Finn sailor Caleb Paine has gotten the U.S. Sailing Team back into the medal business for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, winning bronze after dominating today’s medal race with a first-place finish. Paine went into today’s race in fourth place, but more than made up for the 5-point deficit that existed between him and Croatia’s Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic, who ultimately finished the medal race in last place, dropping him from third to fifth overall. Sweden’s Max Salminen, who had been tied with Paine on points, finished the medal race in eighth.
In pulling off his come-from-behind medal effort, Paine not only exorcised the ghosts of the 2012 London Olympics (where the U.S. Team failed to win a single medal) but showed real guts, separating from the fleet in order to get the job done. In fact, early on it looked like Paine was going to come up short. First, there was a somewhat slow start. Then, as Paine went to the right side of the course on the first beat while the rest of the fleet went left, it looked like he had made a terrible mistake as the rest of the fleet surged ahead.
Moments later, though, a combination puff and right slant propelled him to the front of the pack just shy of the windward mark, and after that, there was no catching him. In fact, his finish delta was one of the larger ones of the regatta, with only one other sailor—gold-medal winner Giles Scott, who had already clinched victory two days earlier with a race to spare—even close. Silver medal winner Vasilij Zbogar of Slovenia finished the medal race in sixth.
"It's been a tough battle for me, and I feel fortunate to come up with a medal in the end," said Paine afterward. "I saw quite a bit of breeze coming down the right side [on the first leg], I hitched out there, and then was continuously playing the right. I just saw the wind, and sailed towards it."
In other medal action, although the wind was much lighter for the Laser Radial medal race (being the first medal race of the day with the wind still building) there was no less excitement. Going into the race Dutch sailor Marit Bouwmeester was in first with a seven-point cushion over second-place Anne-Marie Rindom of Denmark. But Rindom had Ireland’s Annalize Murphy was just two points behind her, setting up another emotional showdown.
Sure enough, Murphy was able to break away from the other two sailors, finishing in fifth while Bouwmeester finished seventh and Rindom finished eighth, which was enough to vault Murphy over the Dane giving her the silver medal, while Bouwmeester held onto gold and Rindom won bronze.
Soon afterward, there were yet more fireworks in the Laser medal race, with more wind and some cutthroat match-racing tactics in the beginning, with Australian Tom Burton, in second-place overall, maneuvering fleet leader Tonci Stipanovic of Croatia into a penalty just before the start.
After that, it was a battle royal between third-place Sam Meech of New Zealand, fourth-place Jean Baptiste Bernaz of France and legendary Brazilian sailor Robert Scheidt in fifth who already had five Olympic medals going into the 2016 Games. Not until the entire fleet had crossed the line were the final positions decided, with Burton finishing in third, which was enough to win the gold thanks to Stipanovic’s finishing much farther back in ninth (which relegated him to silver). Taking bronze was Meech, despite Scheidt’s winning the actual medal race.
Finally, in the Nacra 17 medal race, U.S. sailors Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee made a great showing for themselves by finishing in fourth place, which put them in eighth place overall for the series. Winning gold by a single point was Argentina’s Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli, who managed to prevail despite sustaining no less than two penalties. Taking second were Australia’s Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin. Winning bronze were Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank of Austria.
Tomorrow there will be medal races for 470s, with U.S. sailors Stu Mcnay and Dave Hughes taking part in the men’s class final, and Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha sailing in the women’s. For complete results in the sailing events, click here.