by Andy Rice
It's the eve of the Olympic Regatta in Qingdao, and SailJuice reporter Andy Rice is on the ground (and soon to be on the water), ready to bring you updates from the event. Some sailors have agonising 11th-hour decisions to be made about what equipment to use.
Mitch Booth & Pimm Nieuwenhuis sail testing - - 2008 Qingdao Pre-Olympics
Three sails upwind
On Thursday, two days before the Olympic Regatta begins, Darren Bundock and Glenn Ashby went sailing with a brand new small gennaker that they had made the day before and tested it against five other teams on the Olympic waters in four or five knots of wind. That evening, I bumped into British 49er coach Ian Barker, who had seen the Tornados doing their impromptu racing. Barker's verdict on the Aussies' speed? 'The same height upwind, and a lot faster.' Indeed the Aussie team was reckoned to have finished about half a leg ahead, the boat sliding along nicely while others barely managed to keep moving at all.
Yes, the Aussie Tornado team, the reigning world champions, have been busy constructing their own version of the small, flat 'Code Zero' gennaker which Dutch representatives Mitch Booth and Pim Nieuwenhuis have threatened to measure in for the Games.
Designed to be able to be sailed upwind, this is a radically different sail to the standard gennaker. It measures just 7 square metres compared with the fuller, standard kite that most will be using, which measures around 12 square metres.
So, the Aussies have been developing their own version in secret? No, a quick chat with Australian 470 coach Victor Kovalenko revealed that Bundy and Ashby only started work on their Code Zero two days ago.
It's their best-guess replica of what the Dutch team have been developing for months in secret with their training partners from the USA, John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree.
While the Aussies have tried to replicate the sail, others are trying to get the sail banned. An Austrian news agency has even claimed that reigning Olympic Champions in the Tornado, Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher, are threatening to boycott the Games if Mitch Booth and others are allowed to compete with the Code Zero sail.
The Austrians are one of a number of signatories who have written a letter to ISAF asking that use of the sail be disallowed, on the grounds that the Olympic competition should be based on fair competition.
It's hard to see how they're going to make such a woolly argument stick. The Tornado is a hardly a strict one-design; sail development is a part of the game and the fact that the NED and USA teams have outmanoeuvred their opposition is hardly grounds for complaint.
If the Austrians decide not to compete on grounds of fairness, I can't see anyone standing in their way. I'm sure other Tornado teams would be only too happy to help dismantle their boat and pack it up in the container for them.
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