Want to know where you can watch the Olympics compete without getting square eyes, getting hunted down by soldiers after breaking into the venue, or being shot down for trying to fly over London? Come down to Weymouth in Dorset and watch the events from its 3 mile long beach - most of the sailing events can be seen from there without paying for the privilege.
Thirty-three medals are up for grabs at the biggest satellite venue of the London Olympics - Portland Harbour. The Isle of Portland sits just off the Dorset coast, linked to Weymouth by an ancient pebble bank called Chesil Beach. The mile long, 50 ft high causeway protects the harbour from big seas when there's a good wind from the west. This is very good as the prevailing winds are from the west.
Weymouth and Portland will be the first ever sailing events to have ticketed viewing from Nothe Gardens on Weymouth's harbour front. The events have sold out, but there will be "cheap seats" on Weymouth's beach. Large screens are being erected for visitors to view while enjoying your gritty sandwiches and salty unofficial beer - you will be able to see the Olympian battles take place for free with your own eyes, even without the screens as most of the events will take place just offshore.
The traffic system has had over £100 million of improvements for spectators, paying and non alike, to attend the events with little trouble. I've lived here during the road building and traffic flow re routing and though a real pain in the bum as it was taking place, traffic does flow - very well by comparison to the way it did.
Speaking to an American sailing journalist in May, for whom this will be his third Olympics, he said "this is the best sailing venue I have seen so far. You can sail in most weather, and Weymouth is renowned for being windy. Competition will be exciting!"
This goes against the tradition of sailing events being held in little or no wind. All too often the Gold Medal winner has been the team that can find enough light zephyrs to get round the course in front. In Portland Harbour this year? Expect some rock and roll - it is almost always windy!
I have been covering much of the US Olympic and Paralympic teams' preparations for the events. Though I know my way around a boat and sailing, I never really got my head around yacht racing. As a yacht cruiser I don't like the idea of charging full belt into potential collision with another £50 000 boat at a marker buoy. Yacht and dinghy racers take this in their stride - having the budget to replace broken spars and even broken boats should they be too competitive at a buoy or line!
I covered the US womens' Team Racing selection event in May. Within half a day I was hooked like a no hoper to crack cocaine. As a yacht cruiser it takes me sometimes 10 seconds to work out two boats' rights of way under international boating collision regulations. For all the racers on the water this year, they know the situation instinctively - I watched two boats foul each other twice each, remedy their fouls and the winner cross the line within 5 seconds of the first incident taking place. Even knowing the complexities of sailing as a whole, these sailors are frankly, bloody amazing to watch. See the video of this below. Below that, who to watch out for?
Who to watch at the Olympics this year?
Ben Ainslie is Team GB's media darling with four medals in four Olympics under his belt. On the Finn class single handed dinghy, he won his first two medals on Lasers. He famously won Gold at Beijing by forcing his only real threat to lose on the last race.
Keep an eye out for the 49ers. These boats are described as the "Formula 1 racing cars of Olympic sailing". To me, they look more like space ships than they do something you'd buzz about the bay on. They go extremely quickly too - in a good wind, the press and umpires' speedboats will have to go at almost full throttle to keep up with them. 16 mph on any boat is very quick, and 49ers scream along at those speeds regularly. Favourites for this class are Team Australia's Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen
One of the tightest competitions will be Team GB versus Team USA on the women's Elliot 6 Metre match racing. The crews (skipper and two crew for each boat) do not have their own boats - they are given one by the Olympics so the only thing being tested is the crews' skill. Twenty teams will compete, but only two boats race each other in a given race, taking around 10 - 15 minutes. Of Team USA and Team GB, the joint favourites, no matter which crew wins Gold, Britannia will still rule the waves. Why? Team USA's skipper Anna Tunnicliffe was brought up in Yorkshire, England until her early teens! Both teams are on top form - though Team GB's Lucy MacGregor has pipped Team USA to Gold over the last few events.
In terms of getting right up close to the Olympics, Weymouth will be the best possible place in the UK as you will be able to see most of the events without paying through the nose and having your shoes X Rayed before being forced to drink Official Beer, eating Official Chocolate and having an Officially Good Time!
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