I’m a little behind on updating because I’ve been way too tired to focus on writing. Yesterday I slept almost 18 hours! The raceboard regatta is over and we’ve had two good days of racing in Qingdao. We’ll begin with the Qingdao report.
On Saturday, no racing was held at all in Qingdao. The wind never materialized and the RS:X fleet remained on the beach. However, races were rescheduled for Sunday and Monday. Good thing, because the wind showed up in full force! Qingdao is strange in that the predominant conditions are light, but it seems that once every two weeks or so, it can really nuke, and that’s exactly what it did on Sunday, with wind readings of approximately 15 and 20+ knots. Monday also had windy conditions, but less so. Readings were about 15-18 knots. To have mixed conditions in a regatta turn it into “real” sailing as sailors dominant in a particular condition are each given their day to shine. Finally the results are changing.
In the women’s fleet, Jian Yin has been knocked out of the first place position. Her worst finish was a 13th in race #6, which was actually the less windy of the two races. Windsurfing legend Alessandra Sensini of Italy has now moved into first, but only leads by two points. Marina Alabau of Spain regained her third spot, while Bryony Shaw (GBR) finished strong in races 8 and 9 to move up to fourth. Our Polish sailor, Zofia Klepacka, really had her day and has almost saved her regatta, moving up to 6th place and pulling ahead of Barbara Kendall of New Zealand. Zofia has two bullets in the windier races, and also a second, and a third. With four windier races, the favorites are pulling ahead, and with only one race to go before the medal round, the regatta is turning quite dramatic.
In the men’s fleet, the more experienced sailors are pulling ahead of Shahar Zubari of Israel. He has fallen to fourth place with two disastrous 19ths in races 7 and 8. Now in first is Tom Ashley of New Zealand, followed by Nick Dempsey (GBR) and Julien Bontemps (FRA). Also moving up the ranks and showing his strength in the breeze is 2006 World Champion Casper Bouman of the Netherlands. Pont also has been climbing the ranks and now sits in 15th place. It is most likely too late for him to make the medal race, but his comeback shows great strength.
As of now, Race 10 has been postponed and moved to tomorrow, and the medal round will follow on Wednesday.
On another interesting side note, the Danish 49er team has had a very dramatic medal race. Their mast broke on the way out to the course, and they were forced to go back in. With the hopes of still being able to race, they borrowed a boat from the Croatians, who were not participating in the medal round. In a race with big wind and wild “survival” conditions, they placed 7th, good enough for the gold. However, they were protested by the race committee for changing boats. Did they win the protest? Find out here.
Although the Olympic regatta hasn’t gone as planned for the Polish, their team still had a big victory yesterday at the Raceboard Europeans. Using borrowed equipment with unfortunate mishaps, and sailing in probably the toughest conditions Sopot has delivered, Max has won the Raceboard Europeans. Although he has maintained throughout the entire regatta that he’s only sailing for fun, he’s certainly taken the racing seriously enough to win. The regatta has been really long, six days without a break, and Max has suffered through a broken daggerboard and a huge hole in his old 9.5 raceboard sail. Max had a particularly heroic final race on the last day. Sopot decided to give us all the cold, wind, and rain a North European summer could possibly throw at us, and conditions were particularly challenging on the last day with 20 knot gusts, big waves breaking on the beach, and cold, wet sailing. A few minutes before the start, Max dropped his sail in the water and when he pulled it up, a huge rip about a foot long had started in the leech about 2/3 of the way to the top of the sail. He sailed by me planing and the sail sounded just like a helicopter in the breeze with the rip expanding and entirely destroying one outer panel of the sail. It was a particularly gory tear as a triangular chunk of the sail was actually hanging down from the rip and flapping in the breeze. Max let the race committee know what had happened, but apparently they were not so forgiving because he started the race. Despite all odds, as I was making my way upwind on the last leg, I saw Max coming downwind in first place to go on and win the race!
I also had some equipment problems during the regatta as a batten broke during the break between races, and my adjustable downhaul tore a big hole in my luff sleeve. I sailed with the broken batten during the last race, but it affected my pumping downwind a good bit. There were also a lot of weeds in the water and the hybrid boards with long fins suffered a lot as it was almost impossible to avoid fouling your fin. Despite all the problems I did manage to place 3rd for the women in our fleet, so I got a medal, my first ever in Europe!
The raceboard regatta really was fantastic. Even though I was really tired and wasn’t sailing my best, the organized race committee and variety of conditions made the sailing almost perfect. I am very glad to have participated in this regatta! In a few days, the team and I will begin another training camp in Puck, my favorite venue in Poland. I’m resting up now for it, and am looking forward to working hard to make some new breakthroughs in my sailing.