As Olympic fever continues to set in, the 400 sailors from 69 nations that are attending the Games in Sydney, Australia, are making final preparations for the competition, which is just days away. Though the official practice races begin on the 16th, most of the US Team has been in Sydney for weeks, tuning up on the water as part of the US Teams systematic approach to achieving the best showing.
To gain some insight on what Olympic life is like, weve garnered the combined comments of Mens 470 crew Bob Merrick (who will be filing exclusive updates for SailNet), 470 coach Skip Whyte, and some notes from US SAILINGs Olympic Director Jonathan Harley. (Harleys complete diary can be found on the US SAILING websitewww.ussailing.org). Pass the torch and let the games begin.
Bob Merrick After spending the final two weeks of August in Sydney, Paul and I flew to San Diego to get processed with the rest of the US Olympic Team. We went through processing with the triathalon team, some of the weightlifters, and the table tennis team. After that, we turned right around and flew back to Sydney14 hoursfor more training. Since returning, weve had mostly good weather, no rain and moderate wind, except that 40-plus knot afternoon that you might have read about. It has been a bit cool though. Low temperatures are in the low 40s to high 30s and the highs in the 60s.
A week ago we raced on Course B in a very shifty and puffy westerly wind. The wind was coming directly from the Sydney Harbor Bridge. We had from six to 10 boats racing including the Kiwi, Argentine, French, and Spanish teams. It was good to find out just how shifty and puffy Sydney Harbor really is. On that day, our finishes were first, sixth, fifth, second. I think we need to race as much as possible to get accustomed to the Harbor. To that end, we even race to and from the sailing club because it can be a 45-minute sail to the race area. Paul says that the Sydney Harbor conditions are just like those at home on Lake Travis in Austin, Canyon Lake in New Braunfles, or Eagle Mountain Lake in Ft. Worth.
During our recent training, weve also sailed out in the ocean, where we found some big ocean rollers. The waves were kind of going across the wind and moving pretty fast at about five knots. This caused the apparent wind to shift as much as 30 degrees with each wave, calling for lots of steering and mainsail trimming on each wave to try and keep the telltales flying.
Since coming back to Sydney, weve moved into the Olympic Villagewhat a place! The Australians have built an entire new housing community for the athletes. Paul and I are staying in a house with the rest of the US Sailing Team. Our house is halfway between the main dining hall and the International Zone, which is kind of like downtown. The International Zone has a video arcade, gymnasium, movie theater, and another dining hallall for free. The main dining hall is a huge tent that must span at least three acres. It's open 24 hours a day and you can find just about anything imaginable to eat.