Clear victories for Hart and Gaillard

Rich Roberts reports from the final day of the US Olympic classes showdown in Alamitos Bay

Monday March 24th 2003, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States
Mo Hart and Meg Gaillard reinforced their top rankings in the single-handed Finn and Europe classes, respectively, with runaway victories in the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club's 43rd Olympic Classes Regatta concluding Sunday, but they know it won't be as easy getting to Athens next year.

"I learned a long time ago not to say a word because everything changes at the Trials," Gaillard said after winning the last three races and 8 of 10 overall. Hart agreed. "Only one thing matters, and that's the Trials," he said.

After winning 5 of 9 races, Hart dropped out of the last race after a pre-start collision with the veteran Henry Sprague. Final results were delayed until their two-way protest was resolved by the race jury in Hart's favour.

Only one boat in each class qualifies for the Olympics. While Hart, 27, and Gaillard, 29, remain favorites in their groups, competition in the 49er skiffs took another hitch in pressure when Dalton Bergan and crew Zack Maxam won the last three races in light to moderate breeze to overhaul frontrunners David Fagen and crew Bora Gulari at 28 points each.

They almost had to flip a coin to determine the winner. After 15 races over three days, each team had the same number of first, second, third and fourth places, so the tiebreaker was Bergan's fifth place in Race 3, which he actually discarded as one of his two throwouts.

"Amazing," Bergan, 25, said. "I thought this would be one of the regattas where everybody fell into a pecking order."

Andy Mack and crew Adam Lowry were five points back. They are ranked No. 2 behind Tim Wadlow and Peter Spaulding, who remained on the East Coast this weekend. Bergan/Maxam are third and Fagen/Gulari fourth. The hairsplitting defeat was disappointing for Gulari, who said, glumly, "I wish we could just win a regatta one day."

Winds Sunday were 6 to 10 knots southwest and shifty. Those who played the shifts best were most successful.

Mike Leigh, 18, was another surprised winner in the 43-boat Laser class, where he had his four worst finishes in the last four races.

"I can't believe we won it," Leigh said. "It's fortunate for me but unfortunate for the others who had OCSs. I was pushing it but had good starts."

Leigh, one of eight Canadians in the fleet, will also face a fight for his country's Olympic berth. "We're always neck and neck," he said.

Gaillard's strongest threat is Krysia Pohl, 27, her frequent training partner who was a distant second this time. "Krysia is sailing well," said Gaillard, who was second to Courtenay Dye in the 2000 qualifiers, "and everybody sails their best at the Trials."

Pohl, a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard, resigned her commission to pursue her Olympic ambition. "I really ramped up my program in 2001 and started campaigning fulltime," she said. "I'm still fine-tuning my equipment and techniques. I'm getting better."

Pohl admitted that sailing wasn't the only thing on her mind over the weekend. "If I was still in [the Coast Guard] I'd probably be doing security inspections to make sure that what's coming in is legal. Everyone's duties are double now. I support everyone who's [in Iraq]. That's the most I can do. I pray for them and that they'll come home safely."

Top finishers:

EUROPE (20 boats)
1. Meg Gaillard, Jamestown, R.I., 1-(2)-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1, 10 points.
2. Krysia Pohl, Alameda, Calif., 2-3-2-(6)-2-2-5-6-4-DNC, 32.
3. Tanja Smutny, Winnipeg, Man., 5-9-(10)-2-5-3-1-4-2-2, 33.

FINN (11)
1. Mo Hart, Santa Cruz, Calif., (2)-1-2-1-1-1-1-3-2-DNF, 14.
2. Geoff Ewenson, Annapolis, Md., 1-(3)-1-2-3-3-2-(4-1-1, 17.
3. Henry Sprague, Long Beach, 3-2-(4)-3-2-2-3-2-3-1-5-DNC, 25.

49ER (13)
1. Dalton Bergan/Zack Maxam, Coronado, Calif.,
3-1-(5)-2-2-1-8-3-4-1-4-4-1-1-1, 28.
2. David Fagen, St. Petersburg, Fla./Bora Gulari, Detroit,
2-3-1-1-4-(8)-1-1-(10)-2-1-1-3-4-4, 28.
3. Andy Mack, White Salmon, Wash./Adam Lowry, San Francisco,
1-2-2-(6)-1-4-3-2-(6)-3-2-2-2-6-3, 33.

LASER (43)
1. Mike Leigh, Vancouver, B.C., 2-1-1-7-2-3-(15)-10-14-9, 49.
2. Brendon Piovesan, Vancouver, B.C., 1-8-2-(OCS)-4-15-8-5-7-7, 57.
3. Greg Helias, Marina del Rey, 12-11-13-2-8-(ZFP)-7-1-4-3, 61.

LASER RADIAL (28)
1. Parker Shinn, San Diego, 1-1-4-2-(5)-5-2-3-3-1, 22.
2. Doug Hart, San Diego, (9)-4-3-3-2-1-4-1-5-5, 28.
3. Bob Falk, Long Beach, (8)-2-1-8-4-6-3—2-2-3, 31.

STAR (10)
1. Mike Dorgan/Eric Weintraub, San Diego, 1-1-1-(9)-2-1-6-2-6-2, 22.
2. Jeremy Davidson/Jessica Costa, Long Beach, 3-2-3-3-(4)-4-4-3-1-(redress)
3, 26.
3. Eric Lidecis/Dan Roehl, Newport Beach, 2-3-2-2-3-(5)-5-4-5-3, 29.

SNIPE (9)
1. Rick Arneson/Gus Wirth, San Diego, 1-1-1-2-(5)-2-4, 11.
2. David Tillson/John Fretwell, San Diego, 2-2-3-4-(6)-1-3, 15.
3. Ken Redler/Barbara Tillson, Marina del Rey, 3-4-1-6-3-(8)-1, 18.

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