Sunday, July 27, 2008
Rub Your Eyeballs
They'll still be doing that, the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team now on the ground in Qingdao but not yet fully recovered from their sendoff or their travel. I can report that they partied hearty last Friday in San Francisco then flew on Saturday with connections through Beijing. All except for coach Gary Brodie, who traveled ahead because he was committed to having every bit of gear unpacked, ready and waiting for the athletes.
Reality takes hold by degrees. Star skipper John Dane commented that his Olympic reality sank in or began to sink in ("sure we won the Trials, but") while he was being "processed." Think credentialing, team uniforms, that stuff. Supermom Jerelyn Biehl who's been supporting junior sailing more or less forever has a son going to the Olympics but she's still working on her personal reality. Graham is crewing the 470 and Jerelyn says, "I thought, when I saw him in his uniform, that would do it but here he is in uniform and now I'm thinking reality will hit with the opening ceremonies."
Reality hit for 49er skipper Tim Wadlow (perhaps) when he was elected team captain. Congratulations, Mr. Wadlow.
Many Olympic sailors have lost weight in anticipation of light winds, but that's not the whole game. Catamaran skipper Johnny Lovell, going to his fourth Sailing Games, called this one "the most wide open" because conditions could be light and fluky, but then there's the challenge to be ready for anything because anything can happen. "Charlie [Ogletree] and I both shed some body weight," Lovell said, "but our program this year was to sail with light-air gear and try to make it work in a breeze. That's a learning curve. If it cost us some places, that's OK. We've won all the European events in the past. We don't need to win them again."
That "quote" is approximate, by the way. It's true to what Johnny said, but I wasn't standing with notebook in hand. Between processing on Friday and flying on Saturday the team was feted Friday night at St. Francis Yacht Club in what will be remembered in these parts as one bloody fine evening. I can't possibly write-in the energy and high spirits, but trust me, our Olympic team was fired up and ready for something and it was inspiring to share. Those of us who were on the scene are still talking about it and finding moments to recall and relive and it added pure wow to race day two of the Laser North Americans.
Here's a hasty snap of Jerelyn, left, and Graham Biehl that might help a little bit to tell the story . . .
The USOC in reviewing video of the 2004 opening ceremony decided to ban any use of cameras, recorders, and especially cell phones during the American team's upcoming entry to the new National Stadium in Beijing. Here's Graham, again with words approximate but the meaning (I'm confident) intact: "When I first heard about the camera ban, I didn't like it, but now I get it. There will be plenty of pictures of the opening ceremony, and that's exactly what they told us. We don't have to be taking pictures ourselves, and face it, you'd look pretty stupid marching in with a cell phone to your ear saying, Hey, I'm at the Olympics!"
And 58-year-old John Dane has a great riff about all the product endorsements waiting out there if he and Austin Sperry can win a medal: "Viagra, hair-grow, liver pills, I'm ready, I'm ready."
Oh, the BS was flying. John had admirers and charmed them all . . .
To actually get Dane you should understand that he'd take the money but he doesn't need it. As the owner of Trinity Yachts, Dane is a major builder of megayachts and, separately, of military craft. He is also I say an American hero for rebuilding his business and putting a couple of thousand people on the Gulf Coast back to work, even though insurance payouts would have made it possible to walk away after Hurricane Katrina wiped out everything from factory to home.
He didn't walk away because that's not what a man does. At the same time he won a Bacardi Cup and the US Trials, his seventh attempt, and qualified for the 2008 team. Dane's first Trials, in 1968, ended in a second-place finish, and if I'm not mistaken, that was before his career as a two-time All American sailor at Tulane where he went on to take a PhD in engineering: "No formalities, please. Just call me Dr. John."
Early on, 470 skipper Amanda Clark took a moment to say Hi before digging into the sushi. In the background, that would by Olympic chair Dean Brenner and Laser Radial rep Anna Tunnicliffe conversing with someone off-camera. The uniforms are cute, Ralph, but we may have overachieved with the in-house branding . . .
It was the kind of night where everybody was grinning wide enough to hurt. This would be 49er crew Chris Rast and his consultant, Heather . . .
I'm guessing the grins were not so wide, come time for the 0730 flight out of SFO, but with a 13-hour time difference, San Francisco to Beijing, and a dateline to cross, there never was a tomorrow.
Set Lasers to Stun
David Wright was strong going into Sunday's final day of the Laser North Americans, also at St. Francis YC, with opponents on the order of Bernard Luttmer, Brad Funk and Luke Lawrence. The competition also includes 17 Laser 4.7s and 85 Radials. It looks like this through the lens of Chris Ray's camera . . .
But if you've never experienced race-watching on the San Francisco cityfront you should know that it also looks like this . . .
And the spirit is this . . .
There is a wrap story and podcast on sailmagazine.com.
Across the Pond
Lyn Hines has sent us an account of the start of La Solitaire du Figaro. The first stage, from La Rochelle, France to Vigo, Spain should finish Tuesday-Wednesday. The start was murky and light (Lyn's host-boat driver pulled out a fishing pole)and through his lens it looked like this . . .
You can read Lyn's account of this event, which breeds new solo stars, here.
Me, I'm looking at lots of finishers in Hawaii from the Pacific Cup and Solo Transpac. Stories to comeKimball