With three courses inside Guanabara Bay and two in open ocean, competitors say diversity of racing areas means best all-round sailors will top the podium
Some of the world's leading sailors have voiced their approval after the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) announced the provisional competition schedule and courses for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Belgium’s Evi Van Acker, who won bronze in the Laser Radial class at the London 2012 Games and is preparing for her third Olympic Games, said: “It’s a nice mix of everything, sailing inside and outside, and I think it’s the most fair for everyone. I love the venue.”
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Australia’s Mat Belcher, the men’s 470 gold medallist at London 2012, said the mixture of courses would ensure that the best all-round sailors topped the podiums. “The unique thing about Rio, and the great thing about Rio, is the diversity of the conditions and also the diversity of the different race areas, and that makes for the best all-round sailor.”
Video: Highlights from second test event (click on cog symbol to select English subtitles):
One of the host nation’s biggest medal hopes, five-time Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt, said: “It’s good to have many courses because it really tests the ability of the sailors in different conditions. It’s a place where the sailor has to be very flexible and adapt himself.”
The three courses inside Guanabara Bay are Pão de Açucar, Ponte and Escola Naval, while the Copacabana and Niteroi courses are located outside the bay. As well as the established Pai reserve course in the Atlantic Ocean, a new reserve course called Aeroporto has been added inside the bay. Situated between Ponte and Escola Naval, the Aeroporto area was identified during the second test event as having conditions suitable for racing and will provide ISAF with greater flexibility if wind conditions on the other courses are not suitable on any given day.
See the course map in this article
Racing is set to start on 8 August with the RS:X windsurf events on the Pão de Açucar course. The first medal races will take place on 14 August with two per day until 18 August when the 49er and 49erFX finals will bring the regatta to a close.
See the full sailing race schedule for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
The sailors said the Rio Games will put sailing in the spotlight. “What’s great about Rio is the anticipation of racing closer to shore. It’s very difficult for the sailors, but for our sport we need to generate more interest from the public and what better way to do it than seeing so many spectators lining Flamengo Beach to watch us race,” said Belcher.
Van Acker said: “I expect everyone to be on the beach. It’s great as the spectators don’t get much chance to see us racing and it will be beautiful in Rio for them to watch.”
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There have been concerns over the water quality in Guanabara Bay, but initial tests carried out by ISAF following the second test event showed that the rate of illness among sailors was “much lower than would be expected” and within levels considered acceptable, said Dr Nebojša Nikolić, a member of ISAF’s medical commission.
Earlier this month, Rio 2016 confirmed that bacterial testing in Guanabara Bay would be stepped up, but that viral testing would not be undertaken, as advised by the World Health Organisation.