My time as a Weymouth Olympics beach rat had some failures but if there's one thing I can be proud of...
The life of an Olympic beach rat is a hard one. There’s a lot on our plates. Not figuratively, of course.
Very little was asked of me before I went off to the sailing Olympics in Weymouth but I’m afraid I’ve failed.
The only thing I was actually requested to do was to walk to Osmington for a pub lunch and find out if one could see the racing while watching the commentary on a smartphone or tablet courtesy of the pub’s wifi or the 3G network.
I never managed to do this. Early on I discovered it was possible to get the pub lunch and 3G experience closer, involving minimal exertion. By the time I’d thoroughly scouted all the closest lunch/vantage combos for you I realised the important races were no longer being held over on the eastern side of the bay. That was poor planning, I admit.
The other task I had was more of an undercover one: a colleague bet me I couldn’t get a donkey ride signed off on expenses.
That is one hell of a gauntlet. What kind of journalist would I be etc, etc?
Arguably, the donkeys were an ideal professional tool:
1. Unlike at the Weymouth Live beach site, the offshore courses could be sighted from the donkey zone.
2. The extra elevation would be beneficial as the national flags and names on the sails were invisible at normal eye level due to the curvature of the earth.
I realised there would be a weight limit for the donkeys, but reasoned that at 53kg I’m heaps lighter than the average British obese child.
No go. The donkeys are carefully regulated and organically sourced from the local donkey sanctuary. A sign stated: ‘Weight limit 7 stone.’
I had no hope of droppng a few dress sizes in under two weeks, and definitely not for the size of bet offered. Anyway, on account of my heavy vantage point workload it was quickly running the other way.
I gave myself a quest to find out all about the ferry boats that go across the harbour to the Nothe and failed there as well. If you’ve been to Weymouth you’ll probably have seen the old boys who row seven or eight visitors a time from one side to the other in a clinker tender, price £1 each (dogs free).
They’re a sinewy and taciturn group of ex-fishermen. Don’t be fooled by them; they may not say much but they aren’t half sizing you up. They saw me coming.
I was made to run from pillar to post in the hope of getting a couple of questions answered. One after another, they all said no. Finally, the youngest one, I think the son of the ferryboat Godfather, eyed me lengthily and said: “You wouldn’t have enough money to pay me, my love.”
I tried to get an interview with anyone who knew Lijia Xu, Gold medal winner in the women’s Laser Radial. Total fail with that one. Couldn’t trace a soul who would speak to me about her. I scoured the beach and I wasn’t able to spot a single Chinese sailing supporter. Oddly enough.
On Super Sunday I watched the medal races from a grassy bank at Newton’s Cove. The streaming TV pictures and commentary were a good minute-and-a-half behind the real thing, a rolling history of the beat as they were halfway down the run, in a different order.
Due to the finish being just out of sight I mistook the results of the Star race and confidently told all my nearest neighbours that Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson had won Gold.
Good thing I didn’t go into print with that. Strictly between ourselves you shouldn’t believe everything you hear from a journalist.
So what exactly have I achieved down here in Weymouth? To be fair, I think the vantage point job went extremely well. I didn’t stint at all and I do hope you feel I’ve kept you properly abreast of the prime eyries, kiosks and picnicking spots.
I have cheered for the opposition a good bit and celebrated wins beyond the Team GBR camp. You know what, there are some pretty fine sailors beyond these fair shores!
Finally, following clamour from readers I’ve done solid work monitoring the Weymouth lavs and provision of toilet paper. If you are planning a visit soon, Weymouth has you covered.
All in all, I feel I’ve served my apprenticeship for Rio 2016. There’s work to be done by an experienced beach correspondent. Copacabana needs me.
I could even double as The Girl from Ipanema.