THE spotlight was on Rio’s Guanabara Bay yesterday for the opening day of competition at the Aquece Rio International Regatta – the first official Test Event for the 2016 Olympic hosts.
With just three of the 10Olympic sailing classes scheduled to race on this opening day, it was a gentle start for the organisers ahead of a full programme of competition today which sees all 324 sailors in action across the five Rio course areas.
For the British Sailing Team, Sunday was a solid first day of racing in the men’s and women’s RS:X windsurfing events, and in the Finn class where Ed Wright and Portland-based Giles Scott are poised second and third respectively after their opening two races of the regatta.
Brazil’s current Finn world champion, Jorge Zarif, took the early initiative, winning the first race on his home waters, but Scott claimed victory in the second, adding to his seventh in race one.
“It was a good start and it’s nice to get the regatta underway,” said the 27-year-old, who said the fleet had enjoyed good wind conditions on the most northerly Ponte (Bridge) course.
“We got out to the Bridge course and there was a pretty solid 10-11 knots. The first race got away and it was a pretty even race track. I rounded in the pack and I was racing around in it all race, which is never the easiest. It was a real pump-off downwind and I ended up finishing seventh. Let’s just say it was trying!
“There was then a bit of a nervous start in the second race with the individual recall flag staying up,” Scott recounted.
“I was in the middle of the line and I think I was safe. I played the middle right upwind and rounded in second just behind the Brazilian and managed to get him on the first reach. That was kind of it after that. I maintained the gap from there.”
Zarif holds the overnight lead over the 36-year-old Ed Wright, who was also happy with his opening day.
“It’s always very tricky out there, but we had two good races and the race management was pretty good. We got the races done and we were back in quite quickly. It’s good to see that at the Rio Test Event,” he explained.
“Just learning the whole venue is a priority of being here, and I’m definitely learning so I’m pretty happy about that. Speed is key, but it’s very shifty as well.”
The windsurfers on the Sugarloaf course experienced lighter wind conditions and could manage only two of their intended three races on Sunday.
Izzy Hamilton picked up two ninth places to kick start her regatta, and sits in eighth overnight, one place ahead of Bryony Shaw.
“We had a really long day on the water. We did two good light wind races. It was really gusty and really shifty – we had our windward mark just underneath Sugarloaf, so there was hardly any wind.
“Saying that I had a good day’s racing. In this sort of venue I think it pays to have lots of average results rather than winning one race and coming last in the next. I think my routines were good today and I had some OK results. It’s day one of the regatta and I haven’t done anything to jeopardise the rest of the week, so that’s a good start!
“I really like Rio – it’s a really cool place to sail. You can’t fall asleep for ten seconds on the race track. It’s a really, really entertaining place to race and such a challenge every day, but it’s the same for everyone. I’m really enjoying it.”
In the men’s fleet, Weymouth's Nick Dempsey opened his regatta with eight and 12 to sit in ninth position, while training partner and birthday boy Tom Squires, who turned 21 today, is 17th overall after the opening day.
Competition will continue today, with the addition of the 470 (Men and Women), Laser, Laser Radial, 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 to the racing programme which starts at 1300 (local).
Medal racing will take place on Thursday, August 7 (RS:X Men, RS:X Women), Friday, August 8 (Finn, 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17) and Saturday, August 9 (470 Men, 470 Women, Laser, Laser Radial).
Stay with us for all the news from inside the British camp throughout the Rio International Regatta at www.britishsailingteam.com, on Facebook or on Twitter @BritishSailing.