'Sail with Heart. Sail to Success,' is proclaimed on billboards, posters, banners and flags that seem to stretch from the Qingdao airport all the way to the Olympic Village. Once you arrive at the expansive sailing venue, you see all of the sailors that have been sailing with passion.
Some have been sailing with passion since Barcelona, Atlanta or Sydney, while others have been sailing hard since Athens. Virtually every athlete in Qingdao competed in the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cascais, Portugal in July. Many of them participated in the 2006 Olympic Test Event in Qingdao last year. All of them have sailed with passion to earn the opportunity to represent their country at the Good Luck Beijing 2007 Sinopec Qingdao International Regatta.
According to locals and some of the sailors who were here last year, the weather during the past two days has been unusual. We have had rain - enough to sink a coach boat one night earlier this week. We've had quite a bit of visibility. We have had some outbursts of strong winds. A cold front came through on Saturday night, bringing cooler, drier air and nice northerly breeze. The Tornadoes were flying hulls, the 49ers were zipping around Fushan Bay, the Ynglings had full spinnakers, and the RS:X sailors were skimming over the tops of white caps in the afternoon. However, many of the sailors are expecting light air and shifty conditions. With the added complication of strong currents, smart and tactical sailors should prevail. Assuming that several races are held in each of the eleven Olympic Classes, it is unlikely, but not unheard of, for a long shot to win the regatta.
The sailors in Qingdao are here for many reasons. Some of them know that they will be their country's representative to at the 2008 Olympic Games, but they may never have sailed here before. For them, it is a chance to get acquainted with China, Qingdao, the venue, the conditions, accommodations, food and every other detail that goes into winning an Olympic medal. As champion athletes, they want to do well but this may not be a 'peak' event. For others, such as members of the US Team, this regatta is sandwiched between the World Championships and the do or die, Olympic Trials. This regatta represents an information gathering opportunity, but their focus is on the Trials in early October. For still other sailors, doing well in this regatta will help them, but not guarantee, that they will return to Qingdao next year for the Olympic Games.
We have collectively pondered last year's results, the ISAF Rankings, the recent World Championships, light air sailing ability, small fleet tactics, physical conditioning, mental state, motivations and a host of other variables to make some predictions, but these predictions are far less scientific that even weather forecasts in Qingdao. Here is a list of teams to watch, but realize that everybody here sails with heart and has made a career of sailing to success.
Yuanguo ZHOU (CHN) - familiar with local conditions
Nick DEMPSEY (GBR) good in all conditions, third at 2007 Worlds, won bronze in Athens, eighth at 2006 pre-Olympic Event, hasn't finished out of the top ten in quite a while
Joao RODRIGUES (POR) current ISAF Ranking #2, fourth at 2007 Worlds, sixth in Athens, new to venue
Julien BONTEMPS (FRA) - current ISAF ranking #10, seventh at the 2007 worlds, ninth in Athens
Sahar ZUBARI (ISR) - current ISAF ranking #15, hasn't finished out of the top 10 this year.
Jian YIN (CHN) - familiar with local conditions, won silver in Athens, third at 2006 pre-Olympic Event
Barbara KENDALL (NZL) - fifth in Athens, has not finished out of the top 5 during the past year
Jessica CRISP (AUS) - third at 2007 Worlds, has always been on the leaderboard and has a very long wind surfing history
Faustine MERRET (FRA) - current ISAF Ranking #6, won the gold in Athens, formidable sailing record for over a decade.
These women are particularly good in difficult conditions.
Nico DELLE - KARTH and Nikolaus RESCH (AUY) - second at the 2007 Worlds
Peter HANSEN and Soren HANSEN (DEN) - fourth at 2006 pre-Olympic event
Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP) - gold in Athens
Stevie MORRISON and Ben RHODES (GBR) - coming off a win at the 2007 Worlds, sixth at 2006 pre-Olympic event
Pietro SIBELLO and Gianfranco SIBELLO (ITA) - seventh at 2006 pre-Olympic event
Rodion LUKA and Georgii LEONCHUK (UKR) - silver in Athens, third at 2006 pre-Olympic event
Morgan LARSON and Pete SPAULDING (USA) sailing well
Nathan OUTTERIDGE and Ben AUSTIN (AUS) - third at 2007 Worlds. Many of the 49er teams are new to this venue.
Chris COOK (CAN) - seventh at the 2007 Worlds, having a good year
Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN) - always in the top six since the beginning of 2006
Rafa TRUJILLO (ESP) - first at 2007 Worlds, silver medal at Athens Olympic Games, seventh at 2006 pre-Olympic event
Ben AINSLIE (GBR) - first at the 2006 pre-Olympic event, first at Athens and Sydney Olympic Games, second at Atlanta (latter two in the Laser)
Daniel SLATER (NZL) - having a good year, World Ranked #4, eighth at 2006 pre-Olympic event
Eduaid SKORNYAKOV (RUS) - first at the 2007 European Championships
Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED) - second at 2007 World Championships, having an exceptional year.
Thomas LE BRETON (FRA) - eighth at the 2007 World Championship
Paul GOODISON (GBR) - first at 2006 pre-Olympic event, fourth at Athens Olympic Games, fifth at 2007 World Championship
Andrew MURDOCH (NZL) - third at 2006 pre-Olympic event, second at 2007 World Championships
Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO) - third at Athens Games, fifth at 2006 pre-Olympic event
Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) - he has had a string of first and second place finishes since 2004, top ranked ISAF Laser sailor, 2007 World Champion.
Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA) - fifth at 2007 World Championships, third at 2006 pre-Olympic event, top ranked Laser Radial sailor
Katarzyna SZOTYNSKA (POL) - fourth at 2007 World Championships, fifth at 2006 pre-Olympic event
Evi VAN ACKER (BEL) has won numerous events over the past year and a half.
Johan MOLUND and Niels FLOHR (SWE) - fourth at Athens, has been on hiatus since, but is showing great form and is in the right frame of mind
Pierre LEBOUCHER and Vincent GAROS (FRA) - top ten in every regatta
Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) - first at 2006 pre-Olympic event, eighth at 2007 World Championship, second at Athens
Gideon KLIGER and Ehud GAL (ISR) - fifth at 2006 pre-Olympic event, third at 2007 World Championship
Daeyoung KIM and Dongwoo lee (KOR) - second at 2006 pre-Olympic event
Sven COSTER and Kalle COSTER (NED) - second at 2007 World Championship, sixth at Athens Games.
Elise RECHICHI and Tessa PARKINSON (AUS) - extremely fast in light air
Emmanuelle ROL and Anne-Sophie THILO (SUI) - great in light air, fifth at 2007 Europeans
Therese TORGERSSON and Vebdela SACHRISSON (SWE) - first at 2006 pre-Olympic event, fifth at 2007 World Championships, third at Athens Games
Ai KONDO and Haoko KAMATA (JPN) - fast in light air
Rusland TARAN and Olena PAKHOLCHYK (UKR) - most experienced team
Marcelien DE KONING and Lobke BERKHOUT (NED) - have won three World Championships in a row.
Robert SCHEIDT and Bruno PRADA (BRA) - first at 2007 Worlds
Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA) - second at 2007 Worlds, won 2003 and 2005 World Championships, world #1 crew
Fredrik LOOF and Anders EKSTROM (SWE) - eighth at 2007 World Championships, 2004 World Champions, smart in light air
Flavio MARAZZI and Christoph CHRISTEN (SUI) - sailing fast in light air.
Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT) won Olympic gold medal in Athens and Sydney, third in 2006 pre-Olympic event, best light air team
Fernando ECHAVARRI and Anton PAZ (ESP) - won the 2007 Worlds, world #2 crew
Xavier REVIL and Christophe ESPAGNON (FRA) - sailing well recently, good in light air
Francesco MARCOLINI and Edoardo BIANCHI (ITA) - sailing well and fast in these conditions.
Little differences in boatspeed will make big differences in regatta performance.
Sarah AYTON, Sarah WEBB and Pippa WILSON (GBR) - 2007 World Champions and world #2 crew, fourth at 2006 pre-Olympic event
Sally BARKOW, Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI (USA) - World #1 crew, extremely consistent
Xiaqun SONG, Xiaoni LI and Yanli YU (CHN) - Third at 2006 pre-Olympic event