Letter from Qingdao- The invasion of Fushan Bay

Algae cleanup in Fushan Bay before the start of racing on Day 4 of the 2008 Olympics

Greetings from Qingdao, on this the fourth day of the 2008 Sailing Olympics.

On our arrival at the Media Centre today, it seemed that the Normandy Landing was being re-enacted on Fushan Bay.

Immediately in front of the said Media Centre, about 70 boats were gathered netting green algae from the water. With single cylinder diesels thunking away in low revs, they cruised the bay slowly, each with a man on the deck armed with what we Kiwis would call a whitebait net.

A quick count of boats in the immediate vicinity quickly reached 70, of what are described locally as traditional fishing boats, but are probably known in non-Asian circles as sampans. These are not the sort of craft you'd be taking the wife and kids away for a weekend in the Hauraki Gulf, but are very functional work boats, and which are probably reasonably seaworthy provided a port is close to hand, and the motor is running.

The fleet were packed into a 300 metre circle and it looked almost possible to walk across the fleet. A scan of the horizon showed another five fleets working the coast - given that our count of 70 was accurate, and that the other fleets were a similar size - that made about 350 boats dealing to the Qingdao Green.

A fleet of work boats deal to the Qingdao Green.

The matter of whether there were sufficient resources available to deal with the green sea weed, was taken up at today's Media Conference. Staggeringly organisers didn't seem too worried about the situation, saying they had a fleet of around 1200 fishing boats available if required - meaning that what we were looking at through the windows, was just a quarter of the resource available.

Apparently the phenomenon is expected to ease as the water temperature changes, and subject to regular sweeping it is expected to remain under control. The fleet moved back onto Fushan Bay soon after sailing finished for the day, making the most of the remaining daylight.

At the same media conference, the organisers were quick to make the point that with three days of competition gone, the regatta was completely on schedule - knocking a big hole in claims in the preceding four years that non-existent winds would put paid to any sailing and the Olympics itself.

A flotilla of weed-collecting boats working close inshore before racing starts on Day 4.

You don't need the memory of an elephant to recall that, there was a run of five days at the start of the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup, when racing was not possible and that a great many sailing regattas would be pleased to be in the position that the Qingdao Sailing Olympics currently enjoys.

While the point was made in the usual understated Chinese way, they were tempting fate a little - with the race officer calling a postponement of an hour on racing due to unstable and light winds - the first of the regatta.

The Qingdao Doctor soon arrived with wind speeds of seven to eight knots being recorded from 110 - a shift of about ten degrees from yesterday. Essentially the wind has stayed constant in strength and direction for the four days of this event.

There was some interst in the Tornado class today, as several boats were out training and doing a flypast the fleets who were racing.

Netherlands set out with their Code Zero jib/spinnaker rigged.

Mitch Booth and Pim Nieuwenhuis gave their red Code Zero spinnaker an airing late today, appropriate going against the incoming traffic entering the Olympic harbour after the day's racing.

To be fully appreciated, the sail needs to be rotated like some 3D CAD-CAM model. Only then can its jib like appearance be properly seen.

Most striking feature is its straight and hard luff which sets up the fine jib like entry, exiting through a jib style leech.

We are yet to see these sails in action in anger, but if the sails work as intended, and if the Qingdao Doctor remains for the majority of the racing, then it will be like a contest between a racehorse and a donkey.

A regular Tornado sailing downwind off Qingdao, note the white camera mounted on the spinnaker snuffer - used for television coverage of the regatta.

Quite why the 'spirit of the class' rules have not been invoked is surprising. Such rules are prescribed to prevent so called 'developments' such as this, and to prevent competitions turning into a farce, as this one surely will.

Maybe there will be protests on this point once racing starts, certainly the Jury will be having an early night tonight, with just two protests lodged, instead of the 16 they heard last night.

Good Sailing!

Richard Gladwell