Martha Masons Olympic Commentary
The Olympic Regatta continues in Sydney Harbour in bright, perfect weather conditions. Even the faint pall of smoke from nearby bush fires can't dampen the spirits of the sailors and their supporters. And the wind, which had been frustratingly light for the first two days of sailing, has filled in nicely.
The Solings had Thursday off as a lay day. The fifth and sixth Soling races, held on Wednesday, completed the feet-racing schedule, which served to eliminate the last four boats and whittle the field of 16 competitors down to 12. These 12 boats will start a series of round-robin match racing to determine the ultimate winner. For these matches, the ranking among the 12 boats is important, as the first six teams get to sit out and wait while the last six compete. The three winners of that round will then move on to challenge the boats in ranks 4, 5, and 6, while the top three continue to rest and practice. Finally, the winners of the second round will meet the top three boatsNorway, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. The US, Russia, and Australia, in fourth, fifth and sixth place, will also be grateful for the extra days. Jesper Bank of Denmark, who was predicted by many to win a medal, just barely made it into the surviving 12, pulling an essential fourth place in the last race. Norway, with a solid first place guaranteed, was able to sit out the sixth race and go home early.
Domingo Manrique, the middle crew for the historically strong Spanish team, attributed his teams last-place finish to slow boat speed and the light winds. Although they came in eighth and sixth on Wednesday, when the wind started at about 13 knots and stayed above six for the rest of the day, they were not able to overcome the deficit created by their two last places from the day before. "In that light air, we just could not make the boat go," said Manrique.
Also on the outside course on Wednesday were the 470s, visible as small white specs from the vantage point of the Soling course. Racing in the Harbour yesterday were the Lasers, the 49ers, the Europes, and the Finns. The new gennakers for the 49ers have arrived and were in use, and while they don't sport the flags of each nation, they are in solid bright colors of yellow, blue, white, red, and even black. With another clear day forecast for Friday, the smaller boats should have another great day of sailing.