The world governing body of sailing ISAF is threatening to move events for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Regatta out of the city’s polluted Guanabara Bay unless “a whole lot more is done very quickly” to clear the venue of floating debris and sewage.
The enclosed bay is heavily polluted and has been described as an “open sewer” by Olympic sailors. The Rio state government promised to reduce the amount of raw sewage flowing into the bay by 80% but has since admitted that goal is unlikely to be met.
Alastair Fox, head of competitions for ISAF, says that two sailing courses located just outside the bay in the open Atlantic – and a third being planned there – could be used for all races. Three other courses have been planned inside the bay but may not be used.
The implications of a change to offshore courses rather than inshore courses for sailors are very significant. It would mean that Guanabara Bay pre-Olympic training time would be meaningless.
ISAF Sailor of the Year 2013 Mat Belcher told Sail-World that he was surprised at the Rio Test Event 2014 just how much the offshore conditions, sailing by the 470 fleet where like sailing outside Sydney Heads. ‘We had two-metre seas. It was a lot of fun for Australian sailors’ he said.
If in fact Fox’s threat to move all the racing offshore well within ISAF’s brief then the time spent by sailors this far learning the intricacies of Guanabara Bay will have been wasted.
This event, Rio 2016, will in one stroke change from being a light weather inshore venue to an open water venue not seen in recent years.
All of a sudden time in Rio will take on another perspective and certainly a course change would play into the hands of Australian and New Zealand sailors who brought up in windy conditions come to the front when it blows.
Additionally an offshore venue would provide challenges for the Nacra 17s and the 49ers. Both of these high-speed craft are super sensitive in strong sea ways.
For Rio aspirants, the uncertainty level just went thru the roof
Inshore? Offshore? When will they know?
Where to train? Lake Garda, Biscayne Bay, Guanabara Bay? Santander outside courses? Weymouth outside courses?
Just what will happen course-wise come the 2015 Olympic Sailing Test event in August will now assume a great deal of significance.
Just when will ISAF make the decision?