Racing canned on a windless day six in Qingdao
Racing proved impossible at the Olympic sailing regatta on Thursday (14 August), with painfully light winds confining all classes to shore on this sixth day of competition.
With wind speeds reaching only a patchy 3-5 knots across Fushan Bay, racing was eventually cancelled for the day, giving rise to a bumper schedule of sailing on Friday (15 August), featuring all 11 classes as organisers try to make up lost ground.
For the Star and Tornado sailors, Friday marks the long-awaited start of their Olympic regattas. Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson are Team GB’s representatives in the Star keelboat class – the oldest of all the Olympic classes – with helmsman Percy having won gold in the Finn class at the Sydney Games in 2000.
He’s hopeful of sharing another Olympic medal this time round with his crew and long-time friend Andrew Simpson.
“Success or failure in the Olympics is something that’s very, very important to all the top sailors,” Percy explained. “It’s something that stays with you for the rest of your life, when you do well it’s something that can never be taken away.
“You can be a World Champion for a year but there’s something about Olympic medals, they stay with you for life regardless of what happens. It’s something you’ll be very proud of when you’re in your 90s!”
Simpson will be competing at the Games for the first time in China, having missed out on qualification to Percy in the Finn class in 2000, and Ben Ainslie for Athens. The 31-year-old was training partner to both his teammates after missing out on the GBR spot himself, but is now hoping for his own piece of Olympic memorabilia
“When you’re young and sailing Optimists, you never really think you’re going to qualify for the Olympics you just do it because you love to go sailing. It’s a strange feeling.
“I’ve been tune up partner twice, which is very frustrating, but both the guys have gone on to win so hopefully we can do the same together now.”
Leigh McMillan and Will Howden will take to the water in the Tornado catamaran class, with both sailors having been the Games in Athens – McMillan as a competitor with Mark Bulkeley, and Howden as a coach for the Dutch Tornado team
“I’m very excited about the prospects in China,” said McMillan. “It’s very exciting to be going for a second time and really having learned all my lessons at my first Games in Athens
“We’ve got a really good chance of going and getting a medal and if we’re on top form we can get a gold medal so I’m really looking forward to it. Second time around I’m looking forward to it even more!”
Howden echoes his helmsman’s confidence: “We obviously believe we can get [a medal]. We know we can race well in China, our equipment selection is going to be better and I believe we can really get a medal.”
Ben Ainslie and the Yngling girls Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson sailing tomorrow means missing out on the reserve day originally planned ahead of their medal races on Saturday. They will head out for an earlier than usual start time of 1200 on to try and fit in their missing three races, where they will look to maintain their hold at the top of the results tables going into their scheduled medal race day.
The Laser and Laser Radial sailors will feature on course C from 1200 onwards, with Olympic debutant Penny Clark looking to continue her confident start to the regatta. She’s in fifth place currently, with Laser sailor Paul Goodison in seventh.
The RS:X men’s and women’s windsurfing fleets also face an earlier start, with just two races scheduled for them. Athens bronze medallist Nick Dempsey is in fifth place overall after four races, the position also occupied by Bryony Shaw.
Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes will be eager to get back to work in the 49er fleet, to try and pick their way up the leaderboard to make amends for some disappointing earlier results, Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield will be looking to build upon their third place in the 470 men’s event, while Christina Bassadone and Saskia Clark will be looking to advance on their eleventh place in the 470 women’s fleet.
Schedule of racing – Friday 15 August (times are local)
Course A: 1300 hrs – Star and Tornado (2 races each)
Course B: 1200hrs – RS:X men and women (2 races each)
Course B: 1400hrs – 49er class (3 races)
Course C: 1200hrs – Laser and Laser Radial (3 races each)
Course D: 1300hrs – 470 men and 470 women (2 races each)
Course E: 1200hrs – Finn and Yngling (3 races each)
You can follow the racing online at www.rya.org.uk/beijing2008, where you will get updates from the dinghy park and the results as they come in, as well as the news from the Team GB camp. You can also leave messages of support for the team and your comments on the racing and Team GB’s prospects.