If the first medal races of the 2012 Olympic Games were anything to go by, we are set for an amazing week… although I’m not sure my nerves can take eight more races filled with so much drama!
“It was certainly the most nerve-wracking experience of my life,” said a relieved Ben Ainslie as he celebrated winning gold. I felt exactly the same!
The day dawned with perfect conditions. A beautiful 10-12 knot south-westerly breeze, blue skies and brilliant sunshine. The ticketed spectator area on the Nothe was packed, as was every space of waterfront within view. The helicopters hovered overhead, and we were in a prime position to watch the drama unfold. Sitting at the pin, the show opened with the Star class. GBR’s Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson were in gold medal position, but behind them, ready to pounce on any weakness, was Brazil’s team of Robert Scheidt / Bruno Prada, and Sweden’s Freddy Loof / Max Salminen. Any of the top three could sneak gold.
The Nothe’s small course area and fickle breeze delivered the edge-of-your-seat kind of experience more usually associated with a cup final or 100 metre sprint. It was nip and tuck the whole way, right up to the last run when a puff of breeze put two more boats between the Swedes and the Brits, giving them gold. We watched every step of the way – the smaller course affording us the best overview we’d had all week. By the end of it I didn’t have a nail left to bite, and there was still the drama of Ben Ainslie’s race in the Finn to come!
Ainslie’s race was no less tense – and when he won the crowds erupted: “To have the opportunity to race in front of a home crowd like that and win an Olympic gold medal… well it can never get any better!” A jubilant Ainslie pronounced.
For more on Ainslie's path to gold at the Games see, Ben Ainslie VS the Great Dane: Stunning Start to the Olympics.