March sees the Australian selection trials for two boardsailors who will represent their country at the Los Angeles Olympics in July this year. One sailor will compete in triangle racing in the Windglider Class. The other will take part in the demonstration event (comprising freestyle, slalom and marathon) on the Windsurfer sailboard. We look at the board that has been chosen the racing and talk with the two leading contenders.
The choice of the Windglider as the Olympic sailboard was received by most to be if not a bad decision, certainly a political one. But now that the event looms closer the Windglider is becoming generally regarded as suited to its role -if nothing else.
By virtue of the Windglider's larger volume and sail area it is not so sensitive to a sailor's weight. This is an advantage in the Olympics as there is only provision for one medal (no weight group racing and no medal for the demonstration event). For whatever reason, the Olympic Committee have again followed the Windglider's class rules and have not allowed competitors' to use harnesses.
Looking at the board itself, it seems quite ordinary if you were not to notice the 'Chevoleat' styling of the tail area. Nevertheless, for those training for the selections the only concern is their ability to adapt to the board and to sail it without a harness. When sailing the board, its lack of maneuverability stands out. The rails are so thick and straight that turning is very difficult. Understandably, gybing (especially with the centreboard down) is an acquired art. The whole situation is not helped by a very inadequate anti-skid.
The standard rig has been highly criticised. The masts are quite easily broken and the Dacron sail is badly cut. The front boom fitting is unable to provide a tight fit to the mast and the boom is badly shaped (having its maximum width in the middle). But for the Olympics there is a special rig. Although the standard boom remains, there is a Mylar sail and an aluminium mast. With these improvements on the sail area the same as for Open Class, the rig is very good even in the company of other Open Class sailboards.
Although any board has to be sailed in its own way, this is particularly so in the case of the Windglider. All your movements have to be accentuated - the rig movements increased, the rail pushed harder, and your body more contorted.
The contenders for Olympic selection have been competing in the Windglider National Championships and Olympic Selection Trials. On the basis of their performance in the trials and past performances, the Australian Olympic Selection Committee will make their decision.
Two leading contenders are Bobby Wilmot and Greg Hyde. Both have been sailboarding since the sport began in Australia.
The current titles Bobby holds are: Australian National Windsurfer Class Champion (medium heavies); Wind-surfer Class World Champion (medium heavies); Dufour Wing World Champion (heavies); Overall Winner Mistral World Championships; Yacht Match Racing Series Champion (conducted on J-24s); second place overall in the Pan Am Clipper Cup (skipper Szechwan).
Greg Hyde is the present Windsurfer Class World Champion (mediums) as well as National Champion (lightweights and penthathlon).