For the fifth Olympic Games in a row, Great Britain has won a gold medal in the Finn class, with Giles Scott wrapping things up with a race to spare at the 2016 Olympic sailing regatta in Rio thanks to his domination during the preliminaries. The real story of Tuesday’s medal race, then, became U.S. sailor Caleb Paine’s gutsy win, which coupled with a poor effort from his closest competition leap-frogged him onto the podium for bronze.
As fate would have it, the wind had already settled in pretty well on the notoriously tricky Pao de Acucar course in the shadow of Rio’s iconic Sugarloaf Mountain, with around 10 knots of breeze coming in from the south-southeast. However, when Paine saw what he thought was both better pressure and an advantageous shift shortly after the start, he went for it, even though it meant splitting with the competition and falling behind initially. After that it was play the shifts and keep the boat moving as he led the rest of the way to the finish.
Better still, while Scott and eventual silver medal winner Vasilij Zbogar of Slovenia were out of reach in terms of the standings, Croatia’s Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic, who’d been in third place going into the medal race ended up finishing dead last. As a result, Caleb was more than able to make up the five-point deficit that existed before the race started, vaulting him onto podium: no mean feat in the storied and hyper-competitive Finn Class. Similarly, Swedish sailor Max Salminen, who’d been tied with Paine on points going into the medal race, finished eighth, which dropped him to sixth overall.
“My initial plan was to go a bit left, but I but saw quite a bit of pressure coming down the right side of the course…I was fortunate to catch the pressure all the way and was continuously playing that right side up the beat. I would sail out of it and then tack to sail back into it. On a couple of the courses here in Rio, it actually pays to overstand just because it shifts so much and being in the pressure pays so much,” Paine said.
"It's pretty awesome,” he added. “It's been a pretty tough regatta and to be able to come away with a medal at the end is a great feeling. It was a tough push and a hard medal race, but fortunately enough it makes it easier when you hit the right shifts off the bat, and I just had to make sure I didn't mess it up. I knew if I got ahead and won the race things would become a lot easier. I was fortunate to establish a lead right ahead of time and let everyone else make mistakes, and I sailed the best race I could.”
As the other two medal winners, silver-medalist Zbogar, who has also won a pair of Olympic medals in the Laser class, said: "I managed to survive the week, and I just wanted to be in with a challenge of a medal. I had nothing to gain in the race, but I had everything to lose, as Giles had gold. There was a small chance I could lose it. I knew I couldn't push too much, but I did anyway. Second place for me is something unbelievable.”
"I'm just very tired,” Zbogar added. “The week was very hard, and of course, I'm very happy that everything is finished in a good way with second place, which for me is a dream. I'm extremely proud and happy to be able to sail very consistent all week, to get a medal. That's my last one, I'm finished now."
Scott, on the other hand, who’s victory comes in the wake of Sir Ben Ainslie’s three consecutive gold medals and Iain Percy’s gold in 2000, seemed fairly relaxed after finishing second in the final race of the series.
“It was great to be able to go out and enjoy that race today. The 17th place on day one on the Sugarloaf course was not the way I wanted to start the regatta, and it wasn't until day three or four that I started to believe that the gold was in my grasp,” Scott said. “I've been trying to get to the Olympic Games for at least two cycles, so to qualify for Rio firstly was a huge deal for me and then obviously to come here and win is just fantastic. I'm just so thankful for all the decisions that were made early on in the campaign."
For complete results in the sailing events, click here.