August 16, 2016

Gary Jobson's Rio Letter #9: "No Wind + Too Much Wind = Frustration"


Sailing, Rio 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

No Wind + Too Much Wind = Frustration

By Gary Jobson

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Our sport is hard on itself. Here we are with live coverage of sailing available of the Olympic Games. is taking the International Olympic Committee's live feed. It is a big day, with two scheduled Medal Races in the Women's Laser Radial and the Men's Laser Classes. It is a beautiful day off Rio's Flamingo Beach. The capacity crowd is fully engaged in anticipation of the Medal Race. Most importantly for Brazil, one of its most famous athletes, Robert Scheidt, is in contention to win a record setting sixth medal in sailing. Since 1896 no sailor has won six medals in six consecutive Olympics. Actually, this is unheard of in any sport. The storylines are good. And then, disaster!

The wind was non-existent. Nada - nothing. No worries, everyone thought, the breeze has filled in every day. After three hours, the Race Officials cancelled the Laser Race, but kept hope alive for the Laser Radial. The ten women sailors were sent out to the racecourse 45 minutes before the 1630 time limit expired. The Race Committee could see that a sea breeze was approaching. Out at sea, the 49er and 49erFX classes were racing in 9-14 knot winds, and on their third race of the day.

With 20 minutes left on the time clock, the wind arrived, and kept building. It was tough on the sailors who had to shift their thinking from light air sailing to heavy wind. Soon it was blowing well over 30 knots. What next?

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The clock was ticking. On the race committee boat, Tom Duggan from Hyannis, MA, conferred with Principle Race Officer Alastair Fox , and they made the appropriate decision to postpone.

For much of the day, sailing was the only sport being run. Most competitions in Rio tend to be played later in the day. Many international broadcasters would have featured sailing, but the wind just did not cooperate. It reminded me of the many days wasted during the America's Cup over the years waiting for the wind to come up, or go down. If sailing is going to be on television, it needs to take place at scheduled times. It would be helpful if the race organizers were more flexible and could have taken the Laser sailors out into the ocean. That would have upset the fans on shore, but most of them actually watch the big screen television on the beach anyway.

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The 49ers and 49erFX classes did get off three races. Americans Paris Henken and Helena Scutt , had 11-11-8 place finishes today. They are still in the top ten, and have a good chance to make the medal race, but their chance of winning a medal is slipping away. With three races left, they must be in the top three in every race to be in medal contention. They are 29 points out of third place. In the men's skiff, New Zealanders Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are in control. They only have 21 points. Germany is 18 points behind them, and archrival Australia is 33 points back. Americans Thomas Barrows and Joe Morris rounded the windward mark in the top five twice today, but slipped back to finish 16-17-11. They will not make the Medal Race. Racing continues tomorrow with skiff Medal Races on Thursday.

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The 470s were unable to race today. They have three races left to complete before their Medal Race on Wednesday. Both American crews in the 470s are in Medal contention. Four Medal Races are schedule for Tuesday, including Lasers, Laser Radials, Finns, and Nacra 17s. The biggest race of the day is in the Finn. Caleb Paine, 26, from San Diego, CA, is in fourth, just five points away from a Bronze Medal. The Medal Races are worth two points. To finish third, he must stay ahead of Max Salminen, SWE and Jorge Zarif, BRA and put two boats between him and Ivan Gašpić from Croatia. Gašpić protested Paine in Race 6. Initially, Paine was disqualified, but Paine produced video evidence showing that Gašpić’s story was not accurate, and the American's second place finish in that race was restored. If there is ever a reason for a grudge match, this is it.

If the wind cooperates on Tuesday all four Medal Races will be broadcast live on with highlight action later in the day on MSNBC television.

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