Letter from Qingdao: The Last Miaow?

Will 2008 be the last event for the most spectacular of the Olympic classes?

Greetings from Qingdao, on this the 13th day of the 2008 Sailing Olympics.

The big breeze visited Qingdao again today, meaning that it blew about 15-18 knots, drumming up a 1.5 metre sea – with the wind blowing against the strong tide. Not a comfortable ride for the Race Committee, on this the final day of the 2008 Olympic Regatta.

Two classes raced today, the Star which is so close to being a hundred years old that it doesn’t matter. The other was the Tornado, the media darling of the Olympics, which ISAF saw fit to drop for Weymouth in 2012.

In spite of our comments about the dreariness of Medal Racing earlier in the week, both races today determined the outcome of the Gold medal, without the use of match racing tactics, and it has to be said that on balance the Medal Races substantially achieved their goal. Well for five of the 11 classes, at least.

Yes some are rather tedious set piece affairs. Yes some are way too short and seem to be designed to be overly accommodating of TV. Yes, match racing should be banned in Medal Races.

But on balance the concept is OK. Whether it is an improvement on other styles of racing is a matter of taste.

The wind today was accompanied by rain which grew steadily worse as the day wore on and as we write is pouring down.

The Chinese had no Plan B for inclement weather for the medal ceremonies, and the two presentations this afternoon were held in the rain, and looked absolutely ridiculous. No offence to those receiving the medals, however they deserve better.

After the medal ceremonies the three crews all move into the media centre for a media conference. These all seem to have a character of their own – conducted in a very stilted way by the Chinese.

Every question and answer has to be translated into Chinese, or occasionally back to English. The interpreter performs an admirable job, however the competitors are always amused to here their responses repeated in Chinese. They are also a bit taken aback when they forget that there is a need for interpretation and give a very full answer – which in turn goes on for a very full translation – which seems to go on and on, world without end, amen.

The top table seems to have a character of its own, with the Stars and Tornados all being good mates, and with plenty of respect and bonhomie.

The Tornado one had a sombre note as this was the last Olympics for the class as it stands. This has been a constant source of anguish for the media here, who if they were asked to pick ten Olympic classes, would put the Tornado on the top of the list and then work out the other nine.

The ISAF clearly see things a little differently from the media, and that point has been glaringly obvious since the start of this regatta.

Good Sailing!

Richard Gladwell