by Denis Kiely
Denis Kiely of the Irish Sailing Team, at the 20908 Paralympics, tells of his experiences of the final day of racing and with the pack up, entitled variously: Sunday morning going down, or How I learned to stop worrying and love Rhino?? or The Dénouement
The Gold medal winning German crew after the finish of a dramatic race 11 at the 2008 Paralympics - Qingdao
The final days racing in the Sonar class was even more exciting and incredible than I had anticipated. There were 2 races scheduled. Starting the day the position was France 21, Australia 24, Germany 26 Greece 27, Norway 28, and Israel 34. After the 1st race [Mikey's analysis of the previous day - pressure, gradient, sea breeze, current, cousin in Korea, etc etc was spot on - perfect, the left paid big time - it's just that it was a day out!!!]
After the first race the gap had closed up on France. France were now 28, Oz were on 29, Germany 30, Norway 31, Greece 33 and Israel, who had a 1st in that race were on 35; incredibly close after 5 days and 10 races. The 2nd race - and last race of the 2008 Paralympics - started at 13.15 in ideal conditions, 10 kt, gusting maybe 12 from 110, slight lump. Up the first beat it became apparent that the French were covering the Aussies and looking comfortable in the middle of the fleet - all they had to do was sit on the Aussies who were leading the pack of challengers.
At the bottom mark the last time round the drama began in earnest. The French came out of the mark in 6th position, the Germans were in 5th, close, but not good enough; they needed to be 3 points ahead of the French to win - on a tied score they would lose. The Aussies were in 7th place and the Norwegians were 8th - both behind and with higher points - don't let Jens [German driver] get too far away, or pass him, and the gold was going to Brittany. Close definitely, but a winning position.
As the French hardened up [trimmed their sails] for the last beat we noticed that they seemed to be taking a long time to get the jib in [trim the front sail], and longer - what's happening - is that sail torn? They are nearly stopped! The Aussies sail over them. What's wrong? The Norries sail over them. The French are bearing away, [changing course from an upwind beat] We can finally see clearly that their headsail is torn right across the middle - from leech to luff ['ear to ear' - useless] They are retiring from the race - sensation! What soul destroying bad luck. Gold gone for the French - in a moment, in the blink of an eye? Not quite - the drama was only beginning.
Bruno Jourdren (L), Nicholas Vimont-Vicary and Herve Larhant (R) of France accept their silver medal in the Sonar event - 2008 Paralympics - Qingdao
The French retired from the race - they would score 15 points - surely that was it, curtains for their chance of any medal. No, remember the discard system. This was an 11 race, 2 discard series where your worst 2 results were not counted - pay close attention now. Up to this moment the French were discarding 10 and 8 point races.
Now their discard would be this race,15 points - and 10 points. The 8 pointer would now come back into the reckoning [ask Kevin Kelly again] It was as if they had already finished the race while everybody else was still racing - and they had finished in 8th place - scored 8 points - and their final score was 36 points - beat that and you win gold! Remember Jens was in 5th place - 3 points ahead - enough to win if he could hold or better that position. If the Aussies could improve one more place, from 7th to 6th place they would win; and the Norwegians and the Israelis?
They all had a real chance of winning gold in the last two legs of an 11 race series. The tension coming down the final run was palpable. Most people wouldn't be able to calculate all the permutations but they knew it was close. I thought that 3 teams had finished with equal points, The Germans, Aussies and French. As the boats finished through the line there wasn't the usual dash to the winner - at first, it seemed as if nobody knew who had won.
Then the support and media boats began to concentrate on the German boat - and it became clear that they had held their 5th place on the course and they had won Gold - by 1 point! What about the French, the Aussies, the Norries? When the spray finally settled, and the Aussies had survived a protest by the Norwegians, the final scores were, Germany 35, France 36, Australia 36, Norway 37, and the Israelis 38 [incredibly after 2 disqualifications - 15 pointers - gold thrown away!]
Germany won the Gold, France the Silver and Australia the Bronze [under a tie splitting rule]
The Brits finished in 6th place overall. We finished in 9th position - not what we expected or hoped for - I was hoping for 7th or better - it was not to be.
In the 2.4 class Paul Tingley[Canada] held off the challenge of Damien Seguin, France and John Ruf, US to win the Gold. Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon were confirmed as the Gold winners in the Skud class from Dan Fitzgibbon, Australia and Sean MacRiobaird, Canada. Amy and John finished 10th.
Paul Tingley(CAN) after winning the Gold medal in the 2.4mR class 2008 Paralympics - Qingdao
I know I may have bored the hell out you with the account of the finish of the Sonar series - but I was there and it simply had to be recorded. I don't recollect such a close and exciting finish to any series and sailors with much wider experience told me it was the closest most exciting end to a series they had ever experienced.
A tale of a star
All over? Well almost. We arrived back at the dock at around 1500. But no rest. Immediately a frenzy of boat derigging starts. Gene Hinkel [the guy must be older than me but he can hop around and work a boat like a youngster of 40] arrives on our boat and races through the process of getting the mast down. Open that pin there, connect this bit here - 15 minutes after we arrived at the dock we had the sails and mast! off the boat. Over to the crane, crane out the boat - and place it in its trailer sideways!! - the only way it will fit in a container. Haul it to its container - line it up, assemble a small army of Chinese [or should that be the other way round - leave it] and push the boat into the back of a 40' container - with an inch to spare on either side! Done - major job out of the way- less than 2 hours after coming ashore! 2 ribs [15' + 80 hp engines] to be placed in another container. Chinese enlisted again - you'd be afraid you would step on one of them and squash them - jumping around, in, on and under the ribs, incredible din, all the Chinese shouting together - rising to a crescendo - then quite and everybody gives another heave. By 17.30 we had the heavy work on the 2nd container finished. Bottle of Jameson presented to James Loom, leader of the Chinese gang, excited by his name on the label, said it was specially distilled for him - but I think he was well aware of the brand name - and he is far too bright and able to be taken in by b*****t.
James and his assistant/boss? Lily own? work for - [no idea] a boat business called Ling Bo. Produces boats remarkably similar to European designs and sells them for 25% or less of the western price. Did a lot of business with the Irish during the Olympics and Paralympics and seemed to get on very well with us.
The Irish Star appear to be trying to mount the Austrians during the 2008 Olympics
The star story?
A boat used by Ireland [Peter O'Leary] in the Olympics and stored off site in an overflow yard to be placed in the Sonar container and shipped with it to Miami. Lily, James and I go off to pick up the boat in the overflow yard. There seems to be some kind of temporary security post with poorish dorm type living quarters [bit of the other side of China?] with all kinds of security people, police, young PLA? squadies and private security people all hanging around [and living in?] it. Find the star on its trailer hook up and proceed to the entrance when this character gives a shout in through the window at James - and James stops! No uniform, fawn slacks and no-sleeved T-shirt. What is this? James gets out, Lily gets out.