Weymouth and Big Ben | PDD

Weymouth and Big Ben


on August 21 2012

After a lovely day at the seaside our Engineering Design Consultant Georgina talks about the thrill of Ben Ainslie’s final race and her realisation of the power these games have had to bring people together.

Despite being a little way from London, the quintessential British seaside town of Weymouth is the perfect choice for the Olympic sailing venue. Tacky seaside charm complete with donkey rides, Punch and Judy shows and a carousel, all set against a majestic Georgian terraced esplanade along the bay. The hill next to Nothe Fort provided a natural tiered seating area for viewing the Olympic sailing. People filled the green area with rugs, flags and anticipation as they peered on the open water in front of them.

Olympic sailing is a tactical sport. It comprises of a series of races where you gain points for your position in each race (1st place = 1 point, 2nd = 2, etc). The final race has double points and the total score for the whole series dictates your Olympic position. Because of this, races are more often about which boat beats which, rather than whether you come first or not.

Sailors will research the weather and tide patterns for an upcoming race area in order to understand the best part of the course to sail in. Right of way rules can be used to force your opponent off-course or into bad wind. Sailors can also position themselves to disturb the air for the next boat making it is less efficient. On top of this, the sailor will constantly be tuning their boat, making adjustments to the centre of gravity, sail settings and drag depending on the wind speed and direction, and also the tide and sea state. Putting all of these things together makes sailing an incredibly technical and tactical sport, which was very exciting to watch at Olympic standard.

The range of Olympic boats each has a slightly different skill to them.

Left to right: Windsurfer, Laser Radial (women’s single-handed), Laser (Men’s single handed), Finn (men’s single-handed, heavyweight), 470 (2-handed, crew on trapeze), 49ers (2-handed, high performance with crew and helm on trapeze), Elliot 6 (3-handed, women’s match racing), Star (2-handed).

On the day we went it was Ben Ainslie’s final race in the Finn Class. I won’t repeat the coverage of this race except to say it was very exciting to watch and huge congratulations to the most successful Olympic sailor in history! I feel very privileged to have watched him in his last Olympic contest. He lived up to every expectation.

After the races we made our way back to Weymouth harbour. The atmosphere that met us was one of celebration and good spirits. Bands played and inside and outside the numerous pubs inspiring impromptu dancing and flag waving from people of many different nationalities. As we sat on the harbour wall eating our fish and chips I thought, this is what the Olympics are all about; the opportunity to put the world’s worries and conflicts aside for a few weeks and celebrate the skill of the people within them.