Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Plain sailing? It could be like running on pot-holes, says Olympic hopeful Ainslie
By Alan Fraser
The Return of the Algae sounds more like a horror film than a natural phenomenon which could wreck the Olympic regatta.

But there are no special effects involved in the emerald seaweed carpet which an ill wind blew back into the sailing venue at Qingdao last weekend, turning the Yellow Sea green.

'Imagine running the 100metres on a track covered in pot holes. That's what it can be like,' Ben Ainslie told Sportsmail from his base in China.

'A fleet of little Chinese fishing boats outside the course area is trying to pick all the weed out. They are doing a great job, bless 'em. But some days are better than others. Today was not so good, though a lot better than three or four weeks ago.

'Then, you could not really have raced. It would just be unfair. Now, it is not great, but livable.'

At the height of the problem, one third of the sailing area was covered in a green gunge. Thousands of volunteers, fishermen and even the Chinese navy were enlisted to break up and remove the foul-smelling slime, some of which had accumulated into dense slabs the size of football pitches.

As if smog, strong currents and little or no wind were not enough for the world's top sailors to have to negotiate.

'You have to sail round it,' Ainslie explained. 'You try to avoid it best you can by altering your course a little bit. But you do not want to change course too much because you are giving away ground.

'Sometimes you can't help but run over a patch and then you have to check whether it has stuck to your rudder or your keel. If it has, you have to clean it off and that can cost you three or four boat lengths. It is a real annoyance and it may well be something we have to deal with.' Read more...