Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Qingdao: No wind, racing. . . Sopot: No wind, no racing

A note on the athlete’s blogs: I forgot that the IOC put some limits on athlete blogging, so we won’t see daily updates from sailors participating in the Games after all.

Qingdao showed more of the same light, shifty wind for today’s racing. Readings were around 7-8 knots. In the women’s fleet, the Chinese sailor, Jian Yin, is dominating and she’s already 9 points ahead of the second place girl, Marina Alabau of Spain. In these conditions, the fleet is still mixed but the top girls are slowly sorting themselves out after two days of racing. Mistakes in these first few days can be costly, especially for Zofia Klepacka, our Polish sailor. She remains in 16th place after one mid-fleet finish, and a 5th place. A less-than-stellar second day is not good at all for her chances of medaling, but she is a fighter and will certainly climb the ranks.

In the men’s fleet, the favorites are pulling ahead, with Shahar Zubari of Israel leading. Shahar is a very light and fast guy, and in the past couple of years has seen really stellar results, even a bronze at the Worlds last January in New Zealand. The sailor from Hong Kong is in second, and in third is world champion Tom Ashley, from New Zealand. The Chinese sailor, Aichen Wang, has dropped to 7th place. Also having a good regatta so far is David Mier y Teran from Mexico, in 10th place. Pont, our dominant Polish sailor, is in 19th place with 85 points, 70-some points behind the leaders. It’s already over for him but he will also continue to fight and will certainly have some great races. Ben Barger is in 24th place with 93 points. It’s not clear what the sailors are going through on the racecourse just from looking at the results, but it is clear that they are facing extremely challenging and physical racing. The Polish are among the best sailors in the world, and are trained by one of the best coaches….but challenging conditions make for challenging racing, no matter who you are.

For more on the sailing, check out the ISAF results, NBC, Scuttlebutt, and our Day 4 report from US Sailing.

Over here in Poland, we also had light, shifty wind today…too light for racing. Although we didn’t race, the day ended up being productive and entertaining nonetheless. It started with a bus ride to Sopot. Of course, as soon as I stepped off the bus it started pouring rain and the temperature dropped. After walking the 25 minutes to the club, I was soaked and frozen. Luckily I got a chance to dry off inside the club as soon as the postponement flag went up.

As the day wore on, we all got bored. The rain stopped and the wind switched, and everyone rigged and put their gear on the beach. I spent a few hours hanging out on the terrace of the club with Max, who decided to change his sail numbers at the last minute. As he was doing this he attracted an audience of about 12 bored Polish kids, which prompted him to do a comedy routine with the stickers, setting everyone rolling. There are over a hundred Bic Techno kids here, and pretty soon a huge international volleyball game began. This soon escalated into a massive wrestling match (boys only). I spent some time prepping for the Techno class AGM, where I’ll be presenting the United States’ bid for the 2010 Techno World Championship. This is important for the development of youth sailing in North America, and I’m making sure that I do a good job. We’re competing against some nice venues, such as Takapuna, New Zealand, where the RS:X Worlds were held in January.

Aside from the beach scene, there was also some good drama in transportation logistics today. Klaus, my German friend (who looks just like the Terminator) returned from vacation and was hanging out at the club today. Upon hearing that my car is still not working, he took immediate action and called Lukasz, the mechanic who sold it to me. Tomorrow the boys will take another look at the car, and we’ll see if it’s indeed reparable. Yesterday in an attempt to start the car, I pushed it down the hill by my apartment. Unfortunately it didn’t start, so the car is now sitting at the bottom of the hill about a quarter mile from the apartment, and I’ve been relegated back to the bus. Not only does my car not work, but today the bus I was taking home decided to quit. As we pulled over to a stop, the bus, already suffering with the loudest grinding brakes I’ve ever heard, turned itself off and refused to start again. The Polish commuters sat quietly for a minute or two, and then everyone started to look at each other. The bus was getting hotter and hotter, and finally someone shouted “Open the doors!” The driver complied and there was a mass exodus of Polish into the street. The entire busload of Polish (including me) walked through a big intersection to the next stop about 300 meters away! The bus looked pathetic broken down at the stop, tilted over to one side, the lights and power shut down. Hopefully I’ll have reliable transportation in the upcoming weeks, although I’ll settle for “relatively reliable.” Besides racing, there’s certainly a lot to think about while living here!

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