August 7, 2016 / 12:31 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 4-Olympics-Rowing-Winds throw rowing into disarray, Sunday's races postponed

* Strong winds force organisers to call off day’s races

* Bad weather affects course marker buoys

* Organisers confident schedule can get back on track (Adds quotes, details, reaction)

By Angus MacSwan

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 7 (Reuters) - High winds gusting across the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon forced organisers to call off the second day of the 2016 Olympic rowing regatta on Sunday, a decision welcomed by teams who had seen three boats capsize over two days as waves washed over them.

Organisers said they hoped to be back on schedule by the end of Tuesday.

The decision to call off Sunday’s races followed difficult conditions in the opening programme on Saturday, with some rowers complaining that the races should have been postponed then. One boat tipped over and several others were nearly swamped.

Preliminary forecasts had been for a fairly good Sunday but every new overnight forecast got worse.

“We all showed up this morning to see very, very difficult conditions,” World Rowing Federation (FISA) executive director Matt Smith said.

Two boats capsized in early practice sessions as winds blowing down from the mountains overlooking the lagoon whipped up the water. By mid-morning, white waves were rippling across the lake. Palm trees on the shore were bending and flags at the stadium flapped wildly.

The elements damaged the buoy system marking the lanes, forcing two hour-long delays to the start, then it became clear that racing would be impossible. Winds were averaging 5-6 meters per second at mid-morning then increased to 12 meters per second.

“Racing is postponed and will not take place today due to technical installation difficulties caused by the strong winds and the forecast for the afternoon which indicates adverse weather conditions,” an official communique said.

British team leader David Tanner said he absolutely supported the decision. “We definitely, definitely shouldn’t be racing in these conditions. Well done, FISA,” he said.

FISA had rejected criticism of its decision to go ahead with Saturday’s races, saying the conditions were the same for all the rowers.

Sunday’s postponement had officials scrabbling to put together a new schedule. Smith said the forecasts showed Monday would be calmer and he hoped the regatta would be back on track by the end of Tuesday. Sunday was also a reserve day if needed.

“We are old and experienced at this. We have a lot of tricks up our sleeve - even two rounds on one day. I think we can finish at 12 on Saturday,” he said.

South African rower Kate Christowitz welcomed the decision to call off the races in front of the Lagoa Stadium.

“It’s organised chaos and they’ve made the right decision. We’ll be back tomorrow,” she told Reuters.

Safety should come first, she said. “You can’t do anything about it. You just have to laugh it off.”

Britain’s Tanner said the winds were blowing right across the course during practice.

“It was lifting boats onto the waves and some were on the buoys,” he said.

British pair Heather Stanning and Helen Glover, unbeaten on the international stage since 2011 and defending the gold medal they won in 2012, were among those who had been scheduled to compete on Sunday.

Asked how it affected the team, Tanner said. “We’ll be resilient. We will handle it best. We’ll be ready to race when we can.” (Editing by Clare Fallon and Alison Williams)

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