The beaches near Pão de Açucar and Escola Naval were packed to watch the opening series of fleet races for Olympic sailing at the Rio Games.
Pão de Açucar, located on Guanabara Bay just outside of Marina da Glória, introduced 36 of the top athletes in men’s RS:X. And Escola Naval, also near Marina da Glória, hosted 37 of the best women racing in the Laser Radial, including American Paige Railey, who is a medal contender.
Besides the two races (men’s RS:X and women’s Laser Radial) that were covered live, women’s RS:X and men’s Laser were also contested.
Scoring for these events is similar to golf; the lower the score, the better.
Men’s and women’s RS:X has 12 opening series races plus a medal race, but only three races are contested on each day.
Men’s Laser and women’s Laser Radial each have 10 opening series races plus a medal race, and only two races are contested on each day.
At the end of the opening series, the ten boats with the lowest scores advance to the medal race. Sailors may exclude their worst score in the first 10 or 12 races.
After completing 10 or 12 races, the top ten boats with the lowest score go on to compete in the medal race.
The infamous Guanabara Bay
The first sailing races on Monday came with many controversies about the water quality of Guanabara Bay and chatter about the main ramp in the sailing venue collapsing.
Regardless, most sailors aren’t concerned about the water quality or the collapsed ramp and are just happy to be competing at the Rio Games. Paige Railey is among those athletes not concerned and believes the water quality is exaggerated by the media.
Dominating the men’s RS:X lately have been Netherlands’ Dorian van Rijsselberge and Great Britain’s Nick Dempsey. To no surprise, these two kept up with their reputation.
Dempsey took the top ranking by winning the first two races and finishing second in the third, earning him a total of four points and two net points in his first three races.
The gold medal favorite, van Rijsselberge, placed fifth in his first race, third in his second and won his third race. He ranked second for the day finishing with four net points.
Medal contender Aichen Wang from China was ranked 13th and American Pedro Pascualfinished today’s rankings in 28th place.
A majority of the top contenders in the women’s RS:X windsurfer class didn’t rank in the top five, except for Spain’s Marina Alabau who finished fifth overall.
Great Britain’s Bryony Shaw, China’s Peina Chen and Poland’s Malgorzata Bialecka – all top contenders – finished in 10th place or lower.
American Marion Lepert finished ninth overall.
It was France’s Charline Picon who took the top spot with 2 net points, followed by Russia’sStefaniya Elfutina (five net points) and Italy’s Flavia Tartaglini (six net points).
Great Britain’s Nick Thompson is the gold medal favorite in this event and Australia’s Tom Burton is the silver medal favorite. Surprisingly, they both finished 10th overall or lower, with Burton finishing 10th and Thompson 11th. Bronze medal contenders Brazil’s Robert Scheidt finished seventh overall and France’s Jean Baptiste Bernaz finished 5th.
The top three finishers: Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic (first), Argentina’s Julio Alsogaray(second), Russia’s Sergei Komissarov (third).
American Charlie Buckingham finished 12th overall with a seventh place finish in race 2.
Women’s Laser Radial
The gold medal favorite, Netherlands’ Marit Bouwmeester, finished second overall behind China’s Xu Lijia, the London Games gold medalist. Xu was a dark horse in the Laser Radial in Rio due to her shortened preparation period for the Games. She came back from retirement in late 2015, which only allowed her about a year to prepare.
Silver medal contender Evi Van Acker of Belgium finished second in the first race and fifth overall. Britain’s Alison Young, also a medal contender finished 13th overall.
American Paige Railey had an impressive second race finishing in second but finished 13th overall for the day.