Two Gold Medals for Australian AC Sailors, with Ainslie the Talk of the Town

Nathan Outteridge © OnEdition


Tom Slingsby (ORACLE TEAM USA) and Nathan Outteridge (Team Korea) won Gold medals for Australia on Monday meaning the four AC sailors competing in the Olympics have come away with three Gold medals and a Silver.

"Who would be feeling better in the world right now?" said Slingsby. "No one would. I've worked for 12 years to get there. I put everything I had into it and I've done it. I couldn't be happier."

His compatriot Outteridge had a dominant performance in the 49er class. His medal race doesn't take place until Wednesday, but the youngest skipper in the AC World Series fleet has a big enough lead on the result table that he can't be caught.

"I've been sailing with 'Goobs' (crew Iain Jensen) now for four years and everyone said we were the favourites and don't let the country down, but we've done the job and we've done Australia proud," Outteridge said. "It's more a relief than anything. We've worked so hard for so long for this."

Slingsby too had a great regatta. A pre-Games favorite and five-time world champion, he led the Laser class standings for most of the event, and won by a comfortable margin.

Meanwhile, the UK papers were in consensus. Ben Ainslie's fourth gold and fifth Olympic medal, secured on Sunday, was 'historic'.

The Times newspaper, riding the wave of host-nation hyperbole, dubbed Ainslie's victory 'the most successful partnership between man and sailboat since Nelson died at Trafalgar'. That was in 1805.

The British national hero who heads to San Francisco on August 17th for his AC World Series debut with his Ben Ainslie Racing team tops the pantheon of Olympic sailors. From his Silver in Atlanta as a 19 year old in the Laser class, Ainslie's sequence of  successive Gold (Laser), Gold, (Finn), Gold (Finn) and Gold (Finn) eclipses the record of legendary Dane Paul Elvstrom. It is the finest tally since sailing became an Olympic sport in 1900.

Artemis Racing's Iain Percy, another defending champion, won Silver with Andrew Simpson, just missing Gold in final metres of the downwind run to the finish in the Star class. This takes Percy's career Olympic haul to Gold, Gold, Silver from the Sydney, Athens and London Games.

While Ainslie sailed poorly in the qualifying heats, he is an irresistible force in the Medal Race. Percy and Simpson raced the heats superbly and had the simpler equation to retain their advantage in the Medal Race. But in the double points race, the fleet split and puffy winds on the inshore course saw Sweden's Freddie Loof came through to take Gold, pushing Percy to Silver and Robert Scheidt to Bronze.

Ainslie entered the Medal Race in 2nd spot and not only had to beat his rival, the Dane Jonas-Hogh Christensen who had dominated the heats, but also defend against the Dutch sailor P-J Potsma, who was within striking distance on the point's table.

The permutations were complex and volatile. Ainslie attacked and defended throughout to the medal race according to the evolving situation. But a focus on the Dane on the fifth leg saw Potsma break free. The Leg 6 climax had the Gold going to the Netherlands. Ainslie needed a one place swing as he and Christensen trailed the fleet in 9th and 10th place. But then, incredibly, Postma fouled New Zealand's Dan Slater approaching the penultimate mark. It cost Postma not just Gold, but any medal at all as he completed his penalty turn. It also put the Olympic title in Ainslie's hands.

It wasn't Ainslie's best race, but it was the most nerve-jangling. Ainslie has an unerring ability to impose himself in a medal race. His big-match temperament, his killer-instinct, prevailed.

Ainslie is integral to ORACLE TEAM USA's plan to defend the America's Cup in 2013. Besides skippering BAR in the AC World Series, Ainslie will be given the defender's second AC72 in 2013 going head-to-head with Jimmy Spithill in the Defense Trials.

Tom Slingsby © Getty Images