Olympic wind woes may force longer event

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2006, 12:00am

An extended racing schedule may help solve the problem of worryingly light wind conditions in Qingdao, venue for the 2008 Olympic sailing events, said Hong Kong team coach Rene Appel.

Appel, who has just returned with his charges from Qingdao after competing in the National Championships, said light winds were predominant at the Olympic course.

'We could compete in only six of the scheduled 11 races in Qingdao and the wind conditions are a concern,' said Appel, who returns to Qingdao with his boardsailors next month for the Olympic test event.

'But there are still two years to go before the Olympic events and it is too early to say how it will affect the games.

'The test events will possibly give us more information on the wind conditions as they are to be raced in the same month as the Olympic Games and the conditions should be similar.' The six races that were staged at the National Championships were all held under light wind conditions of less than 10 knots.

Appel, who coached Hong Kong's Lee Lai-shan to an Olympic gold medal at the Atlanta Games in 1996, said one way around the problem would be for the organisers to extend the duration of the event.

Scheduling more lay-off days in between racing days would allow help to make up any backlog.

'They can have more reserve days so they can catch up with the schedule in case there is not enough wind,' said the coach. 'But I would first wait for the test events next month so I can learn more about the conditions.'

In Athens, two races were held in one day, followed by a lay day, and it took 11 days to finish the event.

Appel said organisers in Qingdao could schedule a two-week period in order to play safe.

According to guidelines provided by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), windsurfing events should not be started in wind conditions under six knots.

Dennis Chau Wai-keung, executive director of the Hong Kong Windsurfing Association, said: 'We know there are going to be light wind conditions in Qingdao and it is just a question of how to prepare for the games under such conditions, especially as we will race in new RS:X equipment.'