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Posted by on Aug 7, 2012 in Sailboat Racing, UK, US |

Weymouth: The Perfect Venue for London 2012 Olympic Sailing

It might be the London Olympics, but the sailing competition is taking part in Weymouth, some 140 miles away.

I have always enjoyed sailing in Weymouth – or Portland to be exact, and the last 10 days have shown just why this site was chosen to host the Olympic Sailing competition. Why? Well for starters, it offers some of the best sailing waters for racing. There’s plenty of space, and plenty of options without the crowds of boats which fill up that much more famous British sailing area, the Solent – some 100 miles to the east.

Olympics 2012 Nothe crowds

The most vocal of the crowds watching from the Nothe seem to be the Australians, who are also likely to win the medal count for sailing.

The Olympic sailing centre itself is on the island of Portland – which is attached to the mainland by a long causeway. A huge dinghy park, plenty of parking and slipway space is a legacy of the site’s former life as a naval base. Another naval legacy is Portland harbour itself, which is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world, providing a sheltered race area with flatter waters and generally lighter winds.

Outside you have Weymouth Bay, which has space for huge, multiple fleets, making it a popular championship venue. On “Thrilling Thursday” we saw conditions in the Bay at their best; the breeze was18-20 knots with plenty of gusts to spice things up, the waves were ripe for surfing, and the sun even came out to watch the fabulous display of Olympic sailing.

Weymouth Course Chart

The Nothe, the Olympic race course used for the medal races and match racing, is right under a high bluff excellent for spectators—which also makes the breeze quite unpredictable.

And then there’s the Nothe, the shoreside viewing area overlooking the course used for the match racing and medal races. This has delivered a heightened atmosphere for all the racing that’s taken place there – and it’s not just the Brits getting the cheers.

Do the Brits have a home advantage? Not really. Most nations have been here a while – including the US team, who almost see it as home. The Brits know these waters well, but at this point probably not much better than anyone else. The results speak for themselves; it looks likely that the top nation in Sailing medals for London 2012 will be Australia. Which is pretty ironic, one might even dare to say almost fair, as it was the Brits that topped the table for Sydney 2000!

Portland harbour is one of the largest in the world, built in the 1800s. Much of its historic significance as a naval base is evident in the forts ashore and on its breakwaters.

- Gael Pawson

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Editors’ Note: Gael is providing special reports on the US Sailing Team throughout the events in Weymouth. For previous posts, see below: