Sunday, August 10, 2008

Taking it Personally

Who would have thought that what everybody thought would happen, would happen?

Light air for the opening of Olympic sailing. Puffy zones of pressure. Confounding currents.

My little self in viewerland at home was not at all prepared for the thrill of the live broadband feed from Qingdao—there they are, those are my people—and then the disappointment that what we get is so limited.

Meanwhile I'm becoming more adept at following two screens at once, TV and the laptop. Most of the time it's no problem, operating on California time.

But that first night. Sheesh.

It was such an unfair roll of the dice to have Team USA walking into the National Stadium in that thrilling opening ceremony in a televised rerun at the same moment that the Finns were rounding their first mark live in Qingdao on my computer.

It was such an unfair roll of the dice to have the televised rerun of the lighting of the flame at the same moment that the Finns were finishing race one, live. There was three-time Olympic sailing veteran and IOC president Jacque Rogge stepping up to the microphone to open the Games in Beijing and at the same time finish-line horns were sounding from Peter Reggio's RC boat in Qingdao (faintly) through the speakers in the laptop—and I could see that Zach Railey was looking good. But for lack of commentary it was hard to figure how good. And all the way through these races it seemed that the producer and/or cameraman were often misjudging when they focused on a "leader." And other races were going on that I wasn't seeing at all, or perhaps through Finns I could see Ynglings in the background, or when we shifted to Ynglings I could see Finns in the background but don't even dream of reading that action, babe. When they added 49ers, same frustration, and it won't be cured on Monday when we add 470s and boards.

You can see more shots like this at Ingrid Abery's This would be the US 49er team of Tim Wadlow/Chris Rast bearing down on Canadians Gordon Cook/Ben Remocker (rounding). And the host team looks rather part of the action, no? That would be Fei Li and Xianqiang Hu. Unfortunately, none of these three boats have finished above tenth, and the Chinese are having a so-you-want-to-race-49ers experience at the back of the pack. Italians Pietro and Gianfranco Sibello are the early series leaders.

Okay, back to the Finns. The world finally has an opportunity to discover what an articulate, driven young man Zach Railey is. He went into this show with many goals, among them to not make his own bad luck. Leading off ahead of the one and only Ben Ainslie is a great statement, even if Mr. Ainslie has allowed no one to forget that he is Ben Ainslie. Yep, he just keeps winning races.

There's a lot of sailing yet to come and it's a fiendish racetrack. I was puckered up in pain watching early developments on the Yngling course and later opened up my email to read this description from Carrie Howe, crewing on the U.S. boat, " We were pretty happy about the right-hand side of the course for the second beat but that was a bad call because, after rounding, we found ourselves on the outside of a large left-hand shift. The fleet inverted quickly and we went from challenging the lead boat for first place, to rounding the last weather mark in tenth."

Not even the hardest of hard-luck stories in these races, and there is plenty of time for the regatta to live up to the expectation that everyone will have at least one bad race.

Fortune improved later for Team 7 Sailing, aka the U.S. Yngling team of Sally Barkow/Debbie Capozzi/Carrie Howe on day two as they climbed to fourth overall amidst difficult circumstances. This added missive from Carrie relates: "The conditions made it extremely difficult to make good tactical calls using the observed weather. The key was simply to stay in the hunt and keep plugging away. In a high-caliber fleet like this one, it's easy to drop a few places. Just one bad lane or a bad move and you can be in trouble."

Eventually we get to the Medals Race in each class, double-points for the top ten only, and won't that be a day.

But Carrie's eblasts always give me a smile. Dig her pic of the RC boat, noting that the Yngling class flag is flying upside down . . .

And her comment: "Guess the Olympics are stressful for all of us."

The central source for Olympic sailing news can be found at

For a quickie results fix go to the results center.

WAIT! The Snipe Nationals—

Augie Diaz is a name we know. The businessman from Miami was the 2003 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, honored for a season that included racing Lasers and Stars and becoming the first American in (then) 22 years to win the Snipe Worlds. More recently he partnered with crew Kathleen Tocke to win the Snipe Nationals on San Francisco Bay. That series wrapped over the weekend with, Diaz said, "More breeze than the sailors needed, but from the point of view of downwind sailing, it was pretty spectacular. The courses were long, and with two races per day they were hard to sail, but they were very fair."

Tocke, Diaz said, put in a dedicated workout program this year, to be ready to crew in lots of wind, and the work paid off.

Asked how many times he's won the Snipe Nationals, Diaz could only say, "Hmm. I'm not sure." Then it was time to load nine Snipes onto a trailer for the haul back to the East Coast.

But Diaz had one more thing on his mind: "Make sure you give a lot of credit to the race committee and to Richmond Yacht Club. They did a great job."

They usually do—Kimball