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Tokyo2020: Day 3 - Typhoon's tail delivers a fickle breeze to Enoshima

by Richard Gladwell/ 27 Jul 2021 12:42 BST 27 July 2021
Tokyo2020 - Day 3 - July, 27, - Enoshima, Japan. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) 49er © Richard Gladwell - / nz

The visit of tropical storm Nepartak was awaited with a degree of amused interest.

But it was a big disappointment to pull open the curtains on the Hotel Wing International - one of two facilities approved by the Government of Japan, no less, for the housing of international sailing media. A glance outside across the rooftops of Fujisawa, from our tenth floor window, revealed that all typhoon Nepartak had produced was a shower of rain.

There appeared to be no wind, but on arrival at the media centre, a brisk breeze was blowing but hardly of cyclonic proportions.

Yesterday we passed uneventfully through Checkpoint Charlie, the new pass-through for all sailing media following the implementation of Tokyo2020's new venue management system. Our name was on The List. The Japanese are an exceedingly obedient people, and if your name is on The List - you're fine. If not then Heaven help you, because clearly you're not on The List for a reason, and no amount of fast talking will extricate you from that.

For the second day in a row I had am armband inspection, in the media centre. Followed shortly afterwards by two men waving a sign in front of me telling me to make sure I didn't have any Hot-Spots active on my phone, and getting confirmation that I had not transgressed. The fact that I was in the middle of writing a story, was on a deadline to catch a photoboat seemed to completely pass them by.

Today, after catching the early bus - provided to transfer sailing media from their hotels to their place of work, in the media centre, we arrived early at Checkpoint Charlie - ahead of the arrival of The List, and to our name, number, rank and organisation was on it - buried on the bottom of Page 2.

Today the Olympic regatta stepped up a couple of levels with the addition of the Finn class, 49er and 49er FX

All classes raced on the inshore courses of Enoshima and Kamakura, except for the Laser and Laser Radial which were offshore.

Quite why these inshore courses are used in an offshore breeze is more than a little difficult to understand - particularly so in the dying stages of a typhoon, which is notorious for fickle winds.

Today the left-over typhoon breeze was as stated on the packet - hugely variable in strength, and direction.

Probably not visible on TV, are the passage of sharp edged squalls across the water. It was obvious that it was substantially stronger than the surrounding zones of wind - and you either got the benefit of increased breeze as it moved though the racing area - or you missed out - with all the consequences that carries in terms of medal aspirations.

The wind readings on the official reports are very optimistic, and give the impression that there is a steady breeze of significant strength. That is far from the case on courses that are inexplicably set up a biscuit throw from shore - with the prevalence of high ground and significant buildings to block, direct and concentrate the breeze.

At this stage of the regatta, the results should not be taken too seriously. Most of the fancied crews have shown their true form, but are not yet able to string a series together. Significantly most at in the top three of the points table have had a double digit score early in the regatta. That means they don't have the capacity to score another one and be standing on the medal podium at the end of the week.

Other top crews are obviously short of a gallop, and in normal times they would have gone into this regatta with a solid program of international sailing being them. However COVID has been a great leveller. As they say in Cricket, "class is permanent and form is temporary", and the question remains as to whether the Class Sailors have enough time in the regatta to find Form and stand on the podium. Or will some new Stars be born?

It is obvious that many are lacking that sharp edge on their racecraft - doing things right that should be second nature. We saw this in the first two races of the 49erFX, when Olympic Silver medalist Alex Maloney missed hooking on her trapeze, and fell overboard - dropping the Kiwis from being in contact with the front of the fleet to being in very close contact with the tailenders.

Similarly in the next race with Rio Gold medalists Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, who had the misfortune to have their gennaker sheet ends untied, which promptly fouled their rudder - with the same outcome as for Maloney and Meech.

Over on the Finn course, on the couple of legs we watched, the fleet plugged their way upwind in the light, while over to the right a series of sharp well defined squalls moved down the race course. No whitecaps in their centre, but certainly there was some oomph.

As the Finns rounded the top mark and gave cheery waves to the nearby spectators ashore, they started the downwind doddle before connecting with the passing squalls and roared down the run, with white water flying. Upwind the Finn showed why it is a Man's boat, with the big fit athletes powering the classic Olympic singlehander up the beat. It's a sight that will never be seen again at the Sailing Olympics.

We returned to the Enoshima course - close to the Olympic marina - to find the 49ers waiting for the wind to make its presence felt. Eventually it did, and we saw, as with other classes the form sailors struggled. In this case defending Olympic champions and double America's Cup winners, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who rounded the top mark in second to last place, recovering to finish 12th.

The next race started, but was abandoned midway as the wind shifted twice through 70 degrees, and the race officials were unable to "walk the course" sufficiently to call it a fair race, and the abandonment signal was flown. The fleet restarted in a now westerly wind (seabreeze), Burling and Tuke found themselves in mid-fleet again, but had the temerity to try something different, splitting away from the fleet on the firstly downwind and made a small gain. Fortuitously that race was also abandoned.

Then it was a fast ride out to the outer extremity of the course, bypassing the fish farms which separate one group of three courses from the other three, to take in a leg or two of the second to last race of the day, for the Mens Laser. The breeze seemed to be fine and racing, close. Too close rounding the leeward mark, it would seem, such was the altercation level between the sailors watched closely by Jury boats. If anyone did penalties out of that shemozzle, we didn't see it.

Tomorrow the 470's Men and Women get underway, along with the Mixed crew Nacra 17.

What the day will bring is anyone's guess, but we're hoping for that racing backdrop of Mt Fuji, which has yet to make an appearance this regatta.

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