Well, here it is, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The long wait is over. All the anticipation. The trepidation. The first races have been sailed. It has begun.
The first day saw Ali Young taking part in her third Olympic Games, and on the opposite end of the spectrum there were Olympic debuts for Tom Squires, Emma Wilson and Elliot Hanson.
Heat has always been a hot topic (sorry for the pun!) ahead of the Games and the first day didn’t disappoint – it was 32 degrees. Something that did change though was the weather the sailors had experienced in the training period. There was a wind swing to offshore from the effects of a tropical storm and was holding around 10-13 knots NE.
First to take to the water were Ali in the Radial and Tom in the RS:X
Ali started conservatively in the opening race and never really recovered her position finishing in 24th. The second race she showed all her experience to bounce back with an eighth after a delay waiting for the sea breeze. That means a 14th place in the standings after day 1.
Tom would have been hoping he read the wind speed wrong when he woke up for his first ever day of Olympic racing. Tom excels in the strong winds so toward the lighter end of the spectrum isn’t something he will want to see every day. But for his debut in the summer showpiece, in his less favoured conditions, he came out of the day quite well.
A scorecard of 9-13-(14) leaves Tom also in 14th place in the standings.
At 22 Emma Wilson is the youngest in the Olympic sailing team. It’s also her first Olympic appearance. If she had any nerves it didn’t show!
Emma started with a fifth before moving it up a notch to take second place in the second race of the day. Adding another strong finish of sixth leaves the debutant sitting nicely in fourth overall at the end of day one.
The last to go out was Elliot Hanson and the Laser fleet. They managed just the one race today as the winds were too light and shifty toward the end of the race day, and that means with a fifth-place race finish Elliot sits fifth overall.
All four will go again tomorrow, and most likely Elliot will have an extra race to make up for the lost one today. But let’s leave that to the powers that be to organise the schedule.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Tom Squires, 27, from Kingston Bagpuize, Oxfordshire, said:
“Today was filled with anxiety and pressure going into my first Games. I was nervous in a way. I had so many different feelings and you don’t get that very often, whatever it may be. Anxious. Nervous. Excited. All those things mixed together.
“To get off the start line was such a relief and then get into what I know which is windsurf racing. I’m not so good in the light winds and we had two light wind races at the start. I have to go twice as hard as everyone else.
“Their long races, about 20 minutes each. And I kind of blew up about five minutes in so I had to recover that. But just to get an average result at the start feels good.
“I don’t think the feeling of being an Olympian is going to settle for a few weeks, maybe even years, but it doesn’t change anything for me. I just love windsurfing and racing.
“The wind is supposed to be picking up and I’m supposed to be better in the bigger breeze because I’m a bigger guy. I love windsurfing in ‘proper’ windsurfing conditions if you know what I mean.
“I feel much more settle in myself to move forwards through the week. It’s a long week. It’s amazing how you can get distracted by loads of different things and forget about the real basics. I look forward to just doing the basic things to get back up the leaderboard after a light wind day.”
Ali Young, 34, from Bewdley, Worcestershire, said:
“It was pretty hot. It was two very different races with quite big change in the conditions. It’s not a standout start to the regatta but its reasonable considering some people put in some pretty big scores today.
“It’s good to get racing and into the swing of things. It’s fun to be out on the water and thankful for the opportunity.
“The forecast is changing quite a bit so we will have to wait and see what the next week brings, but I’m just thankful to be here and thankful to the National Lottery for making it happen.”
Emma Wilson, 22, from Christchurch, Dorset, said:
“It’s been pretty physical out there, really physical. The first race we had quite nice wind and by the last one it was literally pump as hard as you can and just keep pumping. It was pretty tiring, but we train every day for it, so we kind of expected it.
“It’s really cool, my first Olympics and a first day like that – I couldn’t have asked for more, I’m just really enjoying it. I’m not nervous anymore. I was nervous before, but now I’m just looking forward to chilling out a bit and coming back tomorrow.
“The key to consistency out on the racecourse was to be in the moment, to enjoy it and to keep pumping hard. The plan is to recover, come back tomorrow and do the same.”
Elliot Hanson, 27, from Macclesfield, Cheshire, said:
“It’s great to be underway. There’s obviously a lot of anticipation built up, certainly over the last couple of days but equally over the last 18 months – or definitely over the last 12 months when the Games were postponed. So it’s great to be off the mark, out the blocks and out the box well more importantly.
“We’re now only 10% through the racing – one race out of ten so far – but I’m out of the blocks well, so I just need to find my stride for the rest of the race and hopefully finish well.
“To be honest, I haven’t even noticed [if anyone was struggling] and the last three weeks we’ve been sailing out here the guys struggling could be any one of the top ten guys who are here – it is the nature of our fleet and the nature of the conditions we’ve got in Enoshima so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a varied set of up and down results for everyone over the coming week especially if we continue to get this set of conditions.
“The best man at the end of the week will be the one who has stayed consistent and managed to perform on any given day, or in any given condition that’s thrown at us.
“I always try to learn something every day when I’m out on the water and part of that is because when you’ve been sailing a Laser for 10 years or more it’s a nice way not to stagnate in the class and to feel like you’re continuing to learn.
“The biggest problem for me is that today I was a debut Olympian and tomorrow I’ll go in with twice as many days’ experience, but as soon as you’re out on the water it’s just like any other sailing event.
“A lot of the background noise in on shore, but as soon as you’re out there and used to racing against the same guys, the wind and water don’t know it’s the Olympics so it’s just a case of tackling the problems that are thrown at us each day.”