Murky waters continue to dominate the leadup to the Olympic sailing regatta in Rio next year.

German 49er sailor Erik Heil is in hospital with severe inflammations on his legs and hip, which started on the plane trip home from Rio. A bacterial infection has been diagnosed.

Heil, who won bronze with teammate Thomas Ploessel behind New Zealanders Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, is convinced the polluted waters of Guanabara Bay are to blame. Other sailors missed racing due to illness, including Daniel Willcox in the 470 class, although New Zealand team sources said there was no clear link established to the filthy waters of the bay.

At the end of the regatta, International Sailing Federation chief executive Peter Sowery indicted unhappiness with the water quality in Rio.


"If we can't get the water to a level, then we'll move it outside [the bay] for sure," Sowery said.

The ISAF are also understood to be unhappy at receiving no data from the monitoring agency during the regatta.

Six courses were used at the regatta, three inside and three outside the bay. There's an argument that the entire Olympic regatta could be staged out in the open waters.

However, that would be a blow for ISAF who are hoping to use the picturesque bay with the backdrop of the famous Sugarloaf Mountain as a draw for spectators. It looks spectacular - from a distance.

New Zealand seem to be taking a view that it's best to simply get on with it, take the right precautions and make the best of what is shaping as a thoroughly unpleasant environment for the biggest event on the sailing calender.

Olympic 470 champion Polly Powrie is diplomatic on the subject.

"We've been going to Rio for three years, first in 2013. It's certainly not the standard we are used to in the likes of New Zealand," she said.

"There are a few efforts to try and improve it, but it is what it is."


So better now than in 2013? A pause, then: "Maybe a little bit. But it was a different time of year and different weather conditions. Being optimistic you could say there's a bit of improvement."

Commonsense should always apply.

Sailors are encouraged to wear shoes at all times and wash thoroughly as soon as they're off the water. However, there is a degree of luck.

Powrie said she and partner Jo Aleh "get pretty wet while we're sailing, so unfortunately we do drink a fair bit of it but we've come away unscathed so far".

Whatever improvements, if any, are certainly nothing to match the guarantees given to the International Olympic Committee by Rio Games officials.

According to a range of reports, the information is grim. Three open sewer lines are still draining into Marina de Gloria, the area where the sailors launch. There were fewer reports of floating debris than in the past couple of years, where fridges and couches have been among the obstacles confronting sailors.

On the water, as opposed to in it, New Zealand had an encouraging regatta, with five of the seven crews finishing in the top five.

Burling and Tuke were the only winners but there were plenty of pleasing signs at a venue where the six courses provided a wide range of sailing conditions.

The ability to cope with that is shaping as a key element in the Olympic regatta.

"It's quite unique and essentially there's a lot going on," Powrie, who finished third with Aleh, said.

"There's a lot of changes in the wind, with shift and pressure, and also the current to think about, which can be pretty significant.

"The two areas [inside and outside the harbour] throw up quite different scenarios for techniques and setups, so it's quite a challenge to get your head around."

Powrie and Aleh began slowly but finished the regatta strongly, which Powrie put down to a mix of factors. She knows a difficult regatta awaits next year and believes the successful crews will be well-rounded sailors who are confident and skilled in a range of conditions.

Yachting New Zealand high performance boss Jez Fanstone believes the regatta showed the country's best sailors are tracking well for Rio.

"We're still in a learning phase for next year but what stood out this time is we raced in types of conditions we hadn't seen before," he said.

"What it's shown is this venue can give us anything."

He cited the examples of training in over 20 knots and big seas on the outside courses and six knots inside the bay.

"The collective learnings and sharing of information has gone up another level and I'm sure that'll add to one's toolbox for next year," Fanstone said.

Speaking of learnings, Powrie and Aleh will be among New Zealand crews heading back to Brazil for another event late this year.

"We find the more time we get to spend at a venue the better," Powrie said.

It might not be pleasant, but it's a necessary part of the pursuit of Olympic success.

Final placings
New Zealand's final placings at Rio test event:
1: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, 49er - five wins in 11 races.
3: Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie, women's 470 - six top-five finishes in 10 races.
4: Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, 49er FX - three wins in 11 races.
5: Jason Saunders and Gemma Jones, Nacra 17 - six top-three placings in 12 races.
5: Josh Junior, Finn - five top-four placings in 11 races.
11: Andy Maloney, Laser.
20: Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Willcox, men's 470.