Ainslie off the mark in gold charge

02 August 2012 / 14:30

Ben Ainslie got his gold medal charge back on track today by winning his first race of London 2012.

The 35-year-old came into his fifth Olympics as over-riding favourite to top the podium, but failed to finish ahead of Jonas Hogh-Christensen in the first six Finn races.

However, Ainslie returned from a rest day seemingly reinvigorated and quickly went about narrowing the Dane's 10-point gap at the top of the overall standings.

The three-time gold medallist got off to his best start of the Games in race seven on the choppy waters of Weymouth Bay and rounded the first mark in the lead. Ainslie continued to head the fleet into the third leg, where overall leader Hogh-Christensen capsized and dropped down to 15th.

The Dane recovered superbly to finish in eighth but, having seen off competition from the Netherlands' Pieter-Jan Postma, could only watch on as Ainslie won the race by 21 seconds.

The result cuts Hogh-Christensen's lead to just four points and capped a great start to the day for the British sailing team, who saw Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell finish in the top two of their opening men's 470 race. Having rounded the second mark in sixth, the pair moved into second and ended the race just behind Austria's Matthias Schmid and Florian Reichstaedter.

Things were even better for Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes in the 49er class as they picked up victories in both of today's races. The pair endured a frustrating start to the regatta but are now beginning to show their true class, winning the first race of the day ahead of Finland's Lauri Lehtinen and Kalle Bask.

Australian leaders Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen could only place 10th and their bad day continued in the second race, which they finished sixth.

But there was no stopping Morrison and Rhodes as they overcame competition from Lehtinen and Bask to get another bullet - sailing terminology for victory - and move up to second in the overall standings.

There was more British joy in the Star class as overall leaders Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson won their first race of the afternoon. The pair, returning from a rest day, gradually moved up the fleet and overtook Poland's Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki at the end to secure their second race win of the regatta.