Rob Holden reports
Saturday dawned ad we were all keen to head out to the sailing centre for the last time. The organisers had cancelled all further series races due to the previous days of no wind, so now there was only 1 race left to sail, the final.
The final race is a non discardable race and the positions in this race were used to break any ties so this race carried a lot of weight especially for the leaders who if they had a bad race or even an OCS would not be able to discard and would fall down the results.
The forecast was not good and it looked a lot like the previous days except that storms were forecast from 14h00, so having started my sailing career in the Vaal I thought we would be able to get a race in either on the head or tail of one of these storms. We again sat around and at 14h00 there was a wind reading that came through from the water of 0.0 and when asked of the direction the answer was 0, but I think the better answer would have been none.
Lunch at the venue was an interesting process. On the first couple of days we got really horrible hot dog like rolls and we all complained. For the past few days we got the same rolls at 11h30 then at 16h00 we got hot Chinese noodles and meat which was really nice. On Saturday the athletes were just told they could get the second lunch and had queued up when a promised storm started stirring the trees. Postponements came down in about 15 knots which is 3 times what we had seen since we got here. Of course everyone was really excited and there was a buzz of activity around the boat park and the eager ones were on the water in no time including Calvin Gibbs. Then moments later all hell broke loose. Thunder lightning and 37 knots of wind, boats, trees and fences being blown over on shore, the one committee boat ended up on the lee shore and those who had launched had an absolute blast, but were sent home immediately – I suppose a good thing as carbon masts would encourage a lightning strike. The rain came down in buckets like any tropical storm and we hung onto boats, but 10 minutes later it was all gone so we launched to try and get a race in only to spend 30 minutes drifting around in 1-2 knots of wind. So another day of no sailing and only the final reserve day to finish racing.
So on Sunday we again had to get up at 05h30 to be in time for the busses, but when we woke up we noted a change in the weather with a bit of rain and some wind, so the enthusiasm rose. As we drove to the venue so the rain fell harder and when we got there it was pouring down, but at 25 degrees centigrade this was not uncomfortable, but actually quite nice.
The wind was at about 6 knots and the forecast said it was on its way up now. To put this into perspective when we got here we thought 5 knots was a really light wind and all the races have been sailed in under 5 knots with a few moments of 6, so 6 knots constant was pumping!
The schedule was for the Byte c2 girls to start at 11h00 and the boys to follow. At 11h00 the wind strength was back down to 3 and 4 knots, but we started on time in a wind sitting on 45 degrees. As per the usual on this pond the wind was shifting around without any noticeable pattern so you needed to stay in the middle of the course for the conservative route. Those who were lying in 5th and 6th could bang a corner in the hope of the shift coming through in the right direction at the right time, but this was very high risk. It was also vitally important to start with a clear lane and hold that lane even more so with the light winds.
Both Megan and Calvin got caught in the second row which took them immediately out of the top half of the fleet. Megan kept to the centre on the first beat and managed to round the top mark still in touch with the middle pack and with her boat speed the same as those around her. All she had to do was get in phase and stay in faze for the second beat to finish in a reasonable position. Megan did this nicely for the second beat and managed to pull off a 22nd place which was one of her better positions. Unfortunately the girl above Megan on the overall results also had a good race and finished ahead of her so she was not able to pull herself off the bottom of the table even with this better result.
Calvin had the bad start and then was pushed out to the right on the first beat, the right had less pressure and you had to come in at the mark on a header so he dropped down to the back of the fleet. Calvin never recovered from this and unfortunately had to carry his worst result of the event, pushing him down 1 position into 25th overall.
Overall the experience has been really good for our sailors, being in an Olympic environment has shown them where they can go, but also a bit of what it takes to get there. There is a recurring fact coming through over and over with the South African results and I will sum this up in 4 very important words for our sailors “Time on the Water”.
The TOW factor is critical most sports are spending a minimum of 12 hours per week training, but few sailors do this. The sailors that came to this event tried hard and I am sure grew a lot, but most of all I hope they realised that to be a champion takes a lot of hard work and they will start working because they have talent.
We now are obliged to take part in cultural events at the games which are great fun and we will also be going to support other sports. Tonight we will be going to watch the boys hockey in their semi-final match against the Aussies.
Thank you all for your support and we now look forward to getting home.