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Mixed feelings about sailing in polluted Rio bay

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Josh Adams expressed slightly mixed feelings about sailing in polluted Guanabara Bay, the venue for sailing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the site of the city’s first test event, which started Sunday.

Adams, managing director of the American Olympic sailing team, likes that Guanabara is located in the heart of Rio and is a familiar venue to world sailors. It means sailors will be in the host city and not lodged on a coast hours away from the action.

On the other hand, American sailing officials have hired medical experts to test the water in Guanabara, which has suffered from decades of untreated human waste being poured into the bay. Adams said Sunday tests showed the water to be ”contaminated,” prompting what he termed ”preventive measures.”

Despite problems, Adams was upbeat about the venue and said his sailors were too.

”We feel our sailors are safe, and we’re aware of the issues with the water quality in Guanabara Bay,” Adams said. ”We know and have proven with our own water testing project that the water is contaminated, but we didn’t discover anything that people didn’t already know. It’s contaminated largely because of unregulated sewage.”

Teams in the test event have been invited by Olympics organizers to test the water. Adams said American tests showed ”nothing really alarming,” though he declined to reveal the results or the ”preventive measures” that scientists had suggested.

”We’d rather not share any more information than that,” he said.

Health experts haves suggested that sailors be vaccinated for hepatitis A, and at a small regatta last year sailors rubbed alcohol on their hands after leaving the water.

Rio and adjacent cities pour almost 70 percent of their sewage untreated into surrounding waters. Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and other government officials have acknowledged targets will be missed for cleaning the water for the Olympics.

British sailor Alain Sign, rigging his 49er boat Sunday, described the problem of floating debris in the bay.

”You want to get to the left or right and you see a tide line that seems to carry a lot of rubbish,” he said. ”It’s a lot of luck if you hit something, or don’t hit something and get through it.”

Sign described the water in Guanabara as ”a bit darker than usual.” Sailors have regularly likened the smell around the bay to a ”toilet” or ”open sewer.”

”Around the edges is the worst where it all collects,” Sign said ”I wouldn’t want to go paddle boarding and capsize.”

Alastair Fox, head of competitions for the governing body ISAF, described conditions the last few days as ”good.” He said recent water testing around the course areas met Brazilian and international standards.

He said rain was forecast for later in the week, which will wash more sewage and debris into the bay.

Rio state officials are using 10 rubbish boats during the regatta to pick up floating debris.

”It wouldn’t be a good test if it didn’t rain,” Fox said. ”We need to see it when it’s bad, and when it’s good.”

He said the biggest concern, besides fecal levels in the water, was floating objects hindering racing. At least one sailor over the last few days took a photo of a dead dog floating in the bay.

”Ultimately we need to have a clear field of play,” Fox said ”We can’t have objects in that water that can affect racing.”

Asked if he would swim in the bay, Fox replied: ”I’d sail in it.”

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Sailing: Pollution won't stop Kiwi team

A badly polluted Guanabara Bay isn’t effecting the New Zealand sailing team ahead of their Olympic test event.

12 crews from New Zealand will compete in the Aquece Rio this weekend to get a better understanding of conditions come 2016.

The condition of Olympic sailing venue has been questioned recently with rubbish boats collecting 33 tons of solid waste and barriers put in place to stop the flow of more rubbish.

High Performance manager Jez Fanstone is optimistic that it won’t effect them to much now or in 2016.

He says every venue they go to has stuff in the water and is confident they can continue to clean it up.

Sailing gets underway early Monday morning.

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Sailing skills on display in Colchester

Patrick Standen is in a wheelchair, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of his love for sailing and going fast.

“Lake Champlain Martin 16 Invitational Regatta, which is our twelfth year in a row and it’s a regatta that is just for sailors with some kind of disability, primarily physical disability,” says Patrick Standen, of Burlington.

The Northeast Disabled Athletic Association holds the event, sponsored by FairPoint Communications. They’ll be setting sail in the adaptive “Martin 16″ boat, designed just for sailors with physical disabilities.

“You can adapt them with a sip and puff technology. So someone with no physical ability to move except their mouth and their breath can operate these boats,” says Standen.

Able-bodied volunteers are here to help the sailors cast off. But once out on the water these experienced captains are on their own.

“I come down, I help them get the boats off the trailers, get them launched into the water. We launch them with a crane. The 2 athletes I came with, 1 is going to use a smaller version of the crane to actually get out of her wheelchair and into the boat. So I’m going to help with that,” says Jenny Davey, a volunteer.

21 sailors manning the adaptive boats are competing in a race around Mallets Bay. The sailor with the best overall time at the end of the Regatta wins the grand prize.

“Heather Berg was generous and gracious, and sponsored and bought the trophy. So it’s the Berg Cup. Winner of the Gold Fleet goes home with the Berg Cup and bragging rights,” says Standen.

The skippers say in this race it’s not about strength or speed, but your skill in sailing.

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