(Recasts to add additional sailing results, comment from sailors, medal race details)
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 12 (Reuters) - The Netherlands’s Dorian van Rijsselberghe clinched the first sailing gold of the Rio 2016 Games, winning the men’s RS:X boardsailing class on points before the regatta finished, World Sailing, the sport’s governing body, said on Friday.
With 23 points after 12 preliminary races, the Dutchman sits 21 ahead of Britain’s Nick Dempsey, who has clinched silver, World Sailing, formally known as the International Sailing Federation or ISAF, said.
That is an insurmountable lead even if van Rijsselberghe is disqualified in the final medal race scheduled for Sunday and Dempsey wins, World Sailing said. The only thing now that could put Van Rijsselberghe and Dempsey’s medals at risk, is failure to make a “judicious” effort to sail in the medal race, the governing body said.
“If they show up Sunday and sail, they win,” a World Sailing press spokesman said.
Van Rijsselberghe racked up seven first-place finishes in 12 races, the most dominant performance of any sailor so far at Rio 2016.
“Its been great because the whole week I haven’t talked to him, and it’s been pretty tense because we’re like arrggghhh...,” Van Rijsselberghe said of his rivalry with Dempsey.
“If there’s one opponent that makes me work for it and makes me sail excellent, it’s him,” he added.
The only medal left to decide in the men’s RS:X is bronze. Two points separate Poland’s Piotr Myszka from fourth place Pierre le Coq of France. Le Coq stands only six points ahead of Greece’s Vyron Kokkalanis.
In the women’s RS:X Stefaniya Elfutina of Russia leads the final ten after a week of steady performances. In 12 races she only finished above eighth once and that finish, a 16th, was her single allowed discard.
Italy’s Flavia Tartaglini and Spain’s Marina Alabau Neira are in second and third. Only 25 points separate the first from the 10th place medal-race qualifiers meaning the final medals are up for grabs in a race where points for each finish are doubled.
Meanwhile, preliminary sailing began in the men’s 49er and women’s 49erFX two-person skiff classes.
In the men’s Laser one-person dinghy class, Brazil’s Robert Scheidt increased his chances of winning a record sixth Olympic sailing medal with fourth- and fifth-place finishes in the roller-coaster waves and light winds of the “Pai” open-ocean course outside Guanabara Bay.
The result moved him into second place behind Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic who has led the regatta from the first day. (Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Andrew Hay)