Olympics: Wadlow and Rast's 49er Medal Race

Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. 49er Medal Race start.
Unfortunately for Chris and I our jib blocks ripped out at 7 minutes to the start. Chris spent some time jury rigging the blocks by removing the tail of the jib halyard and tying the blocks to the front of the boat. The jib halyard is super thin line so he doubled it over a few times. While he was working on the repair I was watching the clock and keeping our boat upright and close to the line. At this point it was 19 knots of wind, and 5ft waves.

We finished the repair at 1:20 to the start, tacked over, beam reached across the line, and set up at the committee boat. We then spent 30s calming ourselves, and getting ready. At the gun we had a great start. The jury rig didn't allow me to pull the jib in all the way, but it was close enough. We wanted the right, so we tacked shortly after the start. About 2 minutes into the race the jury rig broke.

Chris tried another repair. This broke again. We tried another. Didn't work. After about 10 minutes we gave up on using purchase and just led the jib directly from the clew to the cleat, so now it's led 1:1. The sheet load quadrupled with this and we were worried about blowing out the cleat, so we only pulled the jib in half way.

At this point we are a lap down, in a 3 lap race. We get to the windward mark right with AUT, AUS and ITA who are leading the race. In 49er lingo, we were 'lap traffic'. The run was exciting, but we survived. The jury rig had been made over the kite sheet so we could only use the kite on Starboard, but this wasn't a major issue. On the next lap we were slow, with our jib half luffing, but not too bad. AUT's rig broke on this beat, right in front of us.

The next downwind was our 2nd, and the last for the leaders. It was getting windier, and waves were considerably bigger. We survived the bear away, but the capsized on the first major wave after the set. We ripped out a foot strap and broke a tiller extension in the wipe out. Meanwhile all the lead boats capsized on the same downwind. ITA, AUS, GER and BRA all flipped within sight of us. At one point 7 of 10 boats were upside down.

Olympic Games 2008 49er cartwheel © Ingrid bery/www.hotcapers.com

From here we missed the action, but from what we understand ITA, AUS and GER all had multiple flips trying to get to the finish. ESP came from 5th place, only flipped once on the run, and won the race. GBR and BRA were also capsized on the run. BRA took the main down, and finished under jib alone. Onshore, 49er sailors where watching the race on TV, continually recalculating the scores with each capsize. For a moment ITA had the gold, only needing to make one jibe. They capsized. Then AUS only needed one jibe to win the Gold. Same results. Now GER. Same. It was incredible drama. Eventually on ESP's 2nd turn they made it.

For us, things didn't look good. All the boats we needed to beat in the race were finished, or about to. We were a lap down, damaged, and at some point we realized we wouldn't make the time limit (15 minutes). We were also pretty exhausted from dealing with the repairs and all the capsizes. We were unable to finish the race.

Other dramas included the FRA boat breaking their bow pole, and the DEN boat breaking their mast. The DEN boat broke their mast well before the start, and through an amazing act of sportsmanship, was greeted onshore by a rigged boat from Croatia. They jumped in the boat, and sailed the race, starting almost 4 minutes late. The rumor is that the boat didn't even have a kite rigged. The finished the race (last finisher in 7th). Finishing 7th got them the Gold Medal. If the they hadn't finished they wouldn't win any medal. That's how close the points are.
Tim Wadlow (USA) 49er Skipper

Chris Rast (USA) 49er Crew

http://olympics.ussailing.org
http://www.sail-world.com/47930