Rio de Janeiro, Brazil- Luca Devoti reports about the Olympic fever that is quickly building up in Rio. Former ISAF president Paul Henderson writes about the Sydney 2000 magical atmosphere.
Here we are… less than thirty days to the Olympics. Every sailor approaches the Olympic Games in a totally different way to all other sports, as local knowledge and conditions play a big role… and also because sailors love to travel and go around the world.
Rio is tough though, with mainly light winds. We should be in winter but it is quite hot; the city is stressfull and athletes are keeping their weight low, some of them living on salad only. The elimination game has already started and only a few will be fully focused and sharp at the Games.
When I see the tired faces of some of them, I really think my 2000 approach was far better. I just arrived a few days before the Games, did some shopping and walking around Sydney to make sure I had the best Aussie red wines and to get over the jet lag. I did not even go the marina until five days prior to the Games and took the Games as a normal regatta, though I was fully charged up and happy. By the way, I was lucky as I had some magic friends helping me out when I needed it. What to say about Peter Harken and Paul Henderson, the pope? They took me to the bar of the nearby yacht club after a terrible fourth race, when I most needed it, after such a bad result that made me so angry that I sent all Italian press to hell… One of them dared to ask me how I could have scored a 17th then two second places and then an 18th again. He said I was not consistent enough, and he ended up being insulted pretty badly by me… my fourth start was ruined by a crazy collision that only a disturbed athlete could generate, and believe it or not, the disturbed athlete was not me that time…
So here we are, the phenomenal Robert Scheidt has just won the last pre-regatta in the Laser, looking as good as when he was twenty years old in the boat…but feeling all his forty plus years once off the boat. Santi Lange, at 53, is still sailing fast in the Nacra. Brutal Giles Scott is waiting to take over from Ben, and it will not be at all easy this time. Jake Lilley is flying back to Australia for a week of pampering to recharge his batteries. Fantela and the argentinian in the 470 are traning every day with good energy, while Matt Belcher looks skinnier than ever and Echavarry is preparing for the Games as a outsider with great chances.
Rio will have a lot of new Olympic champions, and some of them will be totally unexpected. Current and excess of information are doing more damage than good to most of them as the best tactical approach here is to keep your eyes open and react to what you see and feel.
I have the unfortunate ability to attract bizarre geniuses like Luca Devoti and Peter Harken.
The trouble, especially with these two, is it is hard to become their friend but once obtained, impossible to get rid of them.
At the Sydney Olympics Peter “Koon” Harken and I were walking through the boat park past the media scrum and there was Luca screaming at the Italian sailing media. Harken and I asked Luca what his trouble was.
He was not doing well after the first two races and could not stand all the coaches, managers, meteorologists and other hanger-ons telling him how to sail. He was the Olympian and he knew how to race a Finn.
Harken looked at me and we decided to save our friend Luca.
As ISAF President I could go anywhere and Harken had already staked out the Cruising Club of Australia next door to the Sydney Olympic Marina at Rushcutter’s Bay. “Koon” likes a party, as does Luca we decided.
We grabbed Luca, pulled him away from his tirade to the Italian sailing media, and dragged him kicking and screaming to the CCA.
As usual, the after the race volunteer party was in full swing. Luca immediately relaxed and had a great evening. Luca, Harken and I spent many more nights at the Cruising Club of Australia.
Luca left the Italian Olympic Team pre-race and post race briefings to others and was then very civil to the Italian sailing media.
By the way Luca Devoti won the Sydney 2000 Olympic Silver Medal in the Finn dinghy.
I had the honour of presenting it to him at the Medal Ceremony in front of the Sydney Opera House.
A Sailor and by the way ISAF Past President