FIFTEEN foot high waves and machine gun posts are abiding memories of the Seoul Olympics for Thorpe Bay’s Simon Goody.
The Olympic windsurfer had been chosen to represent Great Britain at the 1988 Games, but saw his hopes of securing a medal evaporate when a tropical storm raged in, making each race a test of survival rather than tactics.
Goody, now 46, said: “They were the hardest races I had ever done.
“I weighed about ten and a half stone and was just not heavy enough to race in those conditions. There were 47 people on the startline and in one of the races fewer than 20 people finished because the wind and waves were so extreme,” he said.
Goody’s journey to a Seoul Olympic boardsailing startline had started many years earlier when, as a member of Thorpe Bay Yacht Club he’d hung out at the clubhouse and got into racing Cadet and Mirror dinghies, before moving up to Fireballs and 470s.
He started boardsailing in 1984, teaching himself and quickly picking up the knack of what was then still a relatively new sport.
Boardsailing had been allowed into the Los Angeles Games in 1984, with racing on flat WindGlider boards but four years later the board design chosen for the games was the technically difficult Lechner Division 2 raceboard.
Goody – just 21 years old at the time – had set his heart on making it to the 1988 Olympics and lived a hand-to-mouth beachbum life to make his dream come true.
“There was no money in windsurfing, and I was trying to get selected on a shoestring. At competitions I was sleeping on people floors, on the beach and under boats.
“You just turned up and did big regattas week after week all over the UK and Europe.”
Finally British selection came down to a week long trials held at Portland.
And after 15 races selection hung on the very last race.
Goody finally beat arch rival Barry Edgington and found himself on a plane to Korea with a gaggle of British sailors who were under a lot of pressure to do better than the lone sailing bronze won at Long Beach in Los Angeles at the 1984 Games.
But from the moment the party arrived at the Olympic regatta site at Busan, Goody could tell this was a region filled with tension.
“There was barbed wire and trenches everywhere. You had guns on your backs at all times. It was all no-man’s land and machine gun implacements – the South and North were technically at war at the time.”
But the tensions between the two Koreas did not put the lad from Thorpe Bay off his stroke early on when racing in the expected light winds which usually blow in the summer months.
Goody said: “We did test races to get use to the gear and the race course.
“The races where in seven to 10 knots of wind which was ideal for me because I was so light. I finished fifth and seventh in these races. It was real cat and mouse stuff on the course and very tactical – but the sort of thing I was happy with. And I was very pleased with the way I was sailing and my results.”
But things went downhill badly for Goody as the regatta got underway.
A huge cyclone drifted over the Korean peninsular, bringing strong winds and sending massive deep ocean swells crashing through the race course.
Goody said: “Each race we did was like a marathon.
“The wind was blowing at between 18 and 35 knots and you had to sail out for an hour just to get to the race course. On the course it was carnage. The big squalls came across the water and you could see the various boats and windsurfers going flip, flip, flip as they were capsized or wiped out. And you knew in your stomach that it was going to hit you too.
“It was difficult just to know where to sail to get to the next buoy.
“The mast of a sailboard is 18ft high but the swells were about 15ft deep so navigating to the next mark was really hard. It was so exhausting that I think we were losing 5,000 calories a day just to do each race.”
Of the 47 sailboarding nations, Goody’s top finish was seventh, and his worst was 21st.
On one day nearly 30 of the best windsurfers in the world called it a day and either retired or had to be rescued by safety boats struggling to deal with the carnage.
When the regatta was done Goody was placed 13th, but had the winds been lighter the local youngster could have been in with a real chance of a medal. As it was the gold went to heavyweight Kiwi ace Bruce Nendall.
The British sailing team did better than its lone Los Angeles medal haul, but only by upgrading the medal colour from bronze to an unexpected later gold which went to heavyweight Star keelboat sailors Mike McIntyre and Bryn Vaile.
Goody said: “After the Olympics I knew there was no way I could go on supporting myself for another four years on the racing circuit. In those days you could not be a professional sportsman and there was very little funding available. So it was time to get a proper job.”
However, Goody – who now runs Alpha to Omega Business Solutions – still spends a lot of time on the water. He’s taught his 11-year-old daughter Jessica to sail and even been dragged into her school to talk about his Olympic experiences. And, as well as his financial business, he’s still a sought-after motivational speaker.
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