U.S. Sailing not hindered by contaminated Rio bay before test event

Guanabara Bay

The 2016 Olympic sailing venue is contaminated with sewage, but American sailors’ training in Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay hasn’t been hindered ahead of the first Olympic test event for any sport beginning Saturday, a US Sailing official said.

US Sailing plans to have 23 athletes compete in the week-long Aquece International Sailing Regatta. Some have been training in Guanabara Bay for several weeks.

“I can tell you with assurance that our training hasn’t at all been affected by the water conditions,” said U.S. Olympic Sailing managing director Josh Adams, who will join the team in Rio next week. “Good sailing inside Guanabara Bay and outside the bay.”

Adams wrote earlier this week that mainstream media coverage of the bay’s unhealthy conditions has been “largely exaggerated for effect.” (The International Sailing Federation details initiatives to improve the water quality here.)

He said Thursday that the worst-case conditions of Guanabara Bay that have largely been reported on are in an area of the bay that won’t be used for competition at the test event or the Olympics.

US Sailing and the U.S. Olympic Committee commissioned water tests on different areas of the bay in the spring. They received results from those tests before the test event and planned accordingly.

“All of our athletes have been advised to take standard vaccinations, stuff you should be taking when you travel to that part of the world anyhow,” Adams said. “Then there are some other sort of preventative measures that we’re following.”

Adams declined to discuss specifics of the preventative measures but said they were for a combination of the water conditions and general living in Rio de Janeiro.

The real focus for competition is on the challenging current and sailing conditions, which will be key in determining winners at not only the test event but also at the Olympics. Sailing is one of Brazil’s most fruitful Olympic sports.

“The test event is our first real hands-on test in a highly competitive environment to get a first-hand knowledge of both the current and the wind and to be able to check in on some of the preliminary research we’ve done on currents and winds in Rio,” Adams said.

“We encourage any effort by the organizers to clean up Guanabara Bay, but short of that, based on what we’ve learned so far, experienced so far, we view Rio as a great place to race and look forward to training and racing there. … The water conditions story I’m sure is going to be an ongoing story. … Our water-testing project has given us the expert advice that we needed, and we’re confident.”

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