WEYMOUTH, England, July 29 (Reuters) - Denmark’s Jonas Hogh-Christensen nailed his colours to the mast of his Finn single-handed heavyweight dinghy on Sunday, beating reigning Olympic champion Ben Ainslie into second position in both the first two races.
Hogh-Christensen used his near 10 kilo weight advantage over Briton Ainslie to good effect in blustery conditions on the waters of Weymouth Bay off the south coast of England, saying he would do everything he could to defend the record of Danish sailing great Paul Elvstrom.
“Ben might beat his record but I still think Paul is the bigger sailor...I hope I can protect his (Elvstrom‘s) legacy,” Hogh-Christensen said when he came ashore after two impressive sails.
Hogh-Christensen said Elvstrom still followed sailing closely and his son-in-law works with the Danish team.
The red-haired Dane made a strong start in both races and capitalised on this when he chose the left hand side of the course in the upwind leg of the second race. The wind here favoured the sailors over those who opted to go the other way, including Ainslie.
Ainslie, 35, will have to beat Hogh-Christensen and other heavier rivals if he is to achieve a record-breaking fourth consecutive gold medal in 2012.
This would see him break the record set by Hogh-Christensen’s compatriot Elvstrom who won four golds between 1948 in London and 1960 in Rome. In addition to his three gold medals, Ainslie won silver in the 1996 Atlanta games in the smaller Laser class.
“It was a good day, in very shifty winds. I didn’t have such a great first leg. They were very difficult conditions when you race that close to the shoreline. I think he (Hogh-Christensen) was on a hot line to Paul Elvstrom today. It’s a good start, I‘m happy with that,” Ainslie said.
Croatia’s Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic came third in both of Sunday’s races, with U.S. Beijing silver medallist Zach Railey well down the fleet of 24 boats.
“It was a very difficult day, very shifty. I‘m OK with the result in the first race,” Railey said. “I made two major mistakes on the first upwind leg in the second,” the American said.
Austria’s Florian Raudaschl made two strong starts but faded as the races developed. Choppy seas, with white caps on the waves at times, made for testing conditions with one of the Finns capsizing dramatically in the first race.
In the other heavyweight men’s class, the two-man Star dinghy, French duo Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis established a massive lead over the 15 other boats in the second lap of their opening race after finding favourable wind - known as “pressure” in sailing - on the left hand side of the large course to the west of the bay.
Ireland’s Peter O‘Leary and David Burrows were second and Greek pair Emilios Papathanasiou and Adonis Tsotras third. Brazil’s Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada were fourth, while reigning Olympic champions Iain Percy and Andrew “Bart” Simpson limped in 11th after a couple of poor tacks.
They improved in the second race, which ended in a photo finish for first and second position between Britain and Brazil, with the Brazilians awarded the victory and Poland third. (Editing by Justin Palmer)