Stu's Qindgao Olympic Blog
The Star medal race was epic. At one point or another, each of the top three teams held each of the medals.
Aug. 25, 2008
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Don't mind if I do. I had an hour or so to kill before my flight to Korea, the first of four that would eventually land me in Warwick, R.I., just before midnight. So I sat and chatted with a few colleagues and enjoyed one last Tsingtao beer. The TV in the lounge caught my eye; it was broadcasting the gold medal match in men's volleyball.
One of the first notes on this blog was the tragic report about the death of an American tourist in Beijing. The tourist was the father-in-law of Hugh McCutcheon, the head coach for the United States men's volleyball team. He'd been stabbed to death while visiting the Drum Tower, a popular landmark in Beijing. McCutcheon's mother-in-law was severely injured in the attack and their tour guide was killed as well.
McCutcheon missed the first few games of the Olympic tournament to attend to his wife and her mother, but returned to the sidelines when his mother-in-law was flown home for further treatment. According to news reports she is improving.
Not favored to win a medal, the U.S. men's indoor volleyball team swept through its pool without losing a match and then through the quarters and semis to make the gold medal match, ensuring the first U.S. medal in this sport since 1992.
I only caught a few minutes of the gold medal game, but it was the last few. The U.S. team beat Brazil to win the gold. While today's sports pages and recaps are dominated by the men's basketball team and its gold medal win over Spain (yawn!!) this was without a doubt the best story of the final day. It brought the 2008 Olympics full circle and sent me home a good note. I'm sure there are many tough weeks and months ahead for McCutcheon and his family. Hopefully this gold medal brings a small amount of joy at a very difficult time.
For me, however, the experience didn't really come full circle until I got home 30 hours later-but still the same day-and held my infant daughter for the first time in nearly 3 weeks. She's a little heavier and has a whole new assortment of facial expressions and sounds. But she hasn't changed as much as I'd feared.
She spent the first 20 minutes in my arms just staring at me. "Look how much she loves her daddy," my wife cooed.
"Are you sure," I said. "I think it looks like she's trying to figure out who is this strange person holding her."
"No, I've spent almost every minute of the last 3 weeks with her. I know her. She's so happy to have her daddy home."
I nodded. This was one argument I was happy to lose.
Aug. 21, 2008
And That's a Wrap
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Protest in the Stars?
We're being told that the Star results are preliminary as there's a protest from the medal race. Hmm. If it's any of the boats in fourth through ninth, it would move Loof up to silver. Of course, if it's Simpson and Percy that get disqualified it would move Loof and Ekstrom up to gold, leave Scheidt and Prada with the silver and move the British team from first to third.
Preliminary reports are the Swedish team is protesting its finish position, claiming it was ninth, not 10th. It was very close between the Swedish team and the French team. From the TV feed, I had it as the race committee called it, by a quarter to half boatlength. If successful, and I doubt very much it will be, it would move Loof and Ekstrom up to second, and drop Scheidt and Prada to bronze. On the plus side, Scheidt would now have a full collection of Olympic medals: two golds, one silver, one bronze.
Thrilling End to Olympic Regatta
Earlier in this event I ran across Paul Ulibarri, the race officer for the Tornados and Stars. He mentioned that as a tribute to the Tornado, in its last Olympic regatta, he was planning to run the medal race for the cats last on the final day of the event, give them the final stage. For some reason, he changed his mind. It worked out just fine. The final race of the 2008 Olympic Regatta in Qingdao was an amazing contest, one that will be remembered for many years and one that showed the ultimate potential of the format.
This isn't meant to knock the Tornado race, it was great to see the cats handling the difficult conditions with aplomb and blazing around the course at up to 20 knots. But the Star contest was epic. At one point or another during the race each of the top three teams held each of the medals. In the end 2000 Finn gold medalist Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson added to the amazing British haul with another gold. Robert Scheidt of Brazil added his fourth medal, a second silver to go with his two golds, and Freddie Loof of Sweden was once again forced to be happy with bronze.
We'll have more on this race in our podcast, including quotes from the three medal-winning crews. The race started to lock into shape at the leeward gate. After appearing to trail on much of the run, Percy and Simpson surfed ahead of Loof and crew Anders Ekstrom and rounded the left gate. Here is where the Swedish team might have made a crucial mistake. Rather than jibing for the other gate-which would've been the instinct of a match racer like Percy-Loof chose to follow Percy around the left gate. Worse yet, the Swedish team had to give room to the French boat, which put them directly in Percy and Simpson's wind shadow.
With Loof and Ekstrom firmly in the read-view mirror, now Percy and Simpson merely had to focus on making sure Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada were fewer than six boats ahead. For a while it looked like this was a worry. Scheidt was first around the windward mark and with the right side paying it looked like a number of the boats that rounded the leeward mark behind Percy and Simpson at the leeward mark could pass him. Fortunately for the British crew, they also passed Scheidt. At the final windward mark it was Scheidt in fifth, Percy in seventh and Loof in last. On the run Scheidit picked up two boats to move into silver, leaving Loof with a bronze to match the one he won in Syndey in the Finn class.
Tornado Medals Remain Static During Medal Race
If that was the last time we see the Tornado in Olympic competition, then it was a worthy show. In 14 to 16 knots of wind, the cats displayed both blazing speed and sturdy seaworthiness. The Canadian team of Oskar Johansson and Kevin Stittle made a strong play for bronze, finishing second in the race. But with the Greek and German teams dropping out-the Germans were the only team to capsize and couldn't get the boat upright-Johansson and Stittle had to win the race and hope the Argentines finished last. Neither of those two things happened.
Darren Bundock and Glenn Ashby of Australia hung it out on the left side on the first beat hoping to gain an early edge on the Spanish team. They needed to beat the Spanish by two points to claim gold. Bundock, who won a silver in Athens and six world championships in the class, was clearly going for it all. But it wasn't to be.
You may notice I started this entry with "if." There's a strong rumor here that the International Olympic Committee may allot an 11th medal to sailing. The sport had been instructed to drop to 10 medals and the multihull got cut in a very politicized vote. In all likelihood that final spot would go to an open catamaran. This is similar to what happened after the 1996 Games, when the Star was briefly eliminated from Olympic competition.
Should the multihull regain its spot in the Olympic lineup, the Tornado would be an obvious choice. But is it the right choice? While it's speed is impressive, there is support for a more ubiquitous, less expensive, and easier to manage catamaran, such as one of the F18 cats. Of course, the first step is getting the discipline back in the Games. I'll have more on this in my podcast.
Aug. 20, 2008
Gary Bodie To Step Down as U.S. Sailing Team Head Coach
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When is this going to happen?
End of the year, although I'm going to change roles pretty quickly after the Games. I'm still going to stick around and help with Rolex Miami OCR and then go back to doing some volunteer stuff with US SAILING.
What will you do to occupy your time?
My wife started up a little business a few years ago and she's been running while I've been doing all this.
Can you tell us what it is?
It's real estate investment
That's a pretty drastic change. Will you miss the coaching?
I'm going to miss it the day after I quit. It's been 10 years with the team and 30 years coaching and I just felt like it was time for me to do something else.
Did knowing that this would be your last Games as the head coach make the experience any different, any more special?
I tell you Anna [Tunnicliff's gold in the Laser Radial] was pretty special for me. If feels to me like kind of full circle because 30 years ago I started at Old Dominion in 1978, my first coaching job. It was a club sport, unranked, no facilities, six penguins, wood penguins. So I feel really good. Debbie [Capozzi], Sally [Barkow], Anna, and Charlie Ogletree are all ODU graduates. For Anna to win the gold, it feels like full circle to me.
Will the duties of the head coach change at all in the immediate future?
They're going to reorganize the role a little bit, try to take out some of the administrative and logistical stuff, including ISAF and Miami OCR and shipping and yadda, yadda, yadda, which I end up spending over half my time on and put that back into the office so to speak. So this person would be able to focus more the head coach and high-performance role.
Will the person be more of a team manager, more big picture?
I've pretty much taken an active role coaching individual athletes during my 10 years. I've done it where I've been coaching my share of the load. But again that takes away from the big picture kind of stuff. So I think the new person will be able to focus more on being the head coach.
I think [high-performance director] is a pretty popular title in Olympic sports, not just ailing. I think my replacement will actually be more involved with the athletes, and still be doing some on-the-water coaching, moving from class to class, but less focused on one or two athletes and one or two classes and hopefully it'll be successful in taking some of the administrative and logistical stuff off the plate. The reason that Sparky [Team GBR Olympic Manager Stephen Park] is able to do what he's able to do is they have five people doing what I'm doing and five more doing what Katie Kelly does.
One of their athletes came up to Katie and commented, "I can't believe you and Gary do all these things."
He was more admiring it than being critical.
With this change the program at all, make it more like the Team GBR approach?
I think one of the big strengths of our program, and it predates me by 30 years, is the independence of our athletes and the decentralized structure of our programs and the entrepreneurial spirit of our athletes. Entrepreneurial as applied to athletics, not in the business sense. They running their own programs pretty much and I think that's a real strength of our program and it's very American.
For the U.S. Sailing Team, the Fat Lady Has Sung.
John Dane and Austin Sperry had their third top-four finish of the regatta in the final race before the Stars move to a medal race. It wasn't enough, however, leaving the duo in 11th place, 10 points shy of the medal race. John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree, the U.S. Tornado representative, will also be watching the medal race. The conditions for the regatta were exactly what they didn't want for their Code 0 spinnaker, which works great in less than 7 knots and survives in more than 20, but is particularly vulnerable in 10 to 15.
Tomorrow, weather permitting, we'll have two more races, the medal races for the Star and the Tornado. Then we'll put a bow on this event. Of the 400 athletes competing in the 2008 Olympic Games, it's all over for 90 percent. just 40 sailors will wake up tomorrow and go sailing. The Bar New York is likely to be hopping tonight. The Star race should be quite interesting. Freddie Loof and Anders Ekstrom of Sweden are first, but since they're only two points ahead of Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, those two teams are essentially tied. Eight years ago in Sydney, Percy match-raced Loof from silver to bronze in the Finn class. Will the Swede extract some payback tomorrow? Or even get a little revenge for his teammate Rasmus Myrgren? Stay tuned. Eight sailors are technically alive for a medal, though only four have a shot at gold or silver. Could Loof and Ekstrom walk away empty handed? It's possible. Imagine this. Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau of France win the race, with Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada third, Percy and Simpson ninth, and Loof and Ekstrom last. That would leave all four teams tied with 53 points and the tiebreaker would go in favor of medal race positions.
Scratch That, Six Medals for Team GBR
Men's RS:X sailor Nick Dempsey fell from a virtual three-way tie for first into fourth in the medal, a tough break for this second-time Olympian, who also happens to be the fiance of Yngling gold medal skipper Sarah Ayton. So the British hopes of surpassing their sailing medal todal of 2000 and 2004 rest with Iain Percy and Andrew "Bart" Simpson. While I'm still no a fan of the low-wind slalom, it was quite an exciting medal race. Just one lap, then into the slalom, with the medals on the move throughout.
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How's it going so far? Well, let's just say I'm not impressed. In the light winds, there isn't any planing to be had. After watching the boards whack their way around two 'dogs (no sauce), seeing them whack their way along some reaches doesn't really add much to the proceedings. I like the concept of slalom, but I'm not sure it works in this hybrid situation and it definitely doesn't work in light winds.
Lucky Seven For Team GBR?
Wow, and I though the Pommie journalists were full of themselves when their team won five in Athens. Can't imagine what's going to happen now. It looks like the British team will walk away from the Qingdao Olympics with seven medals. They've got five now-including three gold-after Bryony Shaw took bronze in the women's 470. Nick Dempsey is up next, he's in a virtual three-way tied for first in the Men's RS:X. Ian Percy is in second in the Star and the gap over third is widening by the race.
Of course, if there's a downside to this performance, which will be the most dominating Olympic performance since the U.S. claimed nine medals in 10 classes in Barcelona, it will living up to tremendous expectations in 2012, under the harsh lights of a home Olympics. As members of the 1996 U.S. Sailing Team can tell you, it's more difficult that it looks. The U.S. team for the Savannah Games was very experienced and included many returning medal winners: Mark Reynolds and Hal Haenel in the Star, the 470 team of Morgan Reeser and Kevin Burnham, and boardsailor Mike Gebhardt. Yet the team walked away with just two bronze medals, both won by first-time Olympians: Courtenay Becker Dey in the Europe dinghy and the soling team led by Jeff Madrigali.
The British team is a very professional operation, so they'll be ready. But topping, or even equaling seven, should they win this many here, will be a very difficult task.
Aug. 19, 2008
How One Place That Rasmus Myrgren Didn't Lose Cost Him a Medal
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The result lifted Myrgren from third to second in the overall standings, and gave him a little cushion. Heading into the ninth race, he'd been third with two sailors one point behind, a tenuous spot given how desperately people pursue medals in the Olympics. Now he had a bit of breathing room. In the end, however, that second place finish played a pivotal role in Myrgren walking away from this regatta empty handed.
Going into the medal race, Myrgren was two points ahead of third and four ahead of fourth. To hold the silver he'd need to beat Lima in the medal race-which counts for double points and as the tiebreaker-stay within two places of Vasilij Zbogar of Slovenia and within three boats of Diego Romero of Italy. It was a strong position, but it had a serious flaw and Myrgren would've been better off with just one more point on his scoreline.
Because he was the only sailor within 18 points of Great Britain's Paul Goodison, the leader heading into the medal race, he was the only sailor, other than Goodison, with a chance at gold. It was a slim chance at best. Myrgren had to win the race and hope Goodison finished last. But it was a chance.
The best way for Goodison to ensure he won the gold was to keep Myrgren from winning the race. Goodison, who did plenty of sparring with Ben Ainslie when the latter was still in the Laser class, was schooled on match racing within a fleet race by one of the best.
He easily controlled Myrgren before the start and sat on him for the rest of the race. Myrgren finished last in the medal race, 3:54 behind the winner. Zbogar, who had been fourth, finished second to claim silver while Romero, who had been fifth, finished third to claim bronze. Lima was fifth, which dropped him to fourth. Myrgren dropped to sixth.
Here's what will really sting for the Swedish sailor. Had Myrgren and Lima switched positions in that ninth race, Myrgren would've been too far behind, by a single point, to threaten Goodison's medal unless Goodison failed to finish. In that situation, the British sailor would've sailed a conservative race and concerned himself with simply finishing. Instead he match raced Myrgren right off the podium.
Myrgren didn't do himself any favors in the pre-start of the medal race. Goodison didn't exactly have to work very hard to get control. But in a sport where sailors are taught to fight for every point, letting just one get away during the course of the regatta would've exponentially increased Mygren's chances of winning a medal.
At the Laser medalist press conference, I asked Goodison whether he considered match racing another sailor, one that wasn't in the medal hunt. After all, beating just one sailor in the race ensured him a gold medal. It didn't matter which sailor he beat.
"It did cross my mind that I could potentially take any of the other boats and try and keep them behind me. But in the conditions as they were today, just one tiny mistake, which could've happened anywhere on the race course, and that boat could slip past and cost the gold medal. For me the only way to make it sure for me that I was going to get the gold was to make sure Rasmus wasn't winning or in the top group so if I did make a mistake and Rasmus did manage to slip past it wouldn't cost me the gold medal. That is why I chose to do what I did today."
Goodison was also asked whether he spoke to Myrgren after the race:
"I did manage to catch up with Rasmus, and I put my arms up to apologize to him, but I think he was a little bit stressed and upset about the race. He spent the second half ot her race screaming at the race committee to abandon the race. I feel really sorry for Rasmus and I wish it didn't have to happen to him but at the end of the day I had to win the gold medal."
It's really a raw deal for Myrgren and one wonders whether there's a better solution. It's not a problem specifically with the medal race, the same sort of thing could've come up in a traditional regatta. However, in that case, at least Myrgren could be held responsible for having sailed his drop race earlier in the regatta and making himself vulnerable to such a strategy. In this case, the only mistake he made was starting the medal race with a mathematical chance of winning the gold medal.
Tunnicliffe Wins Gold But Makes Her Fans Sweat
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When the X flag went up after the start, Tunnicliffe was one of four boats to restart. She was eighth at the first windward mark. With Gintare Volungeviciute of Lithuania third, that meant Tunnicliffe was in the sliver position. And with China's Lijia Xu in fourth, Tunnicliffe was close to falling to bronze. When Tunnicliffe rounded the leeward mark in ninth, she was still in silver overall, but by just a point.
Then she hit the left side of the course, anticipating a shift, and jumped from ninth to third around the windward mark. Volungeviciute won the race and the silver, but Tunnicliffe finished second, passing Sarah Blanck of Australia when she was forced to do penalty turns for a Rule 42 violation. Xu finished third to secure bronze. Blanck fourth.
49 Reasons While This Story Isn't Over
Forty-nine reasons all in a line
All of them good ones, all of them lies.
Drifting with my lady, we're oldest of friends
Need a little work and there's fences to mend.
-Stephen Stills, 49 Bye Byes
At Monday's 49er medalist press conference, which came a full day after the medal race was sailed, Spanish skipper Iker Martinez was asked by a reporter for Reuters what he thought about the Spanish Sailing Federation's decision to pursue further legal action in regards to the controversial medal race.
Whether he was aware of this decision or not, it was not a question he wanted to answer, preferring to focus on the accomplishments of the people on the stage. He had, he said, come to terms with his silver. Further questions along this line only returned more defensive statements. However, it was a reasonable line of questioning. According to the reporter, he'd heard the legal advisor for the Spanish Sailing Federation tell Spanish radio they would be looking to invalidate the race and/or the Danish team's ability to use another team's boat.
This morning, at the top of the protest list was one filed by the Italian and Spanish 49er teams against the jury. It seemed only a matter of time before the Italians weighed in. They were celebrating at the finish, thinking they'd won a medal because the Danish team was a DNF. Like most of the sailors, they had no clue the Danish team was sailing around in the Croation boat. The jury dismissed the protest. However, I don't believe this story is over.
For those of you just tuning in, the medal race was run in very marginal conditions for 49ers. The wind was high, 19 knots, but the sea state was extreme. It was a sea state normally created by much higher winds and the 49er is much more affected by waves than wind speed. Tim Wadlow told me that at the 2007 ISAF World Championships in Cascais, Portugal, they raced in winds up to 28 knots. But it was flat water and that makes all the difference.
In conditions like we saw on Sunday, the boats sail downwind with the hand brake on. Setting a spinnaker is inviting a capsize. Speed management is a vital skill.
The most important skill on Sunday, however, appeared to be the ability to right your boat after it capsized. The Spanish team, which won the race, capsized three times. The Australians were 150 meters from the finish, and in line for a medal, when they capsized for the final time. They finished fifth.
There have been some people who have said that because everyone had trained so extensively for light that the boats, the sailors, or the gear were not up to the challenge of racing in those conditions.
This is an uninformed view. 1. 49ers are very strict one-designs. The gear is the same whether preparing for a heavy-air regatta or a light one. The sailors didn't modify their boats for light air. They're not allowed to, with few exceptions. 2. These are the best 49er sailors in the world. If they can't handle the conditions, it's not because they don't have the skill. Dropping a few pounds for these conditions, didn't appreciably sap their boathandling skills. 3. When ISAF selected the 49er it did so with the understanding the boat wouldn't be able to handle extreme conditions the way a Star or a Finn would. It's the price you pay for the speed and excitement of the class.
I don't find this any different than say the rowing events. The rowing shells are not designed to handle adverse weather. So when it happens, the events are postponed. Requiring teams to build shells to handle 2-meter waves, 30-knot gusts, or torrential downpours would only make for slower and less exciting rowing races.
I personally think the race committee erred in running the race. Four of the 10 boats were seriously damaged in the race-to the point they couldn't effectively continue racing. The Austrian and Danish boat broke masts, the Brazilian boat finished under jib alone, and the American boat blew up its jib sheet system. There was extensive, less debilitating damage on the other boats.
Yesterday, Danish skipper Jonas Warrer talked about how the jury made the decision that's best for the sport. At the time, I agreed. The resilience of the Danish team combined with the generosity of the Croatian sailors-who allowed their boat to be used and helped them rig it-is just the sort of spirit on which the Olympics are based. It makes for a great story. Plus the Danish team sailed well enough throughout the regatta to win.
However, you have to feel for the Italian team. Would they have sailed the race any differently if they knew the Danish team was in the race? According to Italian journalist Luca Bontempelli, the answer is absolutely. Bontempelli says the Italian team took the time late in the race to repair a damaged tiller extension, feeling that they could still win a medal. Better safe than sorry. The results bear this out, they rounded the last windward mark in second, 22 seconds behind the Australian team. They finished 4th, 3:43 behind the Spanish team. Had they finished first they would've won gold. Second would've netted them silver. Third bronze. Fourth left them tied on points with the German team. They lost the tiebreaker because the Germans beat them in the medal race.
The real shame is that the following day, the day of the 470 medal races, was the best of the regatta. Had the race committee waited a day, we might have seen the best of the medal races, with six teams vying for three medals on the Olympics' fastest monohull, and no team guaranteed a medal. Instead we've got what could be another lengthy court battle. At the least, it's a decision that will leave a bitter taste for many. After all this is said and done, will I still agree with the Danish skipper that the initial jury decision was the best thing for the sport? I hope so, but only time will tell.
Aug. 18, 2008
So You Want to Win a Gold Medal?
|| |---| | Stuart Streuli| |When asked what he planned on doing next, Malcolm Page (left) said, "I'm going to get fat!" Nathan Wilmot added, "Me too." And those are direct quotes.| To paraphrase legendary Aussie rocker Bon Scott, it's a long way to the top if you sail an Olympic-class dinghy. Few know that better than the Scott's countrymen, the 470 team of Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page. They've been sailing the boat together for 11 years. They were one of the top teams going into the Athens Olympics, but came away empty. So they re-upped for four more years, despite knowing it would take a tremendous amount of sacrifice, not the least of which involved losing a lot of weight in anticipation of this light-air venue. Wilmot is the only skipper over 6 feet and Page is taller still.
At the press conference, Page had this to say about the life of an Olympic-class sailor: "In a year we spend close to 6 months away from home. One time I counted up how many different beds we'd slept in in a year and I think it came out at around the 60 mark. So it does add up."
Of course, you don't even have to ask them whether it was worth it. That answer has been written on their face for the past two days.
Tunnicliffe Guaranteed a Medal
The Laser Radials are finished racing for the day, having sailed three races. They'll head into tomorrow's medal race with nine of the 10 scheduled races. Anna Tunnicliffe, the U.S. representative in the class, has secured a medal. What color will be determined tomorrow. She's leading by 7 points over Gintare Volungeviciute of Lituania (say that five times fast) and by Lijia Xu of China. The fourth-placed boat, Sarah Blanck of Australia is 21 points behind, which means she wouldn't be able to pass Tunnicliffe even if she scored a DNF in the medal race.
That may well be the last medal for the U.S. Sailing Team. John Dane an Austin Sperry have had a difficult day in the Star and John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree continue to struggle in the Tornado. The boardsailors have been sailing for personal pride for a few races now.
Now THAT Was a Medal Race
It only took six tries, but finally the Qingdao Olympics finally put on a medal race worthy of the importance bestowed upon it. Ironically enough, it was the first medal race where the winner was a foregone conclusion. The Aussies had locked up gold in the Men's 470 with a 22-point lead heading into the race. They only sailed because they were required to, but you wouldn't have known it from watching them. The pressure of winning lifted, they sailed like they had wings, turning an average start into a first-mark lead, and never looking back Behind them, however, was a great battle for silver and bronze between three teams. The sun was out, the pumping flag flying, and the crews out on the wire. In addition the course was all within view of the fans assembled on the breakwater. The Brits sailed a great race, coming back from ninth at the first mark to third. They moved from fourth overall to silver. France secured its second bronze and the Dutch team of Sven and Kalle Coster, which was in second going into the race, was left heartbroken. It had everything one could want from a medal race.
Danes Win in 49er Class Confirmed
It had to be a long night for the Danish 49er team of Jonas Warrer and Martin Kirketerp Ibsen. The race committee's protest against the team, for sailing the Croation boat in the medal race rather than their own, lasted from 7:30 p.m. until midnight last night, and was then continued until this morning. But the end result is a gold medal for the team. It's certainly poetic. The Danes deserve a lot of credit for getting back to the dock, and returning to the water on a borrowed boat, and then surviving the brutal conditons. The Croations certainly displayed the Olympic spirit by rigging their boat to be used as a spare. You have to feel, however, for the Italian team, which seemed to race thinking the Danes would be a DNF. They celebrated after the finish thinking they'd won a medal. In the end they got the leather one. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Italian team file for redress. Not sure what the possible outcome could be. But these are the Olympics and redress filings are about as common as bad weather forecasts around Qingdao.
The Agony of Defeat
The Chinese Olympic Team has 35 gold medals so far, an amazing haul. And they're sure to add more. However, I think there are plenty of heartbroken Chinese fans today. Xiang Liu, the reigning 110-Meter Hurdles gold medalist didn't make it over the first hurdle. In fact, he didn't even officially start the race. He looked like he was in severe pain as he crouched into the starting blocks and didn't look any more comfortable coming out of the blocks during a false start. After that he took off his lane number and headed down the tunnel.
I can't think of any athlete under more pressure during these Games. He was, in many respects, the face of the Chinese Olympic effort. And he's come up lame, literally, on his home soil. Wow.
Breeze On, But for How Long?
Yesterday's wind is still blowing this morning. But it's predicted to fade quickly. The race committee is taking no chances and has scheduled an 11 a.m. start for all the remaining classes, save the 470s, which will be sailing their medal races at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. For the Lasers and Laser Radials, today is a critical day. They only have 6 races in the books and tomorrow is the medal race. The Stars and Tornados would like to get back on track. The RS:X have today and tomorrow to get in four races before their medal races on Wednesday.
The muddle that was the 49er medal race is still unresolved. The U.S. team of Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast filed for redress, which was denied. However the race committee's protest against the Danish team, which sailed the Croation boat after breaking its mast, is still pending. From some reports I've read, some of the 49er sailors weren't even aware that the Danish team was competing in the medal race. They wondered why the Croatian team was out practicing?
Another interesting debate is more general. Was that race good for the sport? Certainly it was great spectacle. But is it sailing if the most important skill is the ability to quickly right your boat after it capsizes? I came in halfway through after interview Zach Railey and I couldn't follow what was happening. It was just complete chaos, boat's capsizing left and right. Even looking at the live data from the mark roundings, it was impossible to determine what was happening. Plenty of Olympic sports pause for inclement weather. Rowing, for example. So maybe it wouldn't have been so bad to put the 49ers on hold and race them today.
Aug. 17, 2008
ZACH ATTACK! Railey Wins Silver
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Railey said that before the start he and his coach Kenneth Andreasen decided that unless Ainslie made a major mistake in the medal race, Railey should focus on staying in front of Swedish sailor Daniel Birgmark. Beating Birgmark in the race, even if that meant finishing ninth to Birgmark's 10th, assured Railey of the silver.
While we were speaking to a very happy Zach Railey, the 49ers started their medal race. The Americans will not medal, they reportedly had a breakdown, which caused them to be unable to finish the race inside the time limit-just 15 minutes after the first boat for medal races. The race itself was total carnage, with boats flipping all over the place. Most boats did not fly a spinnaker downwind. Those that did, did so at their own peril.
Finns Now Scheduled for a 3:50 p.m. start.
AP over H
No one is exactly sure why, but the race committee has flown AP over H and sent the Finns in. I should know this, but I don't. So I had to ask around. AP over H means wait for signals ashore. SO we could have racing later today if the wind abates. If not, the Finns and 49ers will do their medal race tomorrow, along with the 470s. It's going to be quite busy on Course A. The rain has been constant, but it doesn't appear like the wind has picked up significantly since the Yngling race. It could be due to some severe weather en route. One forecast I saw, not from the Qingdao weather service, called for squalls of up to 30 knots in the afternoon.
On the Laser Radial course, Anna Tunnicliffe picked up a third and moved into second after six races. Her consistent strategy is already paying dividends. New Zealand sailor Jo Aleh, who had a 22nd in her first race, finished 14th, dropping her to third. In fact every sailor in the top 10, aside from Tunnicliffe, is carrying a score outside the top 10. Tunnicliffe's worst finish is sixth. The news wasn't as good from the Laser course, where Andrew Campbell had his third poor race in a row, this one a black flag disqualification. Making the medal race would be an achievement at this stage, especially since it's not apparent whether there will be more racing today and that leaves just one more day on the schedule before Tuesday's medal race.
No Medal for U.S. Yngling Team
The medal dreams of Sally Barkow, Carrie Howe, and Debbie Capozzi came apart at the first windward mark of the medal race in the Yngling class. The finished last in the race and dropped all the way eighth in the overall standings. The Greek team finished third in the race to retain the bronze medal position. The British team won its match race with the Dutch team for the gold.
After what seemed to be an average start, the American trio used its speed in the rough 15- to 20-knot conditions to move close to the lead. They were poised to round the mark in a close second place, right behind the British team. But the layline was a little clogged, first with the Dutch boat, which was chasing the British boat, and then the Greek boat, the team the Americans had to beat for bronze. The Americans tacked to leeward and ahead of the Dutch team, but couldn't lay the mark in very strong flood tide, eventually falling off on port tack after hitting mark, and then tacking quite close to the Australians, who flew a protest flag. A 360-degree turn for hitting the mark put the Americans in a deep hole.
From that point, there was little the Americans could do. 2004 470 gold medalist Sophia Bekatorou of Greece sailed a smart race from there out, taking third. This has to be a bitter disappointment for the U.S. team, which had done so well in the class over the past four years and was set to contend for a medal.
The Finn medal race is next. Currently, it's delayed due to a windshift.
Medal Prospects in the 49er Class
OK, so we're not sure if the 49ers will race. Andy Rice, the only media type who's actually sailed the boat, reckons that as long as the sea state doesn't kick up too much there should be racing. The tide turned before noon and is running with the wind now. So that should help. However, the wind is supposed to build through the afternoon. It would be great to see, as Rice said, "what the 49ers can do and what they cannot do."
The standings going into the medal race are as follows: 1. DEN, 47 points; 2. ITA, 58 points; 3. AUS, 61 points; 4. ESP, 62 points; 5. GER, 62 points; 6. USA, 67 points; 7. AUT, 77 points; 8. BRA, 83 points; 9. GBR, 94 points; 10. FRA, 99 points.
First through sixth are alive for a medal. The Austrians would only have a chance if Australia, Spain, and Germany all DNF and the USA does poorly too boot.
For Wadlow and Spaulding, they'll need to pick up three spots on the Australians and finish in the top 2, or pick up four spots on the Aussie team. At the same time they need to also beat the Spanish and the Germans by three places. Doing all that, and putting four boats in between them and the Italians would net the Americans a silver medal.
Finally, the Stars and Tornados are under postponement and the rumor is the start boat is taking on water. I've confirmed that they delay is due to a mechanical problem with the boat, whether it's sinking or not has yet to be confirmed. This could be the best possible news for John Dane. He implied yesterday that in 15 to 20 knots or more he would simply be hoping to limit the damage.
Wind, and Plenty of It
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While researching my preview on the Olympics, a number of sailors told me that while the Qingdao Olympics were expected to be an all light-air regatta, one day of wind could drastically change that. This is just such a case. The Laser, Laser Radial, Star, Tornado, and RS:X classes are all scheduled to have three races today and if the breeze holds that shouldn't be a problem. If, for example, there's once again no wind tomorrow, that means the Lasers and Laser Radials will head into the medal race with eight races, three of which were sailed in more than 15 knots. That certainly changes the complexion of the regatta.
The wind likely isn't good news for the American team. For gear and other reasons the U.S. team prefers light air. There is a hitch though in the Tornado class. Above a certain windspeed, John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree's super-flat spinnaker isn't a hindrance downwind. Not sure exactly what that threshold is. Lovell and Ogletree may not be sure either. We may find out today.
Aug. 16, 2008
Great Dane, the Third
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The 470 teams have both ended their regattas, missing the medal races in their respective classes. Audio today from Zach Railey, John Dane, and Charlie Ogletree.
We'll Try Tomorrow
AP over A on the Finn/Yngling course. We'll hope for enough wind tomorrow to run three medal races, with the U.S. having a shot in each one.
Saved by the Checkerboard, Or Was He?
The first Olympic medal race in the history of sailing was been, so far, an unabashed flop: the Finns inching their way toward the windward mark in a light breeze and foul tide, the gold and silver medal positions fighting it out minutes behind the pack, and-until it was blown off-a result that wouldn't have changed any of the key positions from the day before.
There is light wind and then there's what we've had so far off Qingdao on Day 8 of the 2008 Olympic Regatta. It was barely a zephyr and made to feel even lighter by a strong tide running with the wind.
On the first two attempts to start the Finn race, Zach Railey was taken to Ben Ainslie's school of match racing within a fleet race. In both cases, Railey was fortunate the PRO Peter Reggio abandoned the start before the gun. In the third, Railey appeared to get more aggressive and actually seemed to get the better of Ainslie. But then a horn after the starting gun convinced both Ainslie and Railey to dip the line and that was all the opening Ainslie needed. He camped on the American and sailed him minutes behind the fleet.
Railey wasn't halfway down the run-basically a drift with no apparent wind-when the first boats round the mark and then Reggio abandoned the race, putting up the N flag, a blue-and-white checkerboard. Saved by the horn? Maybe not. At the leeward mark rounding, none of the sailors with a chance to displace Railey were in the position they needed to be. And training partner Jonas Hoegh-Christensen was winning the race handily. Had the standing held, Railey still would've won the silver.
We've got 45 minutes until 4:30 p.m., local time, which is the cutoff for a medal race start. We'll see if they can sneak it in.
In a similar breeze, the 49er fleet sailed three tough races. Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast avoided the sort of bad result that would decimated their medal chances. But they're still 6 points out of bronze, in sixth place, heading into tomorrow's medal race.
Stu McNay and Graham Biehl won another race. John Dane and Austin Sperry climbed from ninth and the first mark to second in the Star class. Anna Tunnicliffe had another top-10, though she's likely to lose the lead today to New Zealand's Jo Aleh, who's had one bad result and a lot of seconds. Andrew Campbell struggled to a second 30-something finish, John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree finishes only slightly better than yesterday's 14th. The women's 470 didn't have a good first race either. The boards were just heading out for a quick race. More later.
Bring on the Medal Race
Today we get to see ISAF's attempt at spicing up sailing for mainstream audiences. While I haven't always been the biggest fan of this plan, I do think we'll see some sparks flying today on course A. For those new to the medal race, the plan is fairly simple. The top 10 boats qualify, the race is shorter-30 minutes-and includes on-the-water judging, the score counts for double points, and the result is non-discardable. If they brought in sponsorship and a "rubbing is racing" ethic it would be NASCAR on the water. But, like I said, it should be exciting.
The Yngling race in particular is going to be quite testy. Here are the results heading into the race: 1. GBR, 22 points; 2. NED, 23 points; 3. GRE, 42 points; 4. USA 43 points; 5. FRA, 46 points; 6. RUS, 46 points; 7. CHN, 47 points; 8. AUS, 49 points; 9. GER; 52 points; 10. NOR, 57 points.
The gold and silver are reserved for Great Britain and the Netherlands, they'll be match racing for that. The other eight boats are all, technically, alive for bronze. The American team of Sally Barkow, Carrie Howe, and Debbie Capozzi simply have to beat the Greek team, remember it's worth double points, and make sure that they don't lost too many points to the other teams within striking distance. Look for the in the back third of the top 10 to roll the dice early to get out to a lead as that's the only hope they have for medal. There's going to be a lot to keep track of, it should be quite exciting.
In the Finn fleet, it's a little less of a free-for-all. The standings there are: 1. GBR, 21 points; 2. USA, 33 points; 3. SWE, 44 points; 4. FRA, 50 points; 5. CAN, 51 points; 6. SLO, 52 points; 7. CRO, 58 points; 8. DEN, 66 points; 9. POL, 72 points; 10. ESP, 74 points.
Ben Ainslie of Great Britain has locked up silver or gold. To steal the gold Zach Railey of the United States needs to put six boats in between himself and Ainslie, so first and eighth, second and ninth, third and 10th. Given Ainslie's track record in big races, that's unlikely. To assure himself of silver, Railey needs a sixth of better. Ninth or better nets himself a bronze. He can finish seventh and get the silver provided Daniel Birgmark of Sweden doesn't win the race, eighth if Birgmark is third, etc.
For Chris Cook of Canada and Guillaume Florent to knock Railey out of the medals, either would have to win the race and hope Railey finishes last. More likely Cook and Florent are eyeing Birgmark's bronze medal, which is much more vulnerable.
There is always the possibility that Ainslie will simply match race Railey out of the race. It's the best way to assure himself the gold. However, he didn't seem inclined to do that yesterday, saying that this is more of a "loose cover" situation, making sure Railey doesn't get away.
In 2004, Florent protested Ainslie for a port-starboard incident in the first race of the Finn competition. Ainslie felt it was an absurd protest, that he cleared Florent by plenty. But the protest stuck. It isn't likely Ainslie will do anything that might help Florent win a medal today.
Four Star boats filed for redress yesterday after a race where a large windshift after the start split the fleet. The move was led by Robert Schedit of Brazi. Not surprisingly, the request was dismissed.
Here's a slice of the decision:
Protest No. 37 - Requests for redress in cases 37, 38, 39 and 40 referred to the same circumstances and were therefore heard together. On August 15, Race 1 for Star class was run on Alpha course. First starting procedure was postponed due to wind shift. The RC repeated the starting sequence. The course to be sailed was W2. The direction to the first mark displayed on the RC vessel was 040. The distance to the first mark was 1.3 nM. The current was coming from right to the left down the course. After the start several boats including BRA, ITA, AUT and AUS sailed to the right side of the course which initially had more breeze and a better angle, the remainder of the fleet sailed to the left. There was less pressure on the left hand side of the course. When the boats were approximately half to 2/3 up the beat, the RC signal boat noted a wind shift of about 20 degrees to the left that was confirmed by the RC boat at mark 1. The wind shift came with more pressure and boats on the left side of the course tacked and were close to laying mark 1. At the same time breeze on the right side died and the boats were headed. The furthest boat to the left was SWE. By the time SWE reached mark 1 she was sailing with sheets eased. See the rest of facts found in the seperate sheet
The RC followed 11.1 of the ISAF Race Management Policies for the Olympic Sailing Competition and ISAF Events that were distributed to the members of the Jury and parties to the hearing. There was no improper action or omission of the Race Committee. It is solely the Race Committee's decision to abandon the race.
One other interesting protest, this one from the Finn course. It was lodged by Italian sailor Giorgio Poggi.
****Description: GRE finished 8th, ITA finished 9th. ITA started sailing back towards the harbour, and was overtaken by GRE and its coach boat, who offered him a tow. The tow was slower than some others in order not to damage the boats. ITA and GRE were the last Finns to arrive in the harbour. ITA arrived back at the ramp and asked the ITA boatwright to fix the damage to his boat. On the way to the Jury Offices ITA was stopped by ESP. Their conversation took approximately 5 minutes. ITA spoke to the POL jury member and the Jury chairman, which discussion took approximately 5-6 minutes and ended at 18.50 hrs. ITA's protest was lodged at 19.12 hrs. The Finn protest time expired at 18.25 hrs.
Oh, and against whom was the protest filed: Non other than the same Greek sailor with whom he shared a tow. Classic. "Thanks for the ride in, and oh, by the way, I'm going to protest you." Of course, it's SOP for Emilios Papathanasiou. He's been tossed from three races for kinetics violations.
Finally, you'll note I didn't mention the weather forecast in today's brief. I've given up believing anything issued by the service. Either the forecaster is looking at the wrong city or isn't good at his job, or some combination there of. But it hasn't been working. I can say the wind today is out of a strange direction, blowing from the northeast off the downtown area of Qingdao area. Hmmm. It's a decent breeze now, but then again, that's what I said yesterday.
Aug. 15, 2008
Railey Has Medal Within His Grasp
Sailing in his first Olympics, Zach Railey pulled a veteran move today. While his 19th place finish in today's only race, was his worst of the regatta by far, it actually served to pad his lead and move him into a commanding position with just Saturday's medal race remaining. In ninth place at the bottom of the first run, Railey, who was throwing out an eighth heading into the race, decided to focus on pushing back French sailor Guillaume Florent, who started the day in third, but was carrying a 20th place finish as his throwout.
Railey finished 19th, with Florent two back in 21st. The end result is that if Railey finishes ninth or better in Saturday's medal race, which is not discardable, he will take home bronze. If he can manage sixth or better he is assured of silver. And if Ben Ainslie has a horrible race, Railey could take home gold. All this from a sailor who wasn't touted as a medal favorite by many coming into this event.
Elsewhere the U.S. team had a mixed bag of results. Anna Tunnicliffe still leads in the Laser Radial, but the Yngling team slipped to fourth with just the medal race remaining. John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree looked like superstars flying their Code 0 spinnaker off the starting line. But as the wind filled and they couldn't carry it upwind, the rest of the fleet sailed past. John Dane and Austin Sperry were eighth in their first Olympic Races. Both 470 teams moved up in the standings, they're each within reach of qualifying for the medal race. Andrew Campbell struggled in the only Laser race, the 49ers did not sail, and both the boardsailors struggled in their only race.
In today's podcast we'll hear from Railey, Ainslie and Sperry.
Wind and More Coming
Some of the course buoys are already reading 8 knots from the north, which is right about what the forecast called for. If those predictions hold, we'll see some mid-teens by the end of the day. Not exactly what the doctor ordered for John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree, but it'll be a welcome relief for harried PROs and for the Laser and Finn fleets, which are scheduled to have three races today. The breeze is forecast to be relatively windy through the weekend, which means wind for the medal races. That'll be a nice change, a just at the right time.
Peer Moberg had his Rule 69 hearing last night and it was dismissed. He was also able to reopen the buoy room protest from Race 7 and have his result changed from a DNE (Disqualification Non Excludable) to a DSQ. It won't change his point total in the least, he was already carrying a DSQ from Race 2 when he was flagged for a Rule 42 violation and didn't complete his penalty turns. But it does remove a potential black mark from his permanent record.
I ran into a Star coach yesterday, who spent much of the day doing current readings on A course. He said that he found quite a bit of relief close to the breakwater. So look for the Stars to be hitting the shore upwind. With the breeze out of the north, they may get quite close to the fans along the breakwater.
Speaking of the breakwater. It's great to see Qingdao utilizing the breakwater. One of my biggest gripes about Athens was that there was a similar breakwater on the marina and it provided a great view of the racing on the 49er course. However, no one was allowed out there to watch. There's a nice carnival atmoshpere on the breakwater this time around. Hopefully it's a step in the right direction and Weymouth will go even further in 2012.
Aug. 14, 2008
More Code 0 Drama
Apparently Mitch Booth and Pim Nieuwenhuis have changed their minds at the last minute (aka 5 p.m. today local time) and will be sailing with a traditional spinnaker instead of the upwind Code 0. That may leave the American team of John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree as the only sailors using the smaller, flatter sail.
Full Stop on Day 6
We all knew it was going to happen at some point during the 2008 Olympics. With no wind to speak of, all racing has been postponed in Qingdao. We're hearing rumors of an hour-earlier start tomorrow and if the forecast, which calls for 6 to 10 knots, holds true, I'll bet the PROs will be aiming for three races for everyone except for the 470s, which are on schedule, and the Stars and Tornados, which will have their first races tomorrow.
If there's any consolation to be taken from today, it's that we're not in Beijing. From the looks of the reporter on the TV in the media center, it's pouring down rain and quite miserable. So far, we've avoided any torrential downpours.
With the sailors having a day off, we sat down with U.S. Sailing's Olympic Sailing Committee chairman Dean Brenner. We'll have that interview in today's podcast.
Day Lost for Finns and Ynglings, Will The Rest Follow?
Little change in the weather so far. The breeze filled slightly around 1 p.m., but then backed off. The haze is lighter than this morning, but still quite thick. The Finns and Ynglings have abandoned racing for the day. They'll now try to get in 3 races tomorrow-originally scheduled to be a reserve day-in advance of the medal race, which is scheduled for Saturday. The other courses are still on hold, but I'm not betting there will be enough wind in time for the 4 p.m. deadline.
Breaking News: Code 0 Spinnakers In Play for American and Dutch Tornado Teams
According to a press release from John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree, the American Tornado team has decided to use it's smaller Code 0 spinnaker for the 2008 Olympic Regatta. (You can find photos of both sails lower in the blog.) They also confirmed that the Dutch team of Mitch Booth and Pim Nieuwenhuis has decided to do the same. As we wrote below, Darren Bundock of Australia has decided not to use a Code 0 that he and crew Glenn Ashby developed at the last minute. This could well mean the medals are decided by how many races are held in light air and how many in heavy air.
Here's a quote from the e-mail sent out by Ogletree.
It was a tough and risky call. We know the sail will power us up in really light conditions going to windward, but in any breeze over 11 knots we'll only be able to use it downwind and we'll risk being outgunned by boats with standard gennakers. After carefully weighing the odds, we decided to press ahead and use it.
This versatile undersized gennaker which allows us to power to windward through a chop in really light airs has been considered by several teams since our development work became public about five weeks ago. We know for sure that our Dutch training partners Mitch Booth and Pim Nieuwenhuis have elected to go with a similar sail. We don't know about others.
Hey, Where'd That City Front Go?
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The forecast is still calling for some more breeze this weekend. That would be a nice change as so far every day seems to be a little worse, weather-wise, than the day before.
Rule 69 Hearing for Norwegian Finn Sailor
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The following text was pulled from the jury decision for the leeward mark rounding.
"Protest No. 30 - NOR and CAN on port approached mark 4P Both boats entered the two boat length zone overlapped with CAN on the inside While rounding the mark NOR hit CAN on the leeward side of the stern CAN was close to the mark at the moment of contact Contact occurred with no damage No boat took a penalty turn or retired The Jury has a record of the actual foul and abusive language that NOR used"
Moberg won the Laser bronze in 1996 in Savannah and is competing in his fourth Olympic Games. Here's what Robert Deaves, the Finn class PR person, wrote about Moberg in his preview:
"Fourth Olympic regatta for Moberg, after three times in the Laser. Has shown moments of brilliance since he entered the Finn class in 2005, but has generally struggled with consistency. However he is used to the Olympic arena and could well be a fighting for another medal."
Moberg has so far lived up to part of that billing about struggling with consistency. He won Race 6, but was DSQ in Race 2 for not completing his penalty turns after being whistled for a Rule 42 (kinetics) violation and was languishing in 21st place before being tossed out of Race 7. The medals are out. Will he even be allowed to finish the regatta.
I have to wonder whether the pressure got to Moberg and he snapped. He is having a poor event. A number of sailors have spoken about how they expect people to crack at this regatta. Everyone is wound really tight, the wind is light, and it's ridiculously hot. Perfect conditons for a meltdown or three. We'll try to find out what happened. No one likes to see a Rule 69 hearing-which can result in being tossed from the regatta and a suspension from competition-however, like all rules contained within the Racing Rules of Sailing, if they're not occasionally enforced then no one will bother to obey them.
Did Darth Vader Have a Code 0 for the Death Star?
A few media folks got a few very interesting minutes with Australian Tornado skipper Darren Bundock yesterday. Bundock's a veteran of the class, a favorite here for a medal, and a really nice guy to boot. Here are some thoughts on the Code 0 controversy that's developed in the class.
On his selection of a normal spinnaker for the racing:
Having that weather forecast gave is the confidence to go with what we know, that's for sure. I guess if Sam the weather guy had told us there was going to be no wind all week, it would've been a tough decision. But at the moment he's forecasting a couple of days of breeze so easy decision.
We're out there training a little bit with Mitch today and he didn't seem that fast in the light stuff. Don't know what he's been doing for the last 12 months (laughs)
I think it would've been a massive gamble for us to do anything but. So job done
Whether he's worried about what the Dutch and American teams will use:
I'm not sure how they're going to go. I think the Americans are probably a little bit more of a threat than Mitch is. They seem to be a bit quicker. But I'm pretty confident they're going to go standard as well. They sail well enough in the lighter breeze not to take the gamble. They won a silver medal in Athens in light wind conditions so I'd be really surprised if they took the risk and went for something extraordinary.
Whether this is a disappointment for the class on the eve of its last Olympic regatta:
Yeah I think it's a major disappointment for the class. It's really divided the fleet, there's a lot of ill feeling as well between the sailors now. We'd hoped to come here and it be the last sort of the hurrah and party. There's sort of two camps at the moment. The guys on the dark side, everyone keeps calling them, and the good guys.
What he thought of the Code 0 developed by he and crew Glenn Ashby, a sailmaker and A Class catamaran superstar:
I think we went one step better in that short time. I guess we had a little bit of an advantage. We saw what they had their profile, that kind of thing and we did something similar and probably went a little bit further. When we tested it and went racing we probably won by the biggest margin that we've seen those guys win by. I was pretty confident in our pace in the light with it up, for sure. Any today, Mitch didn't seem to fast upwind with it today. He was going quite quick, but didn't have the height. One thing that we had, we had the same height as everyone else and still going quicker. But I think the American one is faster upwind than Mitch's and I think Mitch's is faster downwind. I don't believe they have the same sail.
On the tradeoffs in designing such a sail:
If you want the extra sail area than you can't hold that upwind because the sail gets to deep or it flaps. So you've either got to go small and flat. If you go small and flat, you suffer downwind. Everything's a tradeoff. You don't get anything for free.
Today's the day of reckoning for Mitch Booth and Pim Nieuwenhuis and John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree. They've got to pick which sail will be their primary one and which gets impounded in the parts boat as their reserve (whatever they pick, they best hope it doesn't blow up). Yesterday there was a forecast for 12 to 16 knos on Friday, Day 1 of the Tornado regatta. Today, the weather forecast link doesn't seem to be working.
Aug. 13, 2008
BREAKING NEWS: AMERICA KICKS ASS
For one day at least, the U.S. Sailing Team ruled the 2008 Olympic Regatta. American sailors won six of the 11 races sailed today off Qingdao. That is not a misprint. SIX OF ELEVEN. Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast won all three races in the 49er division while the 470 Men's team of Stu McNay and Graham Biehl, Laser sailor Andrew Campbell, and the Yngling team of Sally Barkow, Carrie Howe, and Debbie Capozzi each won an individual race.
And while not everyone on the team had a great day, everyone that took to the water came back with at least one solid result. Zach Railey had a seventh in the only Finn race and remains in second place overall. Anna Tunnicliffe rebounded from a poor start to take sixth in the Laser Radial race. She leads that class by seven points. Amanda Clark and Sarah Mergenthaler scored their best finish of the regatta, a fourth, in the Women's 470 division. We'll have more on this great day later. Stay tuned.
In other news, John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree submitted a Code 0 and a normal spinnaker for measurement. Both passed and they will nominate which one they plan on using tomorrow when the measurement period for the class ends. The same applies for the Dutch team of Mitch Booth and Pim Nieuwenhuis. The Australian team of Darren Bundock and Glenn Ashby, which crated a Code 0 at the last minute, will be sailing with a traditional spinnaker. While confident in the speed of their new creation, the long term forecast is for some wind this weekend. Bundock said they're going to sail with what they know best.
Great Day So Far For Wadlow/Rast and Clark/Mergenthaler
Is Qingdao showing its true colors today? If so, is that color gray? It's been a tough day for the race committees so far, with anywhere from 2 to 5 knots of wind and a thick haze. Four fleets, the Finns, Ynglings, Laser, and Laser Radial groups are all under postponement and have yet to finish a single race. The Radials did start a sequence, but never got off the line.
The 49ers have finished two races. The first, according to the official notice board was started with 2.2 knots of wind. The second, 3.2. Are you kidding me? With the tide working with the current, I can't believe any boat can make it to the windward mark in those conditions. But the news is good from that course. Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast took a wire-to-wire win in Race 1 and then came back from 4th to first on the second beat of the second race and won that won, by 5 seconds. They are right back in the hunt for a medal, currently lying sixth.
Amanda Clark and Sarah Mergenthaler also seem to have turned things around, scoring a fourth in their only race in the Women's 470 division. Stu McNay and Graham Biehl finished 15th in the Men's 470.
Currently all classes are in postponement. I'd say it doesn't look promising, but when 2 or 3 knots of relatively steady wind constitutes sailable conditions, it's hard to rule out more racing.
Spinnaker Gate Continues
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Finaly, there's the ever important forecast for the next week. The weather forecasts for Qingdao have been wrong virtually every day so far. So I don't really put much stock in what they predict, especially two days out. However, the curret forecast for Friday courtesy of the Qingdao Olympic Regatta service is for 12 to 16 knots from the northeast, which would be well above the range for the Code 0s.
Aug. 12, 2008
First Onshore Delay of the Event, First General Recall, First Blag Flag, First Radial Race
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After an hour's delay, all the racing went off as scheduled, with the Laser, Laser Radial, Men's and Women's RS:X and Men's and Women's 470 fleets all getting in two races. It was the inaugural Olympic competitino for the Radial, which replaced the Europe Dinghy after the 2004 Games in Athens. The U.S. has been particularly strong in this class and at this venue, winning the Radial fleet at both test events. That trend continued today as Anna Tunnicliffe put together a solid, if unspectacular day, with a fourth and a fifth. She now leads that class by 1 point.
Not surprisingly the first general recall of the regatta came from the Laser fleet. In fact that had two of them before the race committee broke out the Black Flag. The fleet behaved iself on the third try. Andrew Campbell had a 14th and an 18th. Not the sort of results he was hoping for. But many top sailors struggled in a race or two today.
For the other four teams/sailors, the U.S. results weren't as strong. The 470 teams and the two RS:X sailors all dropped places in the overal rankings.
In today's podcast we'll hear from Campbell and Tunnicliffe. We'll also check in with Laser legend Robert Scheidt of Brazil and ask him what it's like to be a legend replacing a legend.
Be Careful What You Wish For
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Well, you certainly won't have to worry about that in 2012, said the Brits with a laugh. This morning, I checked the forecast for Weymouth, which will host the sailing events for the London Olympics. The high temperature for the next five days is 18 degrees C, or about 64 degrees. The predominant weather feature during that time period is rain. Does that even qualify as summer?
I think I was slightly spoiled by the Sydney Games in 2000, where the weather was downright perfect for the entire event. The irony, of course, is that those Games took place in September, right at the end of the antipodean winter. And if I remember correctly NBC wasn't happy with the ratings it received in September so it's unlikely we'll have a Summer Games in the near future taking place in any other time frame that this one in mid-August. If it happens to be oppressively hot at that time of year in the host city, then I guess that's life. Maybe I'm being too romantic, but I like the idea of holding the Olympics that during a nice time of year, weather-wise, as opposed to simply when NBC and the IOC can make the most money.
John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree will measure in their Tornado today. We'll try to find out which spinnaker they choose, the traditional one or the Code 0. According to a reliable source here, the Argentine Tornado team, led by America's Cup veteran Santiago Lange, has also developed a Code 0 at the last minute. If that's the case, it means that four teams could use this sail, which could leave one team on the outside looking in for medals if the regatta is the sort of light-air event that will favor the smaller sail.
There were three DSQs in the Women's 470 fleet yesterday, one of which was the result of a protest lodged by the American team of Amanda Clark and Sarah Mergenthaler against the Austrian team. As a result Clark and Mergenthaler moved from 15th to 13th. Remember that all jury decisions (both on-the-water and those from the protest room) can be found here.
Aug. 11, 2009
U.S. Team Struggles on Day 3, But Finn and Yngling Teams Firmly in Medal Race
Day 3 of the 2008 Olympic Regatta was nice day for sailing in Qingdao. In fact if it were a bit cooler, you might even call it perfect. Plenty of sun over the water-though the city did appear to get drenched a few times-and a relatively solid breeze of 5 to 9 knots.
For the U.S. Sailing Team, however, it was definitely partly cloudy. Zach Railey had another solid day in the Finn class. But he did record his two worst finishes of the regatta to date and dropped from first to second in the overall standings, with Ben Ainslie taking over a familiar position, first, by a point. The fleet also compressed as each sailor was able to discard his worst finish. Railey is now 8 points ahead of third and 15 ahead of fourth.
The Yngling team of Sally Barkow, Carrie Howe, and Debbie Capozzi has a difficult day with a sixth and an 11th. Improbably, however, they actually moved closer to a medal. They are now tied on points for third.
The six rookies-the two 470 teams and the RS:X boardsailors-had rather indifferent days, finishing about on par with where each ranks amongst their respective fleets. Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast had a fifth, but also two double digit finishes and they remain in 13th with six of 16 races sailed in the 49er fleet. The medals are not out of reach, but they need to get it going soon.
August Showers Bring No Breeze?
A few rain squalls moved through the area this morning. The forecast is for those to pass, but it isn't calling for much breeze behind it. Five to eight knots to day, then two to five for the next few days. Ugh. Let's hope we get just a bit more. I'd hope for a lot more, but there's no sense praying for something that has no chance of happening.
In the meantime, I received a notice in my room last evening that the management planned to "sterilize the guest rooms on August 10, 2008." Hmm. It was already the evening of Aug. 10. Wonder what that means? Most hotels usually do that before the guest moves in. But then again, maybe they weren't speaking about dirt. The other interesting sign I noticed this morning was one on the door that said "Please close the door omnivorously." That one made me laugh.
OK, so today I'm hoping to get out to the 49er course. Can't say for sure until I check in at the media center. I was supposed to be out there yesterday, but all the boats were full. With four courses in operation today that shouldn't be a problem.
Aug. 10, 2009
Railey Takes the Lead
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Just as he was yesterday, Railey was the golden boy in the mixed zone, attracting quite a lot of attention from the local Olympic News Service press and assorted international journalists. To his credit he was quite gracious and spent a good 20 minutes doing interviews under a blazing hot sun.
For the other two American teams competing, the news was not as good. Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast, the U.S. 49er team, opened their regatta with a fifth. But disappointing results in races 2 and 3 have them well back, 13th out of 19. Fortunately, the regatta is 15 races long for the 49ers, so they've got plenty of time to catch up.
The Yngling team of Sally Barkow, Carrie Howe, and Debbie Capozzi has to be happy in one regard. They moved up from ninth yesterday to fourth today. However, they seemed to have to fight awfully hard for their 8 and 5. The British team is first with 16 points, the Finnish crew second with 23. No one else has been anything close to consistent and even with four races in the books, this fleet is wide open. Only 11 points separates bronze from 13th-aka third to last.
We'll have an interview with Zach Railey in today's podcast, as well as a conversation with Tornado sailor. John Lovell about his no-so-secret-anymore weapon and whether he plans to use it in the regatta. Word on the street is that Mitch Booth, the Dutch Tornado skipper who worked with Lovell and Ogletree to develop the Code 0 sail, measured in the controversial sail today and will use it in the regatta. Lovell and Ogletree measure in on Tuesday.
The Skinny, And Other Thoughts from Day 1
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Every sailor here likely came in at quite a low weight. However, I wonder how hard people pushed things in the final few months. The Finn and the Yngling are not super weight sensitive boats. I'll be interested to see how the sailors from more weight-sensitive classes like the 470, the Laser, and the Laser Radial look. I'll also be interested to see what happens if the wind creeps into the mid-teens or higher.
Yesterday the current was running up the course and from right to left. Because it wasn't running parallel to the course it made it very difficult to see who was in front on the runs. The boats that picked the left side (looking upwind, as always) would rocket-and that's a relative term-down toward the leeward mark. When the fleet was halfway down the run, you'd think for sure the far left boats were leading. But crossing back against the current was very slow and painful and the boats from the right would close the gap and sometimes jump into the lead. According to Railey and Howe, no one side paid off consistently, it was all about who found the best pressure and angle. It looked like extremely stressful sailing, especially downwind; where you're always second-guessing your decisions and wondering whether there's better pressure somewhere else and where you stand relative to the fleet. Better them than me, I kept thinking. I really don't enjoy those conditions. I don't know many sailors that do.
I was thinking the same thing about the judges. With the light air and the discordant chop, it's got to be near impossible to determine the difference between rocking that is created by body moment and in violation of Rule 42, and that caused simply by the waves. Nonetheless, there were a few whistles yesterday. The Greek Finn sailor Emilio Papathanasiou was whistled twice, once in the first race, which he won, and once in the second, from which he retired. The sailing instructions allow each sailor one opportunity to exonerate themselves from a Rule 42 violation with a 720. But after that they must immediately drop out from the race or risk a DND, disqualification, non-discardable. However, unlike in other events, there's no three-strikes-and-you're-out-of-the-regatta rule. Also flagged yesterday were the Spanish Yngling team, and the Finn sailors from Brazil, the Czech Republic, Norway, and India. The Indian sailor was caught in Race 1, for which he just made start after attending the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing and then catching an early morning flight to Qingdao. He finished fourth in the race. Quite a morning for that guy. The Norwegian sailor, Peer Moberg, did only 75 percent of his 720, according to the jury, and was disqualified from the race. You can find all the on-the-water jury decisions here. This will be a page to watch as this regatta gets down to the key races.
The 49ers start today on circle A. I'll watch that fleet day today. Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast are among a group of medal contenders. Oh yeah, and Circle A is really close to the venue, so less time in the sauna. Hopefully, with two fleets going, it'll spread out the spectator fleet and we'll be able to get a little closer to the action. As I'm sure you can tell from my photos, I was zoomed all the way out most of the time and the result is slightly grainy. ISAF is reportedly very concerned about boat wash and as a result has clamped down on the number of press boats allowed on the course.
One final note: The Dutch Tornado team of Mitch Booth and Pim Nieuwenhuis is scheduled to go through measurement today at 2:30 p.m. local time. Booth and Nieuwenhuis, along with the American team of John Lovell and Charlie Ogletre, have developed a Code 0 spinnaker for the boat that is devastating in light air as it can be used upwind and downwind. The Dutch team will have to choose today what sail to carry in the regatta, the Code 0 or the normal spinnaker. It is a decision that will be closely watched by the class. Lovell and Ogletree will go through measurement Tuesday morning, allowing them a few more days to check out the long-range forecast. The Australian team of Darren Bundock and Glenn Ashby measure in on Wednesday morning. They built a Code 0 on their own very recently. They also filed a request for information on Aug. 5. Here's the text of that:
Request: Several boats have been using a non-One design 'Code zero' upwind spinnaker. Does this contravene the Class Rules? In particular the Introduction to the Rules says " This is a One-design class. The intention of the rules is to ensure that the boats are as alike as possible in all respects affecting performance. Everything that is not actually stated as permitted or optional shall be prohibited." We believe the Code Zero is at odds with this. Furthermore, the structured modification and addition of a 'dolphin striker" to the bowsprit contravenes rule F5.3(a) and F5.3 (b). The Olympics is not intended to be an arms race. This upwind Code zero is at odds with this concept and contravenes the 'One-design' nature of the class and means boats are not "as alike as possible in all respects affecting performance. We request a ruling or a hearing regarding this matter.
Reply: "Tornado In accordance with Measurement Regulation 1.2, the Olympic Measurement Committee met and considered the request for a ruling from Michael Jones(AUS) regarding Tornado spinnaker and bowsprit. The following class rules interpretations were made: 1)Question:Does the non-one design 'code zero' upwind spinnaker contravene the class rules?Decision:The concept of a smaller gennaker does not contravene the class rules.Class Rule G.5.3 does not specify minimum dimensions.2)Question:Is a dolphin strike permitted on the bowsprit? Decision: No. The addition of a compression strut and associated rigging below the bowsprit spar would contravene class rules F.5"
What do you think? Does using such a sail run contrary to the Olympic spirit or that of one-design competition?
Aug. 9, 2008
Tragedy Strikes U.S. Indoor Volleyball Team
Just received this news brief from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Awful, awful news that's sure to put a damper on the first day of the 2008 Olympics.
BEIJING, China - The United States Olympic Committee has learned of an incident that occurred earlier today involving two family members of a coach for the United States Olympic Men's Indoor Volleyball Team.
While at the Drum Tower in central Beijing, the two family members were stabbed during an attack by what local law enforcement authorities have indicated was a lone assailant. One of the family members was killed and the other seriously injured.
Following the attack, the assailant took his own life.
Our priority in this hour is to attend to the needs of the family members, the U.S. Olympic Men's Indoor Volleyball Team and Staff, and the entire U.S. Olympic Delegation. In addition, the USOC is working closely with the United States Embassy, United States law enforcement authorities and local law enforcement authorities.
The United States Olympic Committee will make additional information available when possible.
Three Out of Four Ain't Bad
After a slight delay that may or may not have been more related to communications issues on the race committee boat, the first day of the 2008 Olympic Regatta went off quite smoothly, with both the Yngling and Finn classes getting in a pair of races. Racing among the Finnsters was especially close with boats overlapped three and four deep around the leeward mark.
For the Americans, it was by and large a very solid day. Zach Railey scored two keepers and sits in second place, ahead of defending gold medalist Ben Ainslie. Railey found himself a very fortunate puff on the second run of the first race and moved from 15th to second. His second race was a more complete performance, though the result wasn't quite as impressive. The Yngling team of Sally Barkow, Debbie Capozzi, and Carrie Howe sailed well but found themselves on the outside of a significant shift on the second beat of the first race. That shift dropped them from second to second to last. They rebounded with a second in the second race, however.
The two Canadian teams had very strong days. Chris Cook is tied on points for third in the Finn class while the Yngling team of Jen Provan, Martha Henderson, and Katie Abbott is second.
And the First Gold Goes to...
China's Xiexia Chen won the gold medal in the Women's 48kg weightlifting division. To say she dominated the competition is an understatement. Her first, of three, lifts, in both the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk was more than anyone else lifted at any time. She didn't miss any of her six lifts. Her total of 212 kg was 13 more than the silver medalist. First of many golds for the host country, to be sure.
CORRECTION: Actually the first gold went to the Czech Republic. Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic won the 10-meter air rifle Saturday.
Hey, Where Did That Blue Sky Go?
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Aug. 8, 2008
Nice Weather Now, But Watch the Tornado Warnings
For all the talk about the weather, the pollution, the lack of wind, and the algae, what impressed me most during my first few hours in Qingdao was the earnestness of the local population. They are totally psyched to be the host city for the sailing portion of the 2008 Olympic Summer Games.
They are so eager to help, in fact, that bumbling Anglo tourists with no grasp of the Chinese language, like myself, eed to be a little careful. When they don't understand what you're asking, the first reaction is to smile and nod their head. You could ask and point your way off the map.
Nonetheless, I found my way to the media center-and back, despite missing my bus and hoofing it through the heat-and got accomplished most of what I needed to prepare for tomorrow's first day of racing. There's always a lot of learning as you go for the Olympics, both for the journalists and the local staff onsite.
As for the weather in the city, today was quite nice in Qingdao (which I now know is pronounced CHING-dao). It was hot and muggy, but nothing that would be out of the ordinary in the middle of summer in many cities in the United States. There was a lot of blue sky showing-not the case in Beijing, according to a colleague who flew through the capital today-and a light seabreeze that was perfectly suited for racing. While I saw what appeared to be a few clumps of algae on my flight in from Seoul, the racecourse looks clean. The Olympic park is enormous and unlike in Athens, where they were laying brick walkways as peopled arrived, everything looks like it was finished in plenty of time. Qingdao itself is clearly a work in progress; many of the skyscrapers in town are under construction. But the downtown portion of the city is quite nice.
The buzz around the media center today concerns the Tornado class and a new Code 0 sail developed by the Dutch and American teams. This sail measures as a spinnaker, but is so flat that it can be used upwind in very light breezes. In 3 to 6 knots, according to reports, it's blazing fast. In any more wind, the larger sail area of the traditional spinnaker is more advantageous downwind.
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Of course, it may be a moot point. The three teams that now have this Code 0 sail-the Australians have reportedly patched together a reasonable facsimile-still have to decide whether to measure it in as their spinnaker. A long-range forecast for anything but very light winds will likely have everyone choosing their traditional spinnaker, and turn the Code 0 into a large bit of pre-regatta gamesmanship. However, since the U.S. team of John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree won an Olympic silver in Athens-and Dutch skipper Mitch Booth has won a bronze and a silver-they may gamble on a marginal forecast. The chance at gold may be worth the risk. You can read more about this sail, which Lovell and Ogletree call the Chupacabra, here.
I'm sure there will be more on this over the next few days. In the meantime though, we have the Finns and Ynglings on tap tomorrow.
Aug. 6, 2008
Wave That Flag
One of these days we'll get a second sailor-Ralph C. Craig did the honors in 1948-to carry the flag for the opening ceremonies for the United States Olympic Team. But it won't be this year. However, when you learn a bit more about middle-distance runner Lopez Lomong, there's little doubt he is more than worthy of this distinction.
Here's what a U.S. Olympic Committee press release has to say about the 23-year-old:
Lomong has overcome an overwhelming array of obstacles in becoming a top American middle distance runner. He was born in Sudan, fleeing the country when he was 6 years old and becoming separated from his family. He was sent to live in a refugee camp in Kenya for 10 years, and in 2000 he walked five miles to watch the Sydney Olympic Games on a black-and-white TV. It was then that his Olympic dream began. Watching U.S. track & field athlete Michael Johnson run, Lomong remarked that "I'd like to run like that guy." He wrote a moving essay in 2001 about what he would strive to accomplish if he lived in America, and his heartfelt words prompted officials to give him that chance. He was moved to the United States to live with a foster family in Tully, N.Y., and became a U.S. citizen in July 2007, a moment he says has changed his life forever.
"The American flag means everything in my life - everything that describes me, coming from another country and going through all of the stages that I have to become a U.S. citizen," Lomong said. "This is another amazing step for me in celebrating being an American. Seeing my fellow Americans coming behind me (in the Opening Ceremony) and supporting me will be a great honor - the highest honor. It's just a happy day. I don't even have the words to describe how happy I am."
One final note regarding the Opening Ceremonies: The sailors will have their own ceremony in Qingdao. However, the U.S. Sailing Team members have been given the option of attending the main one in Beijing. According to an e-mail from the U.S. Men's 470 man, Graham Biehl will fly to Beijing to march with the rest of the U.S. team while Stu McNay will chill in Qingdao and march in the ceremony there, which may actually be on Saturday night, not Friday. I'll confirm this when I land. As integral a part of the Olympic experience as the Opening Ceremony is, it's quite long and involves a lot of time standing. For sailors who will be starting their regatta early in the fortnight, not attending can be a smart move. In 2004 470 crew Kevin Burnham assured me that he wouldn't miss the Opening Ceremony, but in the end both he and skipper Paul Foerster skipped it. They, of course, went on to win gold.
Just in case you're curious, here's a list of the U.S. flag bearers for the Olympic Summer Games.
U.S. OLYMPIC FLAG BEARERS
Year U.S. Flag Bearer (Sport)
1908 Ralph Rose (Athletics)
1912 George V. Bonhag (Athletics)
1920 Patrick J. McDonald (Athletics)
1924 Patrick J. McDonald (Athletics)
1928 Lemuel (Bud) C. Houser (Athletics)
1932 F. Morgan Taylor (Athletics)
1936 Alfred A. Jochim (Gymnastics)
1948 Ralph C. Craig (Yachting)
1952 Norman C. Armitage (Fencing)
1956 Norman C. Armitage (Fencing)
#Warren B. Wofford (Equestrian)
1960 Rafer L. Johnson (Athletics)
1964 William Parry O'Brien (Athletics)
1968 Janice Lee Romary (Fencing)
1972 Olga Fikotova Connolly (Athletics)
1976 Gary W. Hall (Swimming)
1980 USA did not attend
1984 Edward Burke (Athletics)
1988 Evelyn Ashford (Athletics)
1992 Francie Larrieu Smith (Athletics)
1996 Bruce Baumgartner (Wrestling)
2000 Cliff Meidl (Canoe/Kayak)
2004 Dawn Staley (Basketball)
2008 Lopez Lomong (Athletics)
According to a noted plastic surgeon, it takes 12 muscles to smile (one more than it takes to frown, despite the old adage about the reverse being true, though he says the smile muscles require less effort). I'm sure that my daughter, who turns seven weeks old today, has figured out how to voluntarily control 10 or 11 of those muscles. Any day now, she will break out with a gummy smile, and maybe a laugh. When she does I'm going to be 10,000 miles away.
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For the past seven weeks our daughter has alternated between telling us we're not giving her what she needs-a reverberating wail that slices through your psyche like a buzz saw-and staring blankly at us. Everyone will tell you that this is perfectly normal, that you're doing a great job, that all babies are difficult for the first few months. However, it's tough to endure when the best you get from the one person whose approval you're most concerned with is: "Well, at the moment, you're not totally sucking as a parent. But don't let that go to your head, you're liable to screw up again soon. Like last night, when you rocked me for two hours, sang the same three lines to Walking on the Moon, and tried to feed me four times. I needed my diaper changed!"
The smile is the first positive end-user review of your work as a parent, the first time your child tells you that, hey, it's not so bad being out in the world and you, well; you're not so bad at this parenting thing. August is a fabulous month in Newport and I'll miss quite a few great things during my 19-day trip to the Qingdao Olympic Regatta. But the one that will really hurt will be that first smile.
That, however, is not the only reason that I'll be boarding Korean Air's flight from Chicago to Seoul today with some mixed emotions. This is my third Olympics and for a sailing journalist, covering the Olympics is a pretty cool beat. My experiences in Sydney and Athens remain as some of the highlights of my professional career. I'm eagerly anticipating the challenge awaiting me in Qingdao. As far as I can tell, I'll once again be the only American sailing journalist onsite for the entire regatta. I believe the AP will have a writer there, and we'll probably get the occasional visit from general assignment reporters based in Beijing, but that may be about it. Being 300 miles from the Olympic hub isn't going to do any wonders for sailing's press coverage. I'm excited to bring this action back to our readers of Sailing World and SailingWorld.com, to continue the magazine's tradition of providing the most, and the best, coverage of the sharp end of the sport.
However, I also have an uneasy feeling about this event. This is partly due to my general anxiety about visiting a country known for hampering the work of journalists and where I can't even read the street signs. I'm also concerned about how this fortnight of sailing is going to play out. I hope I'm merely being paranoid. I hope that this regatta is an equal to what we had the last two Games.
In no particular order, though, here are some of my concerns:
That the wind will be so light and capricious that it will marginalize the results in some or even all of the classes.
That something will go wrong during the competition. I don't think the algae will return, but I worry about something similar taking place, something seemingly unforeseeable that has a irreversibly negative impact on the event.
That if something does go wrong, that coverage of this hiccup, however major or minor, in the general media will far outweigh any coverage of the regatta, reducing the competition to a footnote. "We'll be back later with home video of American swimming sensation Michael Phelps on a Slip and Slide during his sixth birthday party. Even at that tender age, his form will amaze you. But now we make our first visit to sailing venue on the edge of the Yellow Sea, where a giant sea monster came ashore last night and left a thick layer of slime coating the Olympic marina. John, you're there now. What's it like "
That the U.S. Sailing Team, which is far younger and less experienced than the previous two editions, will come home empty-handed. (Note that I am not predicting that the U.S. team will come home empty-handed, in fact I would put the over/under for U.S. Sailing Team medals at 2.5 or 3. As with everything else on this list, I'm hoping this doesn't happen.)
That sailing's Olympic status will take a hit because the International Olympic Committee allowed the Beijing organizers to pick a sailing venue that, weather-wise, proved to be totally unsuited for good competition.
This may seem like a negative way to start off my coverage of the 2008 Olympics. I can't disagree with that. But my goal with this blog-which will be part of SW's three-pronged coverage of the Olympics including daily audio reports and photo galleries-is to provide you with an unvarnished look at the event. To bring you the highs, the lows, and plenty of other insights that are neither one nor the other, but simply part of the fabric of this event. The only way to do that is to simply tell you what I feel.
After a layover in Seoul, I'll arrive in Qingdao Friday morning, 24 hours before the first race for the Finns and the Ynglings. My first 2008 Olympic Podcast includes interviews with the two sailors driving the American entries in those two classes. You can listen to that here. For a more comprehensive look at the regatta as a whole, check out our 30-page Olympic preview in our July/August issue. I'll try to post the primary story soon.
In the meantime, please let me know what you would like to see, hear, and read from Qingdao. You can reach me at stuart.streuli(at)sailingworld.com. I look forward to your feedback.