The US perspective

Solid positioning for US team in Stars and Tornados

Wednesday August 25th 2004, Author: Jan Harley, Location: Mediterranean
Just yesterday it seemed there were plenty of races left at the Olympic Regatta for Star and Tornado sailors to easily make up for lost points. But now with two more races from today behind them and only three left to go in their 11-race series, the tension is building.

USA's Star team of Paul Cayard (Kentfield, Calif.) and Phil Trinter (Lorain, Ohio/Port Washington, N.Y.) still sit in bronze-medal position after today, having made yet another amazing comeback in today's first race. The duo went from 14th to first on the next-to-last leg of the course, then turned in a disappointing 15th in the second race, when their best mark rounding had been a sixth.

"We sailed poorly in a race and finished first, then sailed a good race and finished badly," said Trinter. "That's just the way it is out there. It's witchcraft."

Trinter thought going left when the right paid would be their downfall in the first race. " We treaded water until the second leeward mark. There was a huge shift and we were sailing straight to the mark. I just didn't want to jinx it. We could see what was happening." Trinter added that Brazil was right behind them. "Paul did a great job of fending them off."

"In the second race," Trinter said, "there were islands of breeze, and we missed them all." Studying the scores, Trinter conceded that there is still a lot of work to do to catch Canada, which sits in second, never mind Brazil who leads. "We're in great position. There are a lot of others here that have done more training and spent more money on their campaigns than Paul and me, and they don't even have that chance."

For Tornado sailors John Lovell (New Orleans, La.) and Charlie Ogletree (Houston, Texas/Columbia, N.C.), today's races-in which they finished sixth and seventh--were good only for knocking them down one spot on the scoreboard. Fortunately, that spot is second overall. "We were up in the front pack for both races and seemed to have a bad last lap each time," said Lovell. "That was the story of the day."

Like the Star sailors, Lovell and Ogletree feel they are somewhat dependent on luck to navigate the "random" shifts and pressure zones that come with the sea breeze. "Today we didn't have any luck, but a couple of teams were buried and came out of the corners on a few shifts, including Australia, which moved up to third overall." Lovell said he plans to "just sail two really good races" tomorrow. "The way these conditions are, you can't cover another team," he surmised, thinking about the mere seven points that separate him from the Austrians in first place. "If you do, you could miss some critical shifts. We trained here for over a month and never saw this kind of breeze."

Concluding their series today were the Mistral sailors. With Israel's Gal Fridman taking the gold in the men's division, the Agios Kosmas Sailing Center was swarmed with journalists, reporting on that country's first-ever gold medal at any Olympic Games.

For the USA's Peter Wells (Newport Beach/La Canada, Calif.), today's final race, in which he finished 31st, left him in 28th overall and disappointed. "I wasn't considered a medal contender, so top-10 was my big goal," said Wells. "I had my moments a couple of times but never was able to put a race together. My boat speed wasn't great upwind. The first half of the regatta, I wasn't finishing well but I was sticking to my game plan. Past the mid-point, I started banging the corners and that cost me. I lost discipline tactically, which didn't bode well in the last few races.

Asked how the Olympics differ from regular regattas, Wells explained, "In the end, once the gun goes off, it's just sailing. The biggest difference is length, but our Trials were long, too. The experience was wonderful, though. I was floating every day. There were great things to do and see, and all the pomp and circumstance was great, but it didn't affect me."

For Lanee Butler Beashel (Aliso Viejo, Calif.), now a four-time Olympian, today's final race was her swan song and she was happy to finish fifth. It was her best score in an 11-race series that left her in 16th overall.

"We waited for the men's race to end and then the wind completely died before the seabreeze kicked in," said Beashel. "There was a huge battle for gold and silver, which was nice to watch." (France's Faustine Merret snagged the gold while China's Jian Yin took the silver.)

When asked to decide which Olympic experience she has enjoyed most, Beashel said, "I can't really compare them. "Barcelona ('92) was special because it was my first experience; Savannah ('96) because it was in my home country; Sydney ('00) because it was in my new home country of sorts, since I married an Australian; and Greece because it was here where I competed in my first-ever international sailing competition--the Youth Worlds when I was 16. If I had four medals around my neck I'd be happier, but I feel as rich as that because of all the countries I've been to and the people I've met."

What's Next - Tomorrow, Thursday, August 26, the 49ers finish their series
with a medal round, while Stars and Tornados continue racing. Friday the
Stars and Tornados are scheduled for a reserve day before their medal rounds
on Saturday, August 28.

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