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Aussies avoid another swim to keep lead in Olympic 49er regatta

08/01/2012 01:00 EDT | Updated 10/01/2012 05:12 EDT
WEYMOUTH, England - After watching Nathan Outteridge take an unintentional dip in Weymouth Bay on Tuesday, a friend gave the Australian sailor a snorkel and mask.

With classic humour, Outteridge stuck the snorkel in his mouth and draped the goggles across the front of his cap as he and crew Iain Jensen sailed their 49er skiff onto Portland Harbor on another grey English Channel day.

"My mate said, 'This is for today when you capsize. You might need this,' " Outteridge said. "Thank God we didn't need it but I had to wear it out to the start line. It was part of the deal."

Outteridge and Jensen, the favourites coming into the London Olympics, had finishes of second and first Wednesday to extend their lead to 13 points over trans-Tasman rivals Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of New Zealand.

France's Emmanuel Dyen and Stephane Christidis won the first race to jump into third place, where they remained after finishing 10th in the day's second race. They have 30 points.

While other classes sail 10 races to determine the top 10 for the medals race, the 49ers sail 15 races.

Outteridge could very well take a gold medal with him when he returns to his day job as skipper of Team Korea in the America's Cup World Series.

Then again, he knows firsthand how capricious life can be in the fastest, most colorful class in the Olympics.

Outteridge was leading the medals race in the 2008 Olympics when he capsized not far from the finish line. He and then-crew Ben Austin finished fifth.

"There's a very long way to go. We've only done six races. It's kind of like a normal Day 2 for us," Outteridge said. "A lot happens on Day 3, Day 4, Day 5. We've got another two races in the harbour tomorrow with similar kind of winds. We've got to keep chipping away, doing what we're doing. All it takes is one bad day and you can lose 20 points very quickly. At the moment things are going nicely, but we're not going to get ahead of ourselves here."

The Aussies took a swim in Race 4 on Tuesday but recovered nicely.

"Goobs was all over it yesterday," Outteridge said, referring to Jensen by his nickname. "He had to get the kite down before the mast hit the water. We did an amazing job to get a fourth there. That's probably a good regatta-saver at the moment. It could have been an 18th or something had we have gone upside down. Thank God we didn't, and we're in a really good spot."

Sailing in wind that reached 17 knots Wednesday, the Aussies couldn't quite catch the French in the first race Wednesday, losing by 10 seconds.

In the next race, the Aussies had the lead by the end of the first windward-leeward lap and beat the Kiwis by seven seconds.

Americans Erik Storck and Trevor Moore had finishes of 7-13 and moved up two spots to seventh.

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