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Tokyo2020: Plenty of difficult questions asked on Day 6

by Richard Gladwell/ 30 Jul 15:41 BST 31 July 2021
Tokyo2020 - Day 6- July, 30, - Blair Tuke and Peter Burling (49er) - Enoshima, Japan. © Richard Gladwell

Enoshima turned on a grey, sunless day for Day 6 of Tokyo2020, with a light SW breeze - an onshore wind.

The swell of the last few days was gone, replaced with flat water.

The conditions asked plenty of questions of the crews. While in a couple of situations, sailors have secured Gold medals, overall there was a levelling of the leaderboards - potentially making for a tense round of medal racing - depending on how things pan out on Day 7.

Today was owned by Australian crews with current World Champion Matt Wearn recovering from a very ordinary start to the Olympic Regatta, to go into the Medal Race for the Mens Laser in a near unassailable position.

Although they still have four races to sail plus the Medal Race, in the Mens 470, Matt Belcher and Will Ryan, just kept slotting away the low points places, and have opened out an 11pt lead in the standings.

In the Womens 470 the Polish crew of Agnieszka Skrzypulec and Jolanta Ogar who have looked super-consistent all week, notched up a 12th place in their first race today - which sits very uncomfortably alongside their three race wins.

The British Team who looked to have the regatta on a piece of string after the first few days, came a little unstuck today, with their 49er Mens combination of Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell dropping a 16th into their scorecard, which means that they are now counting a 12th place from Race 5.

Technically they still lead the regatta, but are tied on points with defending champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZ). The Kiwi pair erased a 6pt overnight points deficit, with consistent, unspectacular sailing.

The British 49er combination of Charlotte Dodson and Saskia Tidey has a dreadful day, turning in a 16, 14 and 15th place scorecard, turning a 5pt lead into a 7pt deficit. To add to the Brits woes they now have defending Olympic champion Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) ahead of them in 4th place.

As the Kiwi 470 sailors noted a couple of days ago, traditional tactical thinking doesn't work at Enoshima, you have to be greedy. If you get into a bit of pressure or a good shift, don't consolidate your gain too early, but keep going and milk it while you can.

On the courses we watched today, this tactic was very evident, with the fleets splitting in quite an extreme way, as they banged the corners - well not quite - but middle courses yielded worse than middle places.

Of course, in any Olympic fleet you have the world's top sailors battling without the traffic of a world championship fleet. However Enoshima on days like today and yesterday is a very difficult course, because in the grey conditions, the shifts and changes in pressure are very difficult spot.

Quite how the crews do it, is a little baffling - and as we have seen many times with some of the best sailors in the world it is very easy to make a mistake.

This is a regatta which rewards consistency rather than brilliance, but that is easier said than done.

From a scan of the points table, for each class, it is obvious that any single digit place will almost certainly be a counter. A double-digit place goes in the discard column. Those with the least, or no double-digit placings are slowly rising to the top of the leaderboard.

"It was defintely a different day from the others we have had in this regatta," Peter Burling told YNZ's Michael Brown after today's racing. "A relatively steady light onshore breeze that was wobbly enough to keep things interesting."

"We were very happy to walk away with three low scores," the six-times world champion in the 49er class said.

"We felt like the boat was going well upwind and downwind. We were able to play a low risk game because of that. It is easy to put a 20th place on the board, in those conditions - so we are right in the hunt for tomorrow."

"Being able to post three low scores on a challenging day is very pleasing for us. Tomorrow looks like being a light one for us - so there is plenty to play for," Blair Tuke added.

"We have to go out and do exactly as we did today - score three low ones - and try and be in the best shape possible going into the final one."

For full results click here

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