by Bob Fisher
Television, we were reliably assured, would be the answer to sailing's prayers at the London Olympics. That assurance came as soon as the host city was announced and in the seven years, there would be ample time for the technical difficulties to be overcome.
The French Star crew free the mainsheet wrapped around a stern camera on the Practice Day for the 2012 Olympics
We waited; our anticipation was full of concern and it became all the more so when a sailor at a major international regatta whose racing progress was badly interfered with, boarded the offending camera boat and remonstrated with the driver and broadcaster.
It doesn't appear to have improved at the Olympic regatta in Weymouth. When a senior Field-of-Play official was overheard to say of a media boat that was close (too close even) that it was all right because it had an OBS flag, indicating that it was attached to an official broadcaster, the matter was all-too-obviously out of hand.
One broadcaster told of a competitor shaking his fist at the driver of the boat he was in, because of his proximity to the competitor. Presumably the boat driver could do no wrong.
On day one there was a major problem with the $60,000 camera and housing of one of the Star class competitors.
The 1996 Finn gold medallist, Mateusz Kusznierewicz of Poland and his crew, Dominik Zycki, gybed their boat and wiped the equipment off the boat and into the sea. A second camera and housing was lost from another Star.
The television technicians suggested that the mountings be strengthened to prevent this from happening again, but ISAF saw sense and refused this request believing that it would have a knock-on effect.
On the basis that something has to give in a situation of this nature, the world body was concerned that what might give if the mounting was beefed-up was the mast.
That was a step too far for the otherwise all-important tool of television and the request was refused. It could have led to a very delicate redress situation and that messy step was one too far.
Close up of the mainsheet wrap on the French Star during Practice for the 2012 Olympics
In itself, this had a further knock-on effect. The even lighter built 49ers were to have had on-board cameras for their first two races, but foreseeing possible problems, ISAF denied the broadcasters the opportunity to fit the equipment.
There have been seven years in which the broadcasters have had many opportunities to perfect their camera mountings on boats. At least the sailors appear to be winning some battles. Not all, it has to be said.
The cameras and their mounts will be fitted to other classes on the days when there is live television coverage of those classes. ISAF believes that the competitors have had adequate time to acclimatise themselves to having this equipment on their boats. The sailors will, undoubtedly, have the final say
The stills cameramen, however, have their justified complaints. Theirs is with some course marshals who, in their enthusiasm to keep the media RIBS behind the lay-lines away from the starts, are causing more wash than they need and getting in front of the cameras of the properly positioned photographers.
By the end of the regatta, the problems will have been ironed out, but the questions remain as to why they were not settled earlier.
There have been many regattas of multiple Olympic classes at which these problems could have been ironed out earlier.
Makes one think of the Boy Scouts - Be Prepared.