Note from Athens
Ventura, California, sailor Kevin Hall has been in Athens since June, preparing to race in the Finn class at the Olympic Regatta. The first race for Finns is on August 14. After competing in the 2002 Louis Vuitton Cup as OneWorld Challenge's navigator, Hall started training in the Finn less than a year before the Olympic Trials. He rose to the top of the class in short order, and this month we'll see how he measures up against a very strong European fleet, led by Finn world champ and two-time Olympic medalist Ben Ainslie.
Hall, writing from Athens, shares his thoughts on a number of Olympic topics, including his bureaucratic battle with the IOC, Finn competition, Athens heat, and coping with five-ring fever. Read on below the Sponsored Links.
Daily routine: Until this week I was going to the gym in every other morning and sailing for several hours between 0900 and 1500, depending on the weather and my goals for the day. At night I review video, eat, maybe watch a rented movie (you can tell the popular ones here, they are always scratched and skip at the denouement!!), and I just finished saving the world in my video game Deus Ex.
His medical distraction: [Ed. note: Much of Hall's Olympic campaign has been marred by a conflict over his use of testosterone injections, which he needs after surviving testicular cancer in the early 1990s. Last month, after experiencing a lengthy bureaucratic procedure with the IOC, Hall was given a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) and cleared for Olympic competition.]
The TUE requirements (getting blood tests multiple times a week, organizing and double-checking paperwork, having to have a doctor give me my shot) have taken up a lot of what would have been "spare time". That said, I was doing all this during my training in Florida before the Trials, so it has actually been part of my routine for many months already. I'm grateful that I have had nearly a month since the final "it should be fine" (subject to one more IOC review) came through. I had prepared for it emotionally to be going on right up to the opening ceremonies.
Racing equipment: We selected my mast and sails for the Games in mid-July. During the last week my coach James Lyne was here, we focused on downwind sailing, and I did about a week of boathandling drills after he left. I moved to the Olympic Village after getting my equipment into the venue and enjoyed a few days away from it all.
Weather research: I get up and read Chris Bedford's (U.S. Olympic Sailing Team meteorologist) forecast, then look at some models on my own, then reread his forecast and occasionally look back through my notes to compare winds aloft. I wasn't here last summer for the pre-Olympics, but some of us are getting the feeling that the Olympic Regatta will start in the windy meltemi, since there have been light sea breezes for so long now. I base this solely on superstition.
The Olympic sailing venue: The sailing venue is enormous, but all concrete and there is very little shade, which is tough. One of the primary reasons I moved here at the beginning of June and have not flown home since mid-June was to become acclimated to the heat and, of course, to not have to face the time change. I don't use A/C in the main part of the house I am staying in and just set my bedroom A/C to 25 degrees C at night to make it easier to fall asleep.
His competition: [Ed. note: Medal contenders in the Finn class include Britain's Ainslie, Mateus Kusznierewicz from Poland, and Denmark's Jonas Hogh-Christensen.] Most people seem to have settled on their equipment, and I think the only other player I haven't mentioned before is Raffa Trujillo of Spain, who has been going very fast in the breeze. It's going to be a very long, mentally tough regatta, and I think there will be many more boats with good speed upwind (because of equipment improvements) and good relative speed downwind (because of strict judging) than the top few guys are used to. This may make them uncomfortable. We'll see!
Olympic fun: I'm having a blast! I've learned far more about sailing, rigs, and sails in the Finn than I expected. It's not just a big Laser and in many ways requires a far wider range of techniques in different conditions. I am happy with my equipment now and have had time to become comfortable with it. And the Olympic Village is spectacular; seeing athletes of all shapes and sizes and ages from all over the world at the dining hall is a unique experience. I suspect the opening ceremonies will be, too.