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Countdown to Beijing: Preview Quingdao – Sailing Site for the Olympics

Congratulations and a wish for fair winds and smooth seas goes to the Dominican Republic’s Raul Aguayo, one of 356 sailors from 53 nations who will compete in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, sailed August 9 to 21 out of Quingdao, China.

Aguayo, who will race in the Laser Class, is the lone sailor from his island and the Caribbean to qualify for this year’s Games.

“Knowing that I made it to the Olympics is an incredible feeling,” says Aguayo, who was profiled in the November 2007 issue of All at Sea. “Seeing something, that was once a far away dream that at times seemed almost impossible to achieve, become a reality is great. A lot of hard work and sacrifices are paying off.”

What will Aguayo and other Caribbean sailing fans that visit China this summer find? Here’s a preview.

The seaport city of Qingdao – the capital of China’s northeastern Shandong Province – sits about 550 miles south of Beijing, where the majority of Olympic events will be staged. Qingdao’s history, both past and present, is intricately linked to the sea. Jiaozhou Bay is a former German treaty port. Today, it boasts an expansive shopping district flanked by colonial-style buildings and tree-lined avenues. A legacy from the Germans is the Tsingtao Brewery, China’s largest beer-making facility, which manufactures globally-distributed Tsingtao beer.

Interestingly, Qingdaofest, also known as the Qingdao International Beer Festival will kick-off the second week of August and last 16 days or just about simultaneously with the Olympic sailing. Known as the largest hops fest in China, it will include beer drinking competitions, parties, entertainment, and dozens of food and beer stalls representing countries from all around the world to keep Olympic spectators busy when the sailing is done for the day.
 
The heart of the sailing action will take place out of the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center. This US$436 million facility has been newly built on the 111-acre site of the former Beihai dockyard in Fushan Bay. Main buildings on the site include the Qingdao Olympic Village, Athletes Center, Administration Center, Media Center and Logistics Center. The Olympic Village (set to become a five-star resort after the Games), Athlete and Administration Centers are grouped close together to the north of the venue. The 100,000-square-foot boat park separates these areas from the Media Center, which is located to the south near the breakwater. The breakwater is 1800-foot long and provides a high-capacity and well-sighted viewing area. To the east is the Logistics Center, while the Olympic Memorial Dock where the Olympic Torch will be staged, is to the west.

There will be five separate sailing courses, each with a diameter of one nautical mile, in and around Jiangquan Bay, Fushan Bay and outside Damai Island.

According to the International Sailing Federation, the 2008 Games will introduce a new format across all 11 sailing events. The sailing competition for each event will consist of an opening series and a medal race. During the opening series, competitors score points equivalent to the position in which they finished the race (i.e. first place scores one point, second place two points). The series score of each boat is the total of their race scores, except for a throw-out discarded after five races are completed. The top ten boats, i.e. the ten boats with the lowest series score at the end of the opening series, progress to the Medal Race. Competition is over for the remaining boats and the positions from 11 upwards are final.

The Medal Races, set for August 16 to 21, are sailed over a shorter course close in to the shore, with a race target time of approximately 30 minutes. Scores in the Medal Race are doubled (i.e. two points for first place, four points for second place etc) and any penalty scores (i.e. crossing the line early, kinetics etc) are calculated based on a fleet size of ten. The Medal Race is officiated by on-the-water umpires, with sailors required to make any protests during the race. The top ten competitors’ scores from the Medal Race are added to their score from the opening series to decide the final positions. Any ties in the overall score at the end of the Medal Race shall be broken in favor of the boat that recorded the better finish in the Medal Race.

The 11 classes for the 2008 Olympics consist of four classes for men, four for women and three mixed classes that are open to both men and women. New this year, the Neil Pryde RS:X replaces the Mistral for both Men’s and Women’s sailboard, and the Laser Radial replaces the Europe as the Women’s single-handed dinghy. The other classes will be sailed in Laser Standards, 470 for both Men and Women, Stars, Yngling, 49er, Finn and Tornado. This Olympics is the last for the Tornado and a multihull boat.

Aguayo says, “I plan to arrive in China around July 23rd, after taking some rest at home following regattas in Germany. It’s been and will be such a busy schedule. I’m trying to do the right things to be in top shape for the Games and represent my country and the Caribbean region.”

Qingdao, as one of the co-host cities of the Beijing Games, will be holding its own Opening and Closing Ceremonies. These will take place the day after and the day before the Ceremonies in Beijing, on August 9 and 23.

If you’re not able to travel to China, stay tuned to the live action by visiting http://www.sailing.org/20303.php

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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