The Tokyo Olympic Games served up a thrilling finale for the RS:X medal races in Enoshima, as Enoshima Bay served up a light wind shoot out for the medals. With racing taking place on the most inshore course, it would provide a shifty race track which would all play into the drama for the final days racing. As the final two top level RS:X races ever, it was a fitting and exciting finale for the RS:X class and all of its supporters.
First up at 1430 were the women’s medal race – the medalists had already been decided but the colours the three sailors would be taking home was far from clear. China’s Yunxiu Lu, Great Britain’s Emma Wilson and reigning Olympics Champion, Charline Picon from France had guaranteed themselves a medal. All could win gold and all could win bronze – it would come down to the final race and potentially the final leg.
The qualification series has seen a wide range of conditions over the 12 races, and the top three deserved to be in their medal winning positions. 8 of the opening 12 races had been won by one of these three sailors and they had showed their dominance over the rest of the fleet.
In the light 5-6 knot breeze, the racing was always going to be close but what transpired during the race was truly nail biting to the very end. With all sailors getting a clean start, it was Great Britain’s Emma Wilson that had the worst and was mid line and set back. All sailors worked hard up the first windward leg with Polands Zofia Klepacka rounding in first place. The medalist sailors rounded with Picon in third place, Lu in fifth place and Wilson in seventh place. At the top mark is gold to China, silver to France and Bronze to Great Britain.
On the downwind leg there were no changes to the standings or the medals and it was all down to the final lap. On the next upwind mark it was Picon and Wilson who worked the left hand side of the course the best and Picon managed to take the lead of the race with Wilson rounding just behind the French champion in second place. China’s Lu rounded in fourth position leaving all three sailors tied on points at this stage with Picon taking gold, Wilson silver and Lu bronze.
On the final downwind leg before the short reach to the finish, Picon and Wilson maintained their positions and for both sailors it was out of their hands, instead it was Lu who had the most opportunity to change the colours, needing to get into third place. Lu had Polands Klepacka between her and the gold medal as an extra incentive to pump that little bit harder.
Lu managed to sneak past Klepacka on the final run and the finishing order was Picon, Wilson and Lu. Lu had done just enough to win the gold medal by two points. Picon and Wilson both finished on equal points with the countback going to Picon based on the medal race results. Picon had done enough to secure the silver medal and Wilson settled for the bronze medal. The race could not have been closer and it was a fitting way for the RS:X women to bow out from their final Olympic race.
Next up were the RS:X men where again there were a number of different medal contenders, however Netherlands Kiran Badloe already had secured the gold. With a 19 point gap to France’s Thomas Goyard, Badloe simply needed to sail the course without disqualification to win the gold. This was to be the third Olympic in a row that a Dutch sailor had taken the gold medal following Dorian Van Rissjleberghe’s wins at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Behind Goyard the points were close with Italy’s Mattia Camboni and Poland’s Piotr Myzska in contention sitting in third and fourth respectively. Great Britain’s Tom Squires was an outside chance for bronze but needed the luck to turn in his favour in order to be taking home a medal.
With the pressure on Goyard, Camboni and Myzska to fight for silver and bronze, there was always the potential for these three sailors to push each other. And so it transpired at the start that all three sailors had pushed too hard – with Goyard, Camboni and Myzska all being judged to be on the wrong side of the start line and out of the race. This left the door wide open for a number of different competitors to get onto the podium including Squires and China’s Kun Bi.
It was Israel’s Yoav Cohen who would lead the race from start to finish, Cohen enjoying the lighter conditions and building up a 30 second lead by the finish of the race. Badloe had a slow start but over the course of the two lap race had moved up to second and secure the gold medal with an impressive 37 point lead – a dominating performance over the course of the week.
With Frances Goyard out of the race, there was little the Frenchman could do but watch the race unfold and see what medal he would be going home with. The biggest threat would come from China’s Kun Bi who by the end of the first lap had moved up into fourth place and within one point of Goyard’s score. Bi needed to finish third to take the silver medal but with Switzerlands Mateo Sanz Lanz in front of him it was going to be a tall order to overtake Sanz Lanz who had showed good light wind speed at the beginning of the week.
The positions stayed the same through to the finished with Bi finished fourth and collecting the bronze medal with Goyard retaining the silver medal. There were only two points overall separating second place overall and fifth place showing just how close the medal races were for both the men and women.
The two races today were the last showing of the RS:X at an Olympic Games, having been used for Beijing in 2008, London in 2012, Rio in 2016 and finally Tokyo in 2020. The class has seen a variety of Olympic Champions, World Champions and Continental Champions and leaves behind a legacy of excellent memories for all of the sailors, coaches and supporters of the RS:X Class.
The RS:X Class Association would like to give a huge congratulations to all of the sailors from these Olympic Games as every one had to fight through adversity simply to get to the start line. Well done. The RS:X Class would also like wish the iQFoil Class Association all the very best for the future of Olympic Windsurfing.
RS:X Olympic Windsurfing Class out!