Olympic Commentary by Martha Mason
Now this is what we came here forexcellent sailing in sparkling clear weather surrounding a spectacular harbor city! Friday's racing provided perfect conditions for the spectators, with a friendly ocean outside the Heads, and clear (if a bit distant) viewing inside.
Finland's Thomas Johanson and Jyrki Jarvi wrapped up the 49er gold medal on Saturday when they took an unbeatable lead with one race remaining. That left Britons Ian Barker and Simon Hiscocks, who led by six points over brothers Jonathan and Charlie McKee of the US, to battle for silver and bronze in the final contest of the 16-race series. The McKees sailed aggressively from the start, knowing they needed to finish at least six places higher than the Brits to get the silver. They won the race, but ultimately the brothers had to settle for a bronze as Barker and Hiscocks finished in third.
Out in the ocean, the Stars lined up on Friday for a practice sail in light air and a slight sea, with the breeze blowing five to six knots from 60 degrees at the start. Fourteen competitors showed up for the tune-up day, although fewer than that chose to stick it out for the whole race. The Star competition promises to be one of the more exciting sailing events, and the anticipation is growing daily. As Timothy Patton, Team Manager for the Bermuda contingent put it, "There's a wealth of experience in the Star class and they all stand toe-to-toe." The formidable teams from the US and Bermuda will be up against the likes of Colin Beashel [Australia] and Torben Grael [Brazil], among other topnotch competitors, and there's no clear favorite at present. Time will tell.
Also out in the ocean, the Tornadoes were forced to wait for the wind to fill in, and the Finns utilized the same course as the Stars. Meanwhile, in the harbor, the 470s and Mistrals provided colorful action for the large parade of spectator boats. The on-water police tried hard to keep the viewers moving in a constant stream, but the slow speed at the various starts and top marks and finishes wasn't a problem for anyone.
Perhaps the most colorful sight was provided by the two large fleets of men's and women's Mistrals outlined against the far hillside. With the new rule allowing the competitors to "pump" the sail as they move along, the sailboards look like a mass of fluttering butterfly wings. In the women's, Lanee Butler, the US representative, is now in fourth place, but the mathematics will keep her out of the medals.
It is impossible to be everywhere watching everything at these Olympics, but no matter where you were, the viewing was great.