Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It’s Over: Racing Draws to a Close for the RS:X in Qingdao

“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!

Other links:

ISAF results



Sailing Anarchy

Monday, August 18, 2008

Qingdao Gets Windy; Raceboard Europeans Get Cold and Windy

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.

More links:

ISAF results



US Sailing Report

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.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Light and Lighter: 2 Races in Sopot; 1 in Qingdao

One race was held in Qingdao today for both fleets of RS:X. Racing was postponed for several hours and the race committee was unable to follow through on the schedule created yesterday. Boats saw different breeze on each course and throughout their race(s). Sailors reported very shifty wind anywhere from 4 knots to 12 knots. For more on the conditions (and how the American team felt today on the racecourse), see US Sailing’s report by Derby Anderson.

In both RS:X fleets, today saw a few changes in the distribution of the fleet. For the women, Jian Yin from China maintains her lead. She is now ahead by 4 points. Jessica Crisp from Australia moved into second place with a bullet for today’s race. After one throwout, she’s 5 points ahead of Marina Alabau from Spain, who had a 5th today. After the throwout, many girls moved up in the rankings. Most noticeably, Jannicke Stalstrom from Norway jumped up to 7th place after throwing out her DSQ. Faustine Merret, the French Athens gold medalist, also had a DSQ thrown out and now sits in 10th place. Alessandra Sensini, the Italian powerhouse sailor, had a DSQ today for failing to keep clear after a collision with Marina Alabau, but stills maintains fourth overall as she excluded the DSQ score from her score. Our Polish sailor, Zofia Klepacka, moved up from 17th to 12th with a 4th place in today’s race. She’s 8 points behind Faustine. She definitely still can make up the points and get into the top 10, but her chances for medaling are now pretty much over. It seems like she’s just getting into that Qingdao groove. We’ll see more consistent results from her for the remainder of the regatta.

In the men’s fleet, Shahar Zubari had his worst race with a 17th place, but maintains his first position after the throwout. King Yin Chan (HKG) has had a really consistent regatta and maintains second. Nick Dempsey from Great Britain won the race and moved into third, while Tom Ashley from New Zealand dropped back into fourth. There weren’t as many changes in fleet distribution as in the women’s fleet, but a few sailors are moving up, such as Pont, who had his best race today and now sits in 20th. Ben Barger remains in 25th place with, in his words, a rather disappointing finish in 26th place.

The Polish team has updated their website with some great photo galleries. Check it out. The one titled “Trening + wyscigi” has water shots of the windsurfing racing and training.

Other links:

ISAF results



Over here in Raceboardland, the wind also didn’t pick up as much as expected. However, the committee got us on and off the water quickly and efficiently after two races in 4-8 knots. The day was overcast and threatening to rain, and it was cool with temperatures in the low to mid 60s. I’m finally getting the hang of my Bic hybrid, and am making it go upwind a little bit better. All of us are tired after yesterday’s conditions, and there was noticeably less pumping by the whole fleet! My races went smoothly and I didn’t make too many mistakes. I had one tough start, although I got off the line early I got rolled by a big longboard and slipped underneath some other competitors. However, I felt that I sailed some consistent upwind legs, and one great downwind in which I made up a few places. As soon as we all got off the water, it started to rain, and it hasn’t stopped since!

Check out the event photo galleries (scroll down) for more great shots of the raceboarders and the Bic Techno kids.