Martha Masons Olympic CommentarySunday Update The weather today in Sydney, Australia, set the scene for some exhilarating sailing, especially for the Tornado Class. The boats easily handled the choppy seas and the brisk wind of about 13 knots from the southeast.
In fast conditions, flying along with one hull high out of the water, the Tornadoes put on a great show for the spectators. The Australian teams first-place finish was enough to give them the silver medal, with the gold and bronze going to Austria and Germany, respectively. Once the racing was over, the boats made a high-speed run back into the harbor, providing thrilling views for any spectators with enough horsepower to stay with the fleet.
Meanwhile, in the calmer harbor area, the Mistrals were finishing their racing in fine style. At the end of the day the Italian had secured the gold medal for the women, and the Austrians took the top honor for the men.
Nearby, the Soling Class had a long series of match races scheduled. It was a tough day for the US skipper Jeff Madrigali and his crew. Losing four out of their five races, the team was prevented from continuing in the series. However, there was some fine aggressive action in the pre-starts, which gave the fans some anxious and exciting moments. Most memorable for US fans was the race in which the American boat, entering the pre-start area at the opposite end from its competitor, failed to give way, incurring a penalty. In the ensuing battle for position, and in trying to force the other side to commit an equalizing foul, Madrigali and his crew got a second flag. This required two penalty turns during the race, a deficit too difficult to overcome. The three countries that will proceed on to challenge Norway, New Zealand, and The Netherlands are Denmark, Germany, and Russia.
Monday Update It was a cold raw evening in Sydney last night, but that didn't dampen the spirits of the jubilant winners in the first of the Olympic sailing medal ceremonies. The gala event occurred on the plaza in front of the Sydney Opera House, complete with white-suited military band playing various nautical themes and national anthems.
The now-familiar gold, silver, and bronze podiums were set up right on the plaza, and the awards were presented with some fanfare and lots of fist pumping and flower waving to the winners of the Mistrals, 49ers, and Tornadoes.
The Women's Mistral awards went to Italy, Germany, and New Zealand. The US competitor Lanee Butler came in fourth. The Men's Mistral medals were won by Austria, Argentina, and New Zealand, which gave the local Kiwi fans two bronzes to cheer about.
The gold medal for the Tornado Class was presented to the delighted Austrians, who came away with their second gold in sailing in one night. But just as elated were the hometown Australians, who dispensed with their flower bouquets and waved stuffed kangaroos instead. The bronze-winning Germans were also animated and joined with the Aussies to carry the Austrians around on their shoulders.
Finally, in the 49er class, the top prize went to Finland, for that countrys first sailing gold medal in 20 years. They were followed by Great Britain and the US. Jonathan and Charlie McKee looked very much at home on the Olympic podium and the US flag flew briskly in the fresh cool breeze. All in all, it was a very colorful event, staged for an appreciative crowd.
Earlier in the day the Stars had an interesting day, with fifth-place Bermuda winning a protest against first-place Spain. With 12 more races to go in this series, the Star Class has lots of good sailing ahead.