The answer is up in the air

Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. Julio Alsogaray (ARG).

Basic sailing lessons were handed out by a couple of the competitors in the Laser classes on the opening day of their racing in Qingdao. They were so evident, yet largely ignored by the majority of the competitors.

If ever one needed an example of what clear air can do to enhance performance that of Julio Alsogaray in the morning race of the Laser was one of the best ever.

A black flag, following a general recall, displayed a no-nonsense attitude by the race committee and the mid-line sag was a full three boat lengths deep in the middle. The Argentine sailor found sufficient room to windward from near the middle of the line to tack and he embraced the opportunity to go out to the right.

From there he used the shifts and built what proved to be an unassailable lead by the first mark. Once around, Alsogaray was not troubled by the boats behind and Andrew Murdoch also wriggled clear of the bunch to set off in pursuit of the leader. But it was an impossible chase and the man who had been better known for his performance in a breeze won the light air opener of the series.

In the afternoon, a similar situation arose when Florencia Cerutti Bogado of Paraguay tacked away from the committee boat end of the start in the Laser Radial second race. Aided by better pressure on that side of the course, where she had a free rein, Bogado was a clear leader at the weather mark.

It was left to the pack to provide a pursuer and from it emerged Sarah Steyaert of France.

Slowly, remorselessly the French woman applied the pressure on the inside-loop course and by the second weather mark had almost halved it to 15 seconds. On the final run, Steyaert found the answer and swept by to a four second lead for the reach home.

Notably, Bogado had been last but one in the morning race. What a difference clear air makes.