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Letter from Qingdao: The speed or stress monkey?

'2.4 mR class start on Day 4 at the Paralympics, Qingdao'    Dan Tucker    Click Here to view large photo

Denis Kiely of the Irish Paralympic Team writes from Qingdao

Wind speed monkey? or the tacticians tale

Some people have asked what I meant when I referred to my 'wind speed monkey'. When I arrived in Qingdao I bought a monkey in a local market - christened him Mikey. He had been traded in by the Brits after the able-bodied Olympics and has passable English. He is my personal weather expert and tactician. He sits on my right shoulder when we are on the race course and whispers the wind speed/direction and tactical advice in my ear.

2 kt, 165, flicking right Denies 2.5 kt 3 kt - Denies, Denies the f******r is going for the warning flag, Denies look, he can't start a race in 3 kt of wind Denies, can he?

I don't Know Mikey, you're the expert - and he is not a f******r Mikey, he is an Australian gentleman.

Denies you said they were the same thing.

I did not you cheeky little bastard - and where did you learn to swear like that?

From you Denies.

Mikey, you did not learn to swear like that from me - you know I never swear, you must have learnt it from the Brits.

I did not Denies, I never heard one swear word before I met you.

Mikey you're trying to tell me the Brits don't curse? Mikey you're a liar as well as a monkey.

No need to get personal Denies - I don't call you a fat bastard do I?

I would go out on the left after the start for about the first 300 meters Denies, then I would tack over and come back to the center. After that I would keep a loose cover on the French while trying to work up the left hand side of the course but I would still leave myself about 100 meters on the right hand layline coming into the top mark.

You would, would you - may I ask why Mikey?

Well I think there will be more pressure on the left and I think there will be a left shift so big gains to me made on the left Denies

Why more pressure on the left Mikey?

Well the water is darker over there Denies, look Denies and the clouds - look at the big cloud coming in on the left Denies.

We are looking into the sun on the right Mikey - maybe there is pressure on the right as well?

No no Denies, no the gradient wind is going to back left and the combination of the gradient wind at 165 in the top of the mainsail and the sea breeze at 155 in the bottom means that Rhino will be able to twist the main off and get better speed - and pointing!! - in these light conditions, plus we will have a lee bow effect from the tide coming down and across the course from left to right - also my cousin ....

You're cousin Mikey, what the f****k has your cousin got to do with it?
Denies no swearing - remember you said we will get arrested if we get caught swearing.

Mikeeeeeey - you're trying my patiennnnnnnnnce - Mikeeeeeeeeeeey you're for the pot tonight unless I get an answerrrrrrrr.

My cousin says that the wind is blowing strongly from the north at the moment where he is, 15 kt, so we will definitely get a left shift and much more pressure on the left.

OK Mikey - where is your cousin, is he on that headland over there?

No Denies, my cousin is in Korea.

How far away is Korea Mikey?

Just 1000km Denies!!

Mikey, you're monkey stew tonight!

No no, I tell a lie. I made up the bit about the cousin in Korea. But the pressure came in on the right, I had told the lads I thought the left side would pay - they went left - and we were 2nd last round the top mark!! Mikey better sharpen up his act or him and me will be paying a visit to the chef - and only one of us will be coming back!

The state of play - one day/2 races to go

After 8 races Paul Tingley, Canada with 24 pts is in the lead from John Ruf, US at 29 points. They will probably have 2 races tomorrow and Paul has a good chance of holding John off and taking the gold. John is a good guy but Paul is close to the Irish Sonar team and I would be delighted for him if he wins.

It seemd to be accepted around the village this evening that with 9 points Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker, US, are in an unassailable lead over John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit, Canada, with 18 points. Every sailor in the village has a story to tell no doubt but Nick Scandone's story would surely come close to the top of the list of those that exemplify what the human spirit is capable of.

Long before his illness Nick Scandone was a North American 470 dinghy class champion, and American Olympic squad contender - this is very high level sailing. When he became ill [only about 6 yrs ago] he first sailed in the 2.4 class - and won an open [able and disabled sailors] world championships in that class. He then moved on to the Skud as his illness progressed. He has survived longer than the norm for his illness and what his friends say is that what keeps him going is his desire to win Paralympics gold. He is doing it in great style.

Maureen [para], his crew, is from Baawston, the Capitol of the Irish, - Marblehead, to be precise - mad keen sailor, mother to two young children, wife of Dan and an all-round good person.

I should also mention Dan Fitzgibbon from OZ in 3rd place with 19 points, just 1 behind John Mc. Again a former Olympic squad level 470 sailor and bitter irony of ironies, suffered his accident when thrown from the dock by his crew in celebrations after winning a 470 event. Dan is a quadriplegic. His Dad is Irish he tells me - from Dublin. The silver and bronze are likely to be shared between John and Dan.

The position is very close at the top of the Sonar class. 7 points separate the top 5 boats. Any one of the five have a fair chance of a) winning a medal and b) winning a gold. The French/Breton boat is in the lead by 3 points from 2nd placed Oz, Colin Harrison and crew [who came all the way from Perth in Western Oz to Kinsale, for an event in the Summer] with 24 points.

Then the next 3 boats, Germany, Greece and Norway are respectively on 26, 27, and 28 points - that's a bounce of a boat on the finish line! Only made it out for the middle of the 2nd race today, asked Maria how the boys had got on in the 1st race? She said it was close but she thought 5th. Mac thought the same. When the results were announced the boys were 3rd. That's how close many of the finishes are, 3 or 4 boats overlapped on the finish line - after an hours racing. Even sighting along the finish line you can't be certain who's ahead, who's behind - amazing! Le Breton - he insists - helmsman is good, but he is not unbeatable.

Today was his worst day, had his 2 discards [2 worst races] so while he starts tomorrow in pole position he will have to sail well, very well, to retain it. How do you cover [keep an eye on] 4 boats? Sit on the Aussies - and the Germans, Greeks or Norries - one or all of them will go for broke. Even the Israelis on 34 and the Americans on 35 have an outside chance of a medal. So it is all to play for in this class - it will be fascinating racing tomorrow.

Closing matters - all good things ...

It is going to get frantic here tomorrow evening, what with the medal ceremonies, the closing ceremony, the drinking ceremony - and we have 4 boats to pack into 2 containers, one for Miami and one for Dublin - and we want to try and get it done by Sunday evening. Rhino says you'd get a lot done in an hour - you would, but not in terms of packing two containers!

I would like to get one more of these off - kind of wrap up, high philosophical generalities, lessons learned etc etc - really! - and there are a few loose ends, the story of where the beach bunnies, sorry volley ball girls, go when the Olympics is over for instance, and no doubt there will be some interesting situations develop as tomorrow evening progresses - regresses is probably a better word - but some of those could well be covered by the Bulman rule? Whatever, we will try -

by Denis Kiely


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7:31 PM Fri 12 Sep 2008 GMT

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