Gael Pawson, editor of our UK site, uk.boats.com, brings word on the US team at the 2012 Games...
As a journalist, from time to time I’m very thankful that my focus is on sailing, and I’m sure the same applies to the sport’s athletes. One thing we can all be very thankful for, especially on a beautiful sunny day such as the one that greeted competitors for the first day of practice racing, is that rather than being based in London, we are on the coast in Weymouth, some 150 miles away, in the sleepy county of Dorset.
Here, it’s a whole different world of quaint old stone buildings, meandering streets, and traditional pubs. This is a historic seaside town, surrounded by green countryside, and the local accent carries some of the slower country twang that gets more pronounced the farther west you travel.
The opening ceremony for the London 2012 Games was unquestionably amazing; plenty of good old British humour -- a parachuting ‘Queen’ and James Bond -- interspersed with a history lesson, provided the athletes and spectators with an experience of a lifetime. And yet the contrast of returning from the hustle and bustle of London-town to the village atmosphere of Weymouth is huge. Everything is more relaxed here. Even the gun-toting security guards seem slightly more human. The bag searches feel less officious, the Games Makers (as London 2012 volunteers are called) more friendly, the athletes more approachable. Don’t get me wrong -- security is still ultra-tight, but everyone seems to have more time here.
Perhaps that’s what lulled US Finn class representative Zach Railey into a false sense of security...
Any sailor worth their salt knows it’s bad luck to win the practice race, and so it wasn’t surprising that Zach took the opportunity to explore the boundaries of the racing area… but he took his exploration a bit too far for the race committee’s liking. Slightly out of character with their relaxed surroundings, the race committee seemed to feel it was the ideal opportunity to practice invoking the full letter of the law. The committee lodged a protest against Railey for straying outside the "competition area." Apparently, Railey sailed beyond the competition area boundary for a few seconds during the second beat… Well, he didn’t finish the race anyway, and so the committee ruled he should not incur a penalty, but it’s an indication that while all is calm on the surface, there are intense times ahead as the battle for Olympic medals get underway.
Did you know? Weymouth is the only co-venue to have its own flame during the Games. The flame was lit after Saturday’s practice racing ahead of the first races, which start on Sunday, July 29.
The first start on Sunday will be for the Finn class at 1200 BST. Racing will also take place for the Star and women’s match racing – where the US team goes in as favourites, facing Denmark in the first of their round-robin matches.
Editors' Note: Gael will be providing special reports on the US Sailing Team throughout the events in Weymouth.