Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Download World

Wondering how much air time NBC plans for sailing coverage during the Olympics in China? Wonder no more.

Sailing is one of 22 events going large—webcast online at—and shrinking at NBC broadcast television.

I dialed Annapolis to talk to Mr. TV Facetime, Gary Jobson, who will be commentating. "It's a tradeoff," he pre-comments. "There will be no sailing coverage on television except for special moments [a gold medal? a pantsing?] but sailing is one of 22 sports for which the entire daily feed will be available online as a download. That could be 90 minutes worth of sailing. Just go to It's an experiment, but I'm liking it."

It's a download world. The 21st century is due to begin soon.

Among the US Olympic sailors already, temporarily, on site in Qingdao, aka 青島, is the Yngling threesome of Sally Barkow, Debbie Capozzi, and Carrie Howe. They've done a month per summer in Qingdao, each of the last two years, and before her long plane ride across the Pacific for the current month-long stint, I talked to forward hand Carrie about stuff that sailors talk about and what she calls the "battle of conditions" on the shores of the Yellow Sea. To the Chinese, that's the Eastern Sea. Carrie reports:

"We live in the Sea View Garden Hotel [standard room US $148/night] where the staff has made us feel at home in the middle of an unknown world. At first they did not speak a word of English, but we are all working together and now we know how to communicate. They give us new stuffed animals every day!

"The hotel has several buildings where other teams set up as well. Brits, Spanish, not sure who else, but they have several restaurants where they try to understand our customs. We are a bit more messy and unorganized compared to their ways, if you know what I mean."

The race course off the former fishing village of 青島, now a city of three million, has hazards that have been and will be much discussed. There is also the matter of getting to and fro, in this period of training. On that subject, Carrie says, "We take a scary taxi ride or a shuttle to sailing each day. We have to be careful.

"It's chaos, all traffic and smog and unorganized with horns sounding 50 percent of the time in the car and people cutting each other off as if that's normal, and I guess it is. It seems to work for them. When we get back to the hotel, the staff makes us feel welcome with a smile and fruit trays. They know our names and our rooms and they know that we have been out sailing. The air conditioning is pumping to help us recover. Outside, the humidity is 99 percent."

And Then

Barkow, Capozzi and Howe are training in this environment until July 10. Then they're home for a bit and returning to China on July 27 for the Games. When next they arrive in Qingdao, they'll move into the Athletes' Village, which cuts the stress of the daily commute.

Coach Betsy Allison has already experienced the Olympic Village—our Paralympic team stayed there for a pre-event—and she is giving it high marks. "We were their first guests," Betsy says. "The staff took over three days before we arrived, but they were phenomenal, all 500 of them, and there will be 1,000 of them for the Games.

"They've built four housing towers, the tallest at about 17 or 18 stories, and the rooms are modern and comfortable and accessible for paraplegics. The Chinese paid careful attention to international standards."

The Athletes' Village is enclosed within a security perimeter, with race administration close to the housing and the boats about a hundred meters away. "It's easy to access notices. "You don't have to search for anything, and that makes a big difference. Once you're inside you feel very secure."

Rather Less Secure

Just the name, Extreme 40, tells you that this class of catamaran is not for the weak of heart. Tour sponsor iShares took me for a ride on their own boat when it passed through San Francisco Bay on a promo tour that just might lead to a US installment of the 2009 tour. I hope so. Meanwhile, ISAF World Sailor of the Year Ed Baird (he's paying his dues all over again) has skippered Alinghi to a win at the second 2008 stop, Hyères. There's a news report at, and now we'll wrap this with a few shots showing why these boats are crowd pleasers. The crews are pro. They don't mind sailing oddball courses close to shore.

Congratulations are in order, Ed—Kimball

© Jean Francois Dedieu

© Tornado Sport: Tommy Hilfiger

© Pierrick Contin DPPI.OC Events