Weymouth 2012? Olympic sailing hours from London, but no less fun
It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable Games so far, we have had a true British summer and we have had everything from searing hot temperatures, sunshine and no wind, to heavy rain with strong winds and no sun. But yesterday, for the first time during this regatta, we had perfect conditions. The sun shone, the wind blew gusting up to 25 knots, a 2-meter swell and white caps made for spectacular sailing. Days like this are why I always ask to cover the sailing: When it all comes together, it’s a truly awesome event to cover.
But with these perfect conditions comes the photographic flip side. We work on the water from a 9-meter, open rigid inflatable boat (RIB) so we have no protection whatsoever from the elements. Whilst transiting from mark to mark and course to course, the equipment is housed in a waterproof Pelican case, which is secured to the jockey seats in the middle of the RIB. You get an absolute soaking whilst transiting, but largely, whilst on a mark shooting a rounding, the boat only has to make small movements to combat tide and wind, so you stay relatively dry — except if it’s raining of course!
We are helped hugely by our highly experienced RIB driver, who, being a Finn Class sailor himself, is always able to put our RIB in the best position for our shots, only sometimes hampered by Olympic Broadcasting Service boats, which, as at any venue, have absolute priority. I have an average knowledge of sailing, but am far from being the font of all knowledge, so the help and advice given to me by my driver is hugely important. On a mark rounding, the distances we are kept from the mark is quite big, with 30 meters being as close as we are supposed to go; technically, the only boats allowed between us and the mark are jury boats, marshals and the OBS. This, however, is not always the case, and sometimes there can be such a melee that you get blocked and cannot see a thing by the time the sailors are at the mark!
We have our own picture editor down here, removing the need for me to have to spool all my images into the Main Press Centre — and I get asked frequently whether or not I feel like I am actually at the Olympics. The honest answer is, yes!
It can feel strange being away from the bustle of the park or the Main Press Centre, that much is true, but it’s a decision that I made and am very happy with. I have already been on site in Weymouth for two weeks, capturing the training and preparation images, and the town has largely welcomed the Games with open arms. The atmosphere here has been amazing. There were one or two complaints I heard from holiday makers, who said that an area of the beach had been closed and turned into an Olympic Live site, but when almost 3,000 people turned up to see Ben Ainslie and the other British Olympic Hopefuls last week, I think that maybe all was forgiven!
The last two Olympic sailing regattas have, by the nature of the host cities, been staged at venues away from the main Olympic Park. This was obviously more extreme in Beijing, with Qingdao being a 2-hour flight away, but with Weymouth being a 3-hour journey from London, be it by train or by car, the decision was taken that the venue should be treated as almost a standalone venue.
London 2012 is the third summer games that I have attended. I covered the last Summer Olympic sailing regatta in its entirety, and for Athens 2004 , I covered all bar the first few days of the sailing. I have also covered the last three winter games in Salt Lake city, Turin and Vancouver.
Editor’s note: Clive Mason’s interest in photography began when he was 6-years-old, when his father taught him how to process a roll of black and white film and then make prints from it, in a makeshift darkroom. Mason became hooked on photography at an early age and his career began at 18 when he began working with several national daily papers and sports picture agencies. During this time Mason discovered that his true photographic passion was in sport and Mason subsequently joined Allsport/Getty Images in 1994. Over recent years Mason has worked in many areas of sport. He has covered cricket test matches in every test playing country, European and World Athletic Championships, Rugby and Cricket World Cups, the Whitbread Round The World Yacht Race, the Olympics and for four years now has been following the Formula One racing circuit to every round of the prestigious world championship. Follow him on Twitter @clivejmason.