Published: Wednesday, 17 August 2016

There has been plenty of drama going on across Guanabara Bay besides the four Medal Races at Rio 2016's Olympic sailing competition. Australia won a gold medal in Men's One Person Dinghy - Laser and one silver in Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17. New Zealand took gold in Men's Skiff - 49er and bronze in Men's One Person Dinghy - Laser.

Men's Skiff - 49er

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) won the 49er Men's gold medal, and did it with two races to spare after dominating the 20-boat fleet at Rio 2016 over the past week. The New Zealanders have gone undefeated in major competition in the 49er fleet since taking the silver medal at London 2012. They have won all four of the last World Championships and were expected to deliver gold for New Zealand this week. Even Burling and Tuke might be surprised at the ease with which they've managed their extraordinary feat.

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(Photos: Sailing Energy / World Sailing - Peter Burling and Blair Tuke)

Behind them the battle rages on for the other medals, with Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) holding second place in front of the 2012 Olympic Champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS).

Women's Two Person Dinghy - 470

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(Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark)

Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR) won the Women's 470 gold medal with the Medal Race to spare. The British team, who took silver four years ago at London 2012, sailed a very solid day with scores of 3,2,3 to carry an unassailable 20-point advantage into the Medal Race. The only thing that stands in the Brits' way is if they receive a technical two-point penalty for failing to follow pre-Medal Race procedures. But they're unlikely to jeopardise their gold with any such oversight. Their arch-rivals, the defending Olympic Champions Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) have sailed an incredible comeback series after clocking up two expensive disqualifications earlier in the competition. The Kiwis' scores of 1,1,4 lifted them back to the silver medal position, with the double-points Medal Race poised for a fierce battle for silver and bronze as six teams are separated by just 11 points. They are Slovenia, USA, France, Japan and the Netherlands. Austria's double World Champions had a disappointing week by their high standards, but Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar still have an outside shot at silver or bronze. 

Women's Skiff – 49erFX

For the 49erFX Women's Medal Race people are looking at four crews going into Thursday's finale. They are Tamara Echegoyen and Berta Betanzos (ESP), Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA), Jena Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen (DEN) and Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL).

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The fact that the fourth-placed New Zealanders sit a point behind the top three tied on 76 points is academic because the Medal Race is a double-pointer. The order that they cross the line will determine what colour of medal they win. Or if they will be the unfortunate ones to win nothing at all.

Three of the four teams won a 49erFX World Championship, the odd ones out being the Danes who do however have a European title. But, any of these teams would happily trade those titles for an Olympic gold at Rio 2016. Only one of these eight sailors, Spain's Echegoyen, knows what it feels like to be Olympic Champion after winning gold in the Women's Match Racing four years ago.

Men's Two Person Dinghy - 470

Laser sailor Tonci Stipanovic made history to become the first sailor to win an Olympic medal for Croatia. But Laser silver could be eclipsed less than 24 hours later by 470 Men's gold. Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO) have sailed a stellar week in tough conditions, and the reward is an 11-point gap over the nearest opposition – Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE), who now sit in silver medal position after notching up three second places on Tuesday afternoon. Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) have a lot to do if they're to keep the gold medal for Australia, a nation which has all but owned this event since it won its first of many 470 golds back in Sydney 2000. The Aussies sit just two points behind the Greeks so silver is well within their grasp. The best of the rest is the American crew, Stu McNay and David Hughes (USA). 

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The 470 medals will be decided when the sailing resumes with the Medal Race Aug 17 at 13:00 local time. The Skiffs have a lay day before the final Medal Races of the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition.

Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17 

Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG) won gold after a heart-stopping Medal Race in the Nacra 17 Mixed Multihull. Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) took silver and bronze goes to Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT).

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(Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli)

The Argentineans made hard work of the Medal Race, picking up a penalty early on to round the first mark at the back. But, they fought back to third by the top of the final lap, only to incur another penalty for sailing too close to the Austrians. After dropping the gennaker and taking their 360 penalty turn, Lange and Saroli rallied to cross the finish in sixth place, just seven seconds ahead of the Italian team. 

It was a crucial seven seconds that gave gold to Argentina by a single point from Australia. The young Aussies crossed the finish behind the New Zealand team of Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders (NZL), but more importantly finished ten seconds ahead of the Austrians who crossed for third place. Australia and Austria were tied on points, but silver goes to Waterhouse and Darmanin for their superior finish in the Medal Race.

Lange says the rigours of his sport helped to save his life and return to competition after he lost half a lung to cancer just a year ago. His hectic schedule led to diagnosis of the disease, while the experience of five Olympic campaigns, winning two medals along the way, was key in keeping him positive through his ordeal and returning for a sixth challenge.

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(Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli, Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank)

Lange, with crewmate Carlos Espinola, won bronzes for Argentina at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 in the now discontinued two-person Tornado class event before combining with Saroli (ARG) in 2014 in the Nacra 17 mixed class, a new addition to the Olympic sailing schedule at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Plans were suddenly placed on hold in 2015 when Lange was diagnosed with cancer and eventually he had half his left lung removed.

"The six months I was dealing with that, I was so positive," Lange says. "Now when I look back it was a good experience, difficult, but I learned a lot. I was operated on in Barcelona and after five days I was cycling, in a month I was back sailing. This may help to give strength to many people who are going through what I've been through. But I prefer to focus on what we did athletically. The disease has nothing to do with it. It was a stone in the road. I became obsessed with getting to Rio very well prepared and we did.”

Men's One Person Dinghy - Laser 

Tom Burton (AUS) won Olympic gold in the Men's One Person Dinghy after a tense pre-start battle with Tonci Stipanovic (CRO). Even if Stipanovic let gold slip from his grasp, he has still won Croatia's first ever medal in Olympic sailing. Sam Meech (NZL) took bronze.

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(Tom Burton)

With the Australian being the only sailor who could threaten Croatian gold, Stipanovic engaged Burton in an aggressive duel before the start. However, the match racing tactic backfired as the Australian turned the tables on his rival, with Stipanovic given a 360 degree penalty by the jury for failing to keep clear of Burton.

"I wasn't really going to engage especially with four minutes to go,” said Burton. "There wasn't much point but he wanted to have a little bit of a go so I was just seeing what I could do. You just needed something to come off late so if it happens with two minutes to go it's not really effective so you do your penalty and it's over. We had a lot of talks the last two days about catch and release. Get a penalty and make it back for the start and it couldn't have come off any better. It was perfection nearly.”

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(Tonci Stipanovic, Tom Burton, Sam Meech)

Stipanovic was a long way last off the start line and had to play catch-up during the race. Burton was near the back too, and Meech was looking to capitalise on the situation with the New Zealander threatening Australia for the silver. However, Burton moved through the fleet to finish third across the line while Stipanovic never recovered from his bad start. 

Robert Scheidt (BRA) may not have succeeded in his quest for a record sixth Olympic sailing medal in front his adoring home crowd, but the 43-year-old still gave the spectators on Flamengo Beach something to cheer about as the Brazilian legend sailed across the finish in first place. He had finished fourth overall, four points off a medal.

Women's One Person Dinghy - Laser Radial

Marit Bouwmeester (NED) won the Laser Radial gold medal that eluded her four years ago. Silver went to Annalise Murphy (IRL), a sweet reward after finishing an agonising fourth place at London 2012. Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) took bronze.

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(Annalise Murphy, Marit Bouwmeester, Anne-Marie Rindom)

It was a tense Medal Race in light and fluky airs on the Pão de Açucar course in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain. Bouwmeester looked to be in a good position during the early stages, but a big split developed in the fleet after the top of the final lap, and the Dutch and Danish contenders were dropped to the back. They could only watch as Murphy and the other front runners sailed away and across the finish line more than a hundred metres ahead.

It was so close between the front five boats on the final run, there was a chance the Irish sailor could steal gold from the Netherlands. But Murphy crossed the line in fifth, yielding the Olympic title to Bouwmeester. With Rindom back in eighth, Murphy had done enough to take silver.

Heavyweight Men's One Person Dinghy - Finn

Giles Scott (GBR) had already wrapped up the Finn gold medal before contesting the Medal Race today, but Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) secured silver, the third Olympic medal of his career, while Caleb Paine (USA) sailed a great race to clinch bronze on the Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) course.

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(Vasilij Zbogar)

All ten competitors had a shot at winning a medal of some colour, so close were the points going into today's finale. The exception was four-time and reigning World Champion Scott whose 24-point buffer made him unassailable for the gold medal. Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) started the day in bronze medal position but the American Paine went better in the moderate winds to finish first across the line, which gave the ecstatic American the medal by a comfortable margin.

~ Andy Rice – World Sailing