by Andy Rice
Maybe the weather was a good omen. After day after day of hot, sticky weather and no wind, Qingdao turned into a typical English summer's day. Wet and windy. The only thing that was different was the rain was at least warm. Whatever, it didn't seem to bother the GBR Yngling girls, Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson.
Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. - 2008 Olympics Day 9
With the wind blowing an average 16 knots and the seas lumpy, some of us in the media centre (we chickened out from going out to watch the racing live, especially after the news that the committee boat on Course E was sinking) reckoned there wouldn't be much pre-start match racing. But Team GBR did take the fight to the NED girls, and tried to shut them out of the windward end of the line. Mandy Mulder still had time to do one more circle of the committee boat before starting at the windward end of the line, with GBR two boats down.
Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson. Blondes in a Boat for Qingdao.
It looked like the Dutch had the controlling position, but that might have been camera angle. The NED boat tacked away to the right and GBR flopped over to follow and cover. There wasn't much to choose between the two as they engaged each other on a couple of occasions, but by the windward mark the GBR boat was clear ahead and rounded in the lead.
USA tacked underneath the Dutch at the mark but misjudged the strength of the current, and Sally Barkow got swept on to the mark. Then in extricating herself she seemed to foul the Australians, although the USA boat only took one penalty turn for hitting the mark.
NED dropped to 5th by the leeward gate, and although GBR lost the lead to Germany for a while - before regaining it by the finish - the gold medal was firmly in Ayton's pocket by this time. Behind GBR, the final windward mark rounding was another comedy of errors, with a number of boats hitting the mark, or being swept the wrong side of it altogether.
So it was GBR gold, NED silver, GRE third.
Tears of Bronze
Sofia Bekatorou, Sofia Papadopoulou and Christina Charamountani, GRE
How do you think Sofia Bekatorou felt after winning a bronze medal today? After coming back from a crippling back injury in 2004 to win the 470 gold medal on her home waters of Athens, you might think winning a bronze on a rainy day in China would be a bit of a let down.
Not a bit of it. No one punched the air harder and celebrated more than the Greeks when they surfed across the line today.
And look at the tears when Sofia was reunited with family afterwards. Congratulations to Sofia and her crew.
Fairy Tale story for Denmark, but will it end that way?
Half way through the Finn Medal Race, and word came through that the Danish 49er's rig had broken before the start. Disaster for Jonas Warrer and Martin Kirketerp who have led this regatta for the past few days.
With Ben safely in the lead, I tore myself away from watching the Finn finale to go look for the DEN 49er. Sure enough, there was the boat on the ramp, mast in two pieces, while the Croatian 49er team (not in the Medal Race) hurried with the regatta leaders to get their boat ready as a replacement.
Sailing your own boat in those conditions would be hard enough, as anyone who witnessed the 49er Medal Race coverage will know, but to race a borrowed boat is another matter. Still, when needs must, like the small matter of defending your grip on a Gold Medal!
The Danes hoisted the sails with CRO on the mainsail, pushed the boat out and raced (yes, they were racing at this point) to get out to the start line on time. They made the start area with less than 20 seconds to spare. Any later and they would have been ineligible
Then the war of attrition, with every one of the 10 teams capsizing and/or pitchpoling at some point in the three-lap demolition derby. Falling in down the final run it looked like DEN had trashed their chances, but no, 7th across the finish was good enough. The crossed just over 11 minutes after the winners, the Spanish. The time limit was 15 minutes, so another capsize and they probably wouldn't have made it.
Congratulations to the Danish. They've brought home the bacon. Or have they? More on that story later....
The short version is that fairy tale or not, the Danish can't use borrowed equipment without having had it vetted first. So the question is, will the Jury take the same view? There is a protest pending against the Danish by the Race Committee, with 49er Measurer Barry Johnson sitting in as witness.
I'd love to see the Danes win this regatta. They deserve it. But I can't see their Medal Race result sticking. Rules are rules. Every boat is quarantined the night before the Medal Race, and the Croatian boat didn't go through the process. That's not even to suggest the Danes gained an iota of advantage by using a borrowed boat, but I think it's the technicalities that will see them stripped of the Gold, and for it to be handed to the Spanish.
To stay up to date with the latest developments on this controversy, go here: http://www.sailing.org/olympics/racing/decisions.php