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Light air opener for Lasers and Laser Radial

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia on 12 Aug 2008
Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. Anna Tunnicliffe (USA).First overall after two races. Guy Nowell © http://www.guynowell.com

It was a hot, sticky and still start to the day‘s racing, with more than an hour’s postponement as race management waited for the wind to fill in. Ironically, there was plenty blowing across the breakwater in front of the Olympic marina, flapping the flags and spinning the wind turbines. But there was less just a few yards out to sea, and the red-and-white-stripes stayed put.

When the call did come it resulted in a horde of photographers and journalists piling into the ‘Circulating Golf Cars’ for the short ride to the Media Boat dock, and RIBs enthusiastically zooming off out to sea.

The opening races for the Laser (Men) and Laser Radial (Women) were on Course Area Alpha, the closest area to the marina, and only a couple of minutes by RIB – if you can persuade the driver to step on it.

Boat 89 did get there in time for the first Laser start, and in time to see Julio Alsogaray (ARG) nip smartly out from the crush into clear air and walk away with the race, leading the fleet round every mark to the finish. Andrew Murdoch (NZL) wasn’t far behind, but sat in second place all the way round, followed by Matias del Solar Goldsmith (CHI) in third – all the way round.

Asian competitors hoping to capitalise on light air conditions were represented by Koh Seng Leong (SIN) and Kevin Lim (MAS). Koh claimed 28th place in a fleet of 43, but slipped to 35th by the finish, whilst Lim fell foul of the black flag and collected a disqualification.

The Women’s Laser Radial was dominated by Evi van Ecker (BEL) who reprised Alsogaray’s trick of leading all the way round the course, chased hard at the end by Penny Clark (GBR) who pulled back from a mediocre start to overtake Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) after the first sausage and hold on to her position for the rest of the race. Singapore’s Lo Man Yi finished 21st in the 28 boat fleet.

First out of the box for the second Laser race was Kristian Ruth (NOR) but he was obliged to surrender the lead at the first downwind mark to France’s Jean Baptiste Bernaz who held off an ever closing Paul Goodison (GBR) to win by a scant 11 seconds. Florencia Cerutti Bogado (PAR) led the Womens’ fleet for most of the second race, only surrendering the lead to Sarah Steyaert (FRA) on the last downwind leg – there was only 4 seconds in it, and it was game on all the way across the reach from the bottom pin to the finish. Xu Lijia (CHN) came in a good third after a very disappointing first race finish at 24th.

It is nip-and-tuck racing on the relatively short Olympic ‘1-hour’ courses, and easy to go from hero to zero in a heartbeat – but much more difficult to reverse the process. Race Officers are running races off computer-generated courses that that take into consideration both wind and current, and spit out a set of GPS positions for the marks – all aimed at making races one hour long.

Wind models are suggesting exceptionally light winds tomorrow – but if it does blow, and if we can get the boat driver off the phone for long enough, we’ll be looking at the 470 fleets.

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