How low can you go before you call it quits?
Compared to an overnight low temperature of -11 degrees in Oxfordshire as reported on the radio this morning, -3 degrees in Dorset should have felt quite mild. But with a stiff easterly 15+ knot breeze, the wind chill was enough to freeze my grimace in place as I stepped out of the car at the Olympic venue in Portland.
The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy has become a regular haunt of mine over the last couple of years as the interest in the Olympics has built. I have worked and played here on many occasions. One of the most exciting things about this venue is that there is always something going on, be it Olympic training or scores of schoolchildren paddling rafts and canoes, there’s always a buzz.
But surely there must be limits.
When you can’t speak for more than a few minutes before your jaw, cheeks and facial muscles freeze, there is good reason to re-jig your day around classroom based analysis and discussion. But not if you’re a medal hunter or Olympic aspirant.
As I conducted the next round of interviews for our Olympic Profile series, I watched in disbelief as fleets of Lasers, 470s, RS800s, 49ers and even windsurfers rigged and launched as if it were any other day. Indeed, with the clear blue sky and bright sunshine I had to keep stepping outside to remind myself just how insanely cold it was.
Looking at the sailors for clues of the cold was of no use either as they sauntered around the dinghy park their normal wet suits and woolly hats. Some had only just arrived in the UK a few days ago after spending December in Perth and January in Miami.
Yet perhaps an even bigger indication of how focussed the current and next generation of Olympic sailors are was on how they behaved before and after going afloat in their various briefs and de-briefs. Aside from a few words about conditions being ,’a bit fresh’, or ‘nippy’ it was straight to business.
I’ve always enjoyed coming down here, not just for the superb sailing, but for the buzz that is always present. It’s always here, even on days when my car’s washers refused to thaw and normally the enthusiasm of others is enough to make you want to get changed – fortunately I’d left my kit at home.