Sail-World.com : Editorial: One day at a time
Editorial: One day at a time
Welcome to Sail-World.Com's Olympic newsletter for Day 1 of the 2008 Olympic Sailing Regatta.
Today was a trying one for competitors and media.
The fickle breezes of Qingdao wafted across the course today - partnered by a strong tide of 1.5kts or more, which flowed up the course.
A postponement was signalled in the opening stanza of the first start of Race 1. With 25 seconds to go the Finn start was blown up for reasons which were not entirely clear, but the polished race management got the second start underway with a minimum of delay.
Then the Ynglings followed, again off to a slick start, as expected.
However from there on the meltdowns began. On the water one got the impression that this was a competition requiring a very fine touch. The success keys were accuracy of positioning, staging a small quiet recovery if things didn't quite work, and then either retain the gain, or push for a further small advantage.
Racing got underway in a six knot breeze from a direction of 115 degrees, or slightly south of east. The tide flowed underneath the competitors on the beats and they had to push into the tide on the downwind return leg.
Each course consisted of just two windward leewards, and races lasted about an hour each.
The haze rolled in from the sea, almost obscuring the shore from the windward mark. When sailing to windward there is no real reference point except for a grey cloud bank. The sailors are virtually flying blind and as we mentioned before, it is a game of small gains and consolidation.
Five times World Champion, in the Finn class, Ben Ainslie (GBR) was one of the big questions for today. If he followed previous form he would have got away to a bad regatta, only to retrieved by yet another display of sublime brilliance.
He began by ignoring the form guide today, recovering well from an average start in the middle of the fleet to cover his options and eke out a small but defendable lead. Which he defended until the final run when the fleet split. Ainslie did the right thing and covered, but the seaward side of the course, supposedly in more tidal flow paid off in spades, and the tables were turned.
Mark roundings and finishes were always very congested with big gains looking possible, but the reality was that there was nothing really on the table, and the main objective was to stay clear of trouble from both your fellow competitors and the Jury, who were in a fine whistling mood, as sailors tried to grab more than their fair share under the dreaded Rule 42, copping a propulsion penalty.
In the Ynglings, all eyes were on the other GBR superstar combination of Ayton, Webb and Wilson. After a very dodgy beginning to the first race, they threw caution to the flighty wind on the second downwind leg, breaking with the fleet ahead of them, and took the high road out to sea. Their move paid a substantial dividend - lifting them right around the fleet and into second place behind the Australian crew, who sailed a very controlled race winning by a three length margin.
In the second, it was a big tick in the winners box for the Dutch crew - the product of a radical (for sailing) selection and sailing program, and led around the course. They were the only crew to achieve this feat all day, and lie in third place overall.
Undisputed surprise packet of Day 1 was the Canadian Yngling crew, who after being the final crew to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, lie in second place overall after two races . They have a fourth and fifth on their scorecard, behind the Gold medal favourites, Great Britain.
From the media's perspective, it was day of frustration and continuing poor communication between organisers and the multi-national group who inhabit the international media centre.
There was a lot of shouting on media boats as leading international photographers, tried to get across to the inexperienced local boat drivers their positioning requirements, via an interpreter. Later the issue boiled over ashore, and is a continuing source of frustration.
Today's issue was compounded by the fact that there are 29 media boats trying to cover just one course, amazingly their time around the course was on rotation only, however the situation is both disappointing and unacceptable.
Tomorrow is another day.
Sail-World Olympic Editor
by Richard Gladwell
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9:33 AM Sat 9 Aug 2008 GMT
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