectators didn't understand how an event could already be won going into the final race, which didn't play well for a TV audience. So a double-point, non-discardable Medal Race for the top 10 teams was introduced.

The question is whether this format is a true test of sailing or it just made for television viewing? If it's made for TV, is it any more understandable for non-sailors? For that matter, does it make it more or less understandable and enjoyable for those who do understand sailing?

Today sees two Medal Races; the Laser where Australian Tom Slingsby goes in with a 14-point lead and the Laser Radial where four sailors are separated by a single point. Anything other than gold for Slingsby would be a travesty and let's hope that the Radial race is as fair as it can be - the battle so far has been so good to follow.

One man who's managed to avoid any Medal race drama is Dutchman Dorian Van Rijsselberge. He's been so dominant that he wrapped up the win with two races to go - well ahead of Tuesday's Men's RS:X Medal Race.

Sailing has to fight for its place in the Olympics so maybe the Medal Race is something we, and the athletes who take part in the Olympic Sailing Competition, have to put up with. After all, getting a silver or bronze when a gold was on the cards is better than no opportunity to get a medal at all... and it certainly provides drama!

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