Wednesday, July 18, 2007
We take a bus from the village to the sailing venue (that's what we Pan Ammers call the place where you compete.) In the morning it takes about 45 minutes to get there and in the afternoon it took us over an hour and a half. The route takes us around and under some mountains and into the financial center of Rio. On the way we pass incredible poverty. There are miles of makeshift buildings made of everything. Lots are made of cinder block, about 3-4 stories tall. They look like them might have started out in decent shape, but then the roofs caved in…and people kept living in them. There are no windows. There is no electricity. There is no roof. Hundreds of people still live in there and according to the books we've read, thousands more move in every year. What is the allure of urbanization? This is a sailing blog, so nobody probably wants to read what an ad guy has to say about poverty. Just understand that our bus had about 40 sailors from 6 different countries on it and our bus gets very quiet as we drive through that neighborhood. Makes you think about something other than which of the 5 rash guards in your sailing bag you're going to put on when you get to the boat.
We got to the water and unpacked the container. Everything was in perfect condition—just as we packed it. It was neat to unload a container with a group of people all of whom had a clue about how to do it and none of whom went and hid in the bathroom until the work was done. Everyone rigged and went sailing. Except the J-24 guys who sat on shore listening to an escalating list of times when they could expect their boat to be released from customs and delivered. It had to be tough to keep telling themselves that there were still 5 days until the sailing started to matter and nothing that happened today was going to impact how well they will do in any way.
We think the current will have perhaps the biggest impact on the sailing. We're sailing on a bay just East of downtown. You can look up and see the massive statue of Christ which we're planning to visit on the lay day. You can also see sugarloaf mountain over to the left. We're going to see that on Friday if we can. Anyway, the bay empties through a narrows just under Sugerloaf mountain and it's a giant bay, so there is lots of current there. We're sailing about 2 miles North of that. The charts say there should be over 3 feet of tide. You'd think with that much tide going in an out, it would be pretty clear which way it was moving. We were sailing on our course and dropping a sponge to check the current speed and direction. We thought it was going out (ebbing) the whole time we were sailing…until just before we came in when we thought it switched. Imagine our surprise and confusion when we found out that high tide was just after we came in. Oddest thing is that we were right, and the chart was right. It was ebbing where we were. It was just flooding on at least one of the edges. Tomorrow we gotta go looking around a little bit more. And have a longer look at the bottom contour
Tonight David and Jody and Tracy Smithwho's sailing Snipes down here with my roommate Augie hopped a Pan Ams bus and went to the swimming venue. It's amazing to just walk into a place like that through the competitor's entry. Backstage there is a 50 meter exercise pool and lots of mats for stretching and hundreds of showers for getting pool water off and bunches of 6-pack abs in flip-flops and those really long thermal coats walking around.
We went in and watched. The place has 2 levels of opposing grandstands. Opposing is literally right. The Brazilians sit on one side and yell like crazy for anyone from Brazil. On the other side is press and more civilians and then athletes. We met an American guy who was going to swim the 200-IM in 10 minutes, in an elevator. We told him we were sailors and he told us how to find our way to the right seats. Then he went out and won his heat with the fastest qualifying time in the preliminaries by 3 seconds. In the stands about 30 American swimmers were chanting USA and waving the flag. They had about 10 different very original cheers worked out. The best one was when all of them simulated riding in the same roller-coaster. Normally, the Brazilians boo them. In fact, we've been warned to expect to be boo'd all over the place. But even the crowd across the pool liked that one. We had a really great time and ended up riding the bus home with lots of the swimmers we'd just seen. Those awesome swimming machines…are about 19. And they're from Sandusky, Ohio or Bogotá. Tomorrow we're going to watch Badminton if we get home in time…or cycling.
That's really fun.
4 people asked me for pins today. We've been given pins by the USOC and by US Sailing. I gave them out. Incredible how that feels. I gave mine to two kitchen staffers and a guy who was doing parking at the sailing site. Then I saw people were trading them. Hmm…should have remembered that. I'll start tomorrow.
Sorry, I can't figure out how to caption the photos. Here's what they are:
• Our head coach Scott Ikle catching some ZZZs on the morning bus.
• A few shots of us unloading boats
• Me with a guy packing some heat doing security at the sailing site.
The Over And Under
Las Vegas oddsmakers have set the over and under on the number of times an athlete asks me for what sport I'm a coach or administrator at 27. It hasn't happened yet…but it will. I'm relatively certain it will happen first as I chat up a 6' tall blonde diver from the Netherlands Antilles in the pizza line.
There's a nice story about the Pan Am Games team on the front page of www.ussailing.org today. Check it out.
Tonight's "Neatest Thing That Happened Today" Dedicated to Camryn and Sabrina:
There were two finalists for today's award:
• Robert Scheidt (7 time World Champion, multiple Olympic Gold medalist, 3 time defending Pan AM Gold medalist in the Laser, current Star World Champion and Brazilian national hero) is sailing Lasers in these games. He's a God. He works harder than anyone and tomorrow we're going to introduce ourselves to him…hope he doesn't break my hand shaking his.
• We were sailing downwind and something that has never happened to me in about 38 years of sailing happened. I looked down below the spinnaker (get off my case, sometimes I do look away from it to look and see if any waves are coming that might collapse it) and I had to tell David to head off a bit to avoid a submarine. Yep a WWII vintage Brazilian (U-boat?) had surfaced and was heading directly for us. I'm told it wasn't big as far as subs go but it was much larger than a piece of drift wood or a bleach bottle, which is what I normally see. We missed it. But that was pretty cool. So that wins for today. Maybe after we introduce ourselves to Robert Scheidt he'll make the list tomorrow night.