“Windsurfing” has drawn to a close in Qingdao with yesterday’s Race 10, followed by the Medal Race taking place early this morning, Central European time. The normal light wind is back and wind readings were around 6-8 knots for all races. I was lucky enough to catch the women’s medal race on Polish TV, and it actually looked like the wind was closer to 4 knots. In a few places I saw girls going upwind doing more of a “row pump” rather than the normal upwind pump, which means the wind was excessively light.
With a majority of light wind races, the women had to really fight in the medal round. In these conditions it proved virtually impossible to displace Jian Yin (CHN) from winning the gold. She placed third in the medal race and ended up with a one-point lead over Alessandra Sensini of Italy, who, like the champion she is, won the medal race and took the silver. Going into the slalom finish, Yin was in fourth (ok at least to my eye, not according to the article) and fought her way up one place ahead of Marina Alabau (ESP), who had a small port-starboard situation with Bryony (GBR) at the leeward mark. By then the places had been more or less determined for the race. If there had been just one more board between Sensini and Yin, Sensini would have taken gold. She did all she could do by winning the medal race and had a very close and dramatic regatta! Bryony Shaw of Great Britain took second in the medal race to take the bronze overall. It was a great comeback and fight for her the whole way. Zofia (POL) ended up 7th overall, still with a good top 10 finish. The top 10 were in fact filled with a lot of famous names! Unfortunately the Athens gold medalist, Faustine Merret (FRA), who won the Qingdao regatta in 2006, didn’t make it to the medal round and finished 11th. This remains a testament to the tough conditions in Qingdao and the difficulties faced by all the sailors.
The men’s race saw almost even more dramatic results. Winning the medal race was King Yin Chan of Hong Kong, but his points were still not low enough to bring him into medal contention. Powerhouse Tom Ashley of New Zealand scored a third in the medal race, putting him in the gold position. Light-wind specialist Shahar Zubari fought to a second, putting him back in third position for a bronze medal. This displaced Nick Dempsey of Great Britain by only two points, who scored a seventh in the medal race. Very disappointing for Nick, I’m sure, and a dramatic upset! Julien Bontemps of France place fourth in the medal round to take the silver medal. Another mishap was had by Nikos Kaklamanakis of Greece, who had an OCS in the medal race to take him out of the running completely, but good enough that he still placed eighth.
Congratulations to all the RS:X sailors, who all fought really hard in challenging conditions this Olympics. What does a gold medal mean for a sailor? Obviously, there is the potential for endorsements and sponsorship money. However, more importantly, results often decide where is distributed the financial support from respective sailing federations. I’m not sure what this means for the Polish, who have been well-prepared for Qingdao and have fought hard this regatta, but have had less than stellar results. Certainly it means that they will not receive as much money as they could for their windsurfing program, but the program will still remain healthy. For the United States, it could means more of the status quo, but luckily we are having some enthusiastic grass-roots youth development just beginning and this is sure to produce better windsurfers in the next 8-10 years.
In a separate story, Anna Tunnicliffe, the USA representative in Laser Radial, won gold yesterday after a dramatic medal race in which she was forced to restart due to a perceived OCS. Clawing her way back into the front she managed to finish second in the race. Congratulations Anna!