Ainslie 2nd after opening day of Olympic sailing
WEYMOUTH, England (AP) - It turns out British sailing star Ben Ainslie is chasing two Danes.
If Ainslie can win his fourth straight gold medal, and fifth games medal overall, he'll supplant Denmark's Paul Elvstrom as the most successful Olympic sailor ever.
Ainslie got off to a good start Sunday, finishing second in both races in the Finn class.
He's just not in first place.
And here's the catch: winning both races on a brisk Sunday afternoon on Weymouth Bay on the English Channel was Elvstrom's countryman, Jonas Hoegh-Christensen.
Hoegh-Christensen said he occasionally gets emails and text messages from Elvstrom after he sails well.
He hasn't heard from Elvstrom recently. "It's been a while since I did well,'' he said with a laugh.
He should be hearing from Elvstrom any time now. Hoegh-Christensen had a perfect day, thanks to strong starts, and led at every mark in both races. He beat Ainslie by 17 seconds in the first race and by 19 seconds in the second. Ainslie was second around every mark in the second race. Both races were sailed close to shore, where thousands of paying spectators jammed a grassy area at Nothe Fort in the resort once favored by King George III.
Hoegh-Christensen has two points and Ainslie four after two of 10 races. Croatia's Ivan Gaspic was third in both races and is third overall with six points.
Each sailor discards his worst finish. The top 10 advance to the medals race Aug. 5.
"I think he was on a hotline to Paul Elvstrom today,'' Ainslie cracked. "He sailed fantastically well. So all credit to him. We'll see how things develop the rest of the week.''
Hoegh-Christensen said he can't worry about protecting Elvstrom's legacy. But he made it clear how much he respects sailing's great Dane.
"It's not something I focus too much on. In my opinion, no offense to Ben, but I think Paul is the greatest sailor of all time,'' Hoegh-Christensen said. "He will be even if Ben beats his record. Paul had an instrumental affect on sailing in general. So he's still the greatest, in my opinion. If I get in a position where I can defend his honor, that would be great. But for me, I'm trying to focus on my own sailing. Guys, it's Day One. He's only two points behind. Let's keep it real and see how it goes tomorrow.''
Elvstrom won four straight gold medals from 1948-60. He competed in four more Olympics, including Seoul in 1988 at age 60.
"I imagine he's just trying to do the best he can for himself right now,'' Ainslie said of Hoegh-Christensen. "If he can end up winning and helping Paul Elvstrom, I'm sure that will be a major bonus for him. But, you know, it's a long way to go to start talking about things like that.''
The Finn fleet sails its third and fourth races on Monday, as does the Star class. The 49er skiffs and men's Laser and women's Laser Radial fleets sail their first two races.
Hoegh-Christensen said he has to focus on doing well against the whole fleet, not just Ainslie.
"There's 22 other guys that you have to beat. If you just start focusing just on Ben, you're not going to make it,'' he said. "I focused on my own racing, and it went well.''
Hoegh-Christensen quit sailing for three years after finishing sixth in Beijing and went to work for concert promoter Live Nation as a commercial director. Among his duties, he said he "made sure there was beer in the taps and people bought tickets.''
On a leave of absence, he has to go back to work in two weeks.
American Zach Railey, who took the silver behind Ainslie in 2008, was 10th in the first race and 15th in the second race, and is 15th overall.
The venerable Star class also started Sunday. Brazil's Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada took a three-point lead over Ireland's Peter O'Leary and David Burrows, with Poland's Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki sitting third.
Scheidt and Prada were declared the winners in a dead-heat finish in the second race over Britain's Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson. Percy and Simpson beat Scheidt and Prada for the gold medal four years ago.
"I don't know if I won or not,'' Scheidt said. "It was so tight that it was hard to say. It's going to be quite exciting.''
Percy and Simpson, who were 11th in the first race, are fifth overall.