Qingdao, a city of 8 million people, has undergone a tremendous transition in preparation for the upcoming Olympic Games. Not only has the sailing venue undergone a renaissance from a shipyard, but hotels, office buildings and residential towers have sprung up in the past few years. The streetscape, especially near the waterfront has been beautified with wide sidewalks, lawns, flowers, trees, sculptures and flag poles. There is no question that China, Shandong Province and Qingdao have devoted astronomical resources to promote the event and subsequent economic development of the area.
All of the athletes appreciate the noticeable improvements made from year to year. Some of them have spent a lot of time on shore in advance of this regatta because they have been recovering from injuries. During this first official day of racing it will be interesting to hear how Sebbe GODEFROID (BEL) and Andrew PALFREY (AUS) fare. GODEFROID, who was second in the Tornado multihull event at the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cascais with his team mate Carolijn BROUWER, is recovering from a knee operation that was performed less than two weeks ago. BROUWER and GODEFROID are notable for a couple of reasons. They are the only co-ed team registered at the event and they are the most recognizable boat at the regatta. They scored what looks to be the biggest endorsement of any sponsor. Their red sails are emblazoned with the McDonald's logo. It's not just a panel, mind you. It's the entire sail!
While GODEFROID has been able to gather information by watching his team mate and coach practice together, PALFREY, crew for Iain MURRAY in the Australian Star keelboat team, has spent much of the time in Qingdao in his hotel room resting and staying out of the heat and humidity.
As the regatta kicks off, it will be interesting to watch the sailors who have spent most of their time sailing on lakes and protected bays rather than open water. Flavio MARAZZI and Christoph CHRISTEN (SUI) and Peter BROMBY and Lee WHITE (BER) set the example in yesterday's practice race. MARAZZI and CHRISTEN hail from a landlocked country and sail on lakes when they are not campaigning at various venues around the world. The boat that they are sailing was specially designed and built by MARAZZI for light air conditions. BROMBY and WHITE sail the only Star boat in their home country on Bermuda's Great Sound. For competition at home, they often sail Etchells out of Sandy's Boat Club, just a scooter ride away from BROMBY's house.
The forecast is for a hot day, with a southeasterly breeze between 5-8 knots across the five racing areas. The opening races of this year's Qingdao International Regatta are scheduled to start at 13:00.