Rio holds its breath, then winds roar across Olympic courses
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) The Olympic wind gods held their breath, and then exhaled all at once.
First there was too little wind, and then too much.
Almost as if someone had flipped a switch, a strong wind from the southwest blew across the Rio de Janeiro Games sailing courses late Monday afternoon, causing mayhem and postponing the medal race in the women's Laser Radial.
Boats swamped on the ocean courses and even on Guanabara Bay, where the Laser Radial fleet hoped to get in its medal race before officials decided it was too windy. It was postponed until Tuesday.
The fleet was scheduled to sail at 1 p.m., followed by the men's Laser at 2. Both fleets stayed on the beach for several hours because there was no wind. The men's race was postponed until Tuesday, and the women's race was on the cusp of being postponed when the wind rose. The boats went out into the whitecaps but with gusts hitting 25 knots, officials called it off.
''Everybody expected it for tonight so it came a bit early,'' said Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands, who has an eight-point lead and is looking to upgrade the silver medal she won at the 2012 London Games.
''We're used to it that we get postponed and wait for wind, but I think nobody thought we'd actually get canceled by too much wind, so that's quite funny,'' she said.
One Laser Radial blew over.
''That was me,'' offered Ireland's Annalise Murphy, who sits in third place and is looking to overcome the disappointment of missing a medal four years ago.
Now there will be four medal races on Tuesday: Laser Radial, Laser, men's Finn and the mixed b 17 catamarans.
The men's 49er fleet got in three races. New Zealand's Peter Burling and Blair Tuke went 2-3-1 to increase their lead over Germany's Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel. Defending gold medalists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen of Australia had a good day to jump into third place.
Burling said the wind hit 40-45 knots just after the final race ended.
''The boat was going really fast and there were some beautiful conditions out there, but we got hit pretty hard by a massive squall on the way in,'' he said. ''Everyone here is pretty cold and we have a fair bit of work to do on the boats and check them over.''
Did they stay upright?
''No,'' said Burling, who also serves as helmsman of Emirates Team New Zealand in the America's Cup. ''We struggled to stay up with just the pole up.''
Outteridge said the conditions ''were awesome'' before the squall hit, giving the fleet some stable racing.
When the big wind hit, Outteridge said he and Jensen tied their skiff to the support boat and quickly lowered their sails.
As Aussies like to say, the wind was strong enough to blow dogs off chains.
''We got belted at the end,'' said Outteridge, helmsman for Sweden's Artemis Racing in the America's Cup. ''We were pretty fortunate that the race had finished before we were belted. I think everyone has some form of damage to their boats, whether it's a bit of wear and tear on the sails, to people probably lost sails out there because it got that windy.
''We did a very good job of just making sure we didn't get any damage to the boat.''
In the women's 49erFX, Spain's Tamara Echegoyen Dominguez and Berta Betanzos Moro went 4-1-1 to take a four-point lead over New Zealand's Alex Maloney and Molly Meech. It's another point back to Brazil's Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze.
Dominguez said a number of 49erFX skiffs capsized, but not them.
''Our coach told us to put our main down as fast as possible,'' she said.