If you want to appeal to the Brazilian public and tourists, hold your event on the beach. Luckily for World Sailing and the Olympic sailing organizers, the Marina da Gloria, home to Olympic sailing, is directly adjacent to Flamengo Beach. The medal racecourse is in the shallow waters just off the beach, making the sandy shores the place to be for Olympic sailing fans.
As the boats zip past, factions of the crowd cheer. High speed skiffs like the 49er were made for this type of spectator sailing. The New Zealand contingent waves their black and silver flags for Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, while Italian superfans close by, faces painted green and red, shout and clap as Ruggero Tita and Pietro Zucchetti have a great start. In the big swell coming in from the Bay today, the younger fans dart up and down the beach avoiding the spray of the waves.
All week, they’ve come out in droves, rain or shine, to cheer on their favorite sailors. Greatest in number sport the blue, green and yellow of the Brazilian flag — cheering on local favorites Robert Scheidt, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, and others, depending on the day.
Organizers have wisely made the beach zone interactive, as postponements have delayed two days of racing so far. With shops and food stalls, spectators can spend the whole day on the sand. World Sailing set up four display boats — a Laser, a Finn, a 470 and a 49er — on the grass behind the beach for spectators to examine up close. A jumbotron sits at one end of the beach to bring the action even closer. Flamengo beach even has its own set of Olympic rings for photo ops.
Security at the beach is no joke, with members of the Force Nationale and police at every entrance, and metal detectors and x-ray machines at every entrance. The first day of racing saw a few controlled detonations of unattended luggage after hours, but nothing suspect was discovered. Since then, Flamengo beach has been the idyllic venue that World Sailing was hoping for when Rio was tapped to host the Games.
Check out some of our favorite photos from sailing’s biggest fans:
In the beachside spotlight today are the Laser and Laser Radial, each scheduled to race one race on the Pao course and one on Niteroi across the bay. This is the final preliminary series for the dinghies (save the Finn) before medal races on Monday. In the Radial, reigning gold medalist Lilly Xu is all but out of contention with two DSQs yesterday, one for a port starboard conflict with Netherland’s Marit Bouwmeester, and the other a windward leeward conflict with Turkey’s Nazli Donertas. If Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom can maintain her consistency, she’ll be in shouting distance of gold.
In the Laser, all eyes are on Brazil’s Robert Scheidt after his seemingly miraculous comeback from high 30s to 4th in the day’s only race. Scheidt vaulted himself to second overall in the fleet before the last day of preliminary racing, setting himself up for a potential podium finish.
The 470s are enjoying a rest day, while the Nacras will be racing on the outside Copacabana course. The sea swell that tested the 470s and Lasers in the past two days has died down to 2-4 feet, but the breeze is forecasted to be more consistent and better than the shifty stuff they’ve been dealing with inside. The 49ers and 49erFXs head into their second day of inside racing, while the Finns have been moved from the outside to the innermost course, Ponte.
The medal races, to be held on the Pao de Acucar course, will begin Sunday with the RS:X. There’s no doubt that these boardsailers will have the support of the fans. They’re close enough to hear the cheers from shore, an experience which few of these sailors have had before.