The US perspective

Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham take Gold in the 470 Men in Athens

Saturday August 21st 2004, Author: Jan Harley, Location: Mediterranean
The 470 men’s team of Paul Foerster (Rockwall, Texas) and Kevin Burnham (Miami, Fla.) won a gold medal today for the USA at the 2004 Olympic Regatta, adding to their country’s current harvest of medals at the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad. It came down to one race, one chance for Foerster and Burnham to secure their fleet lead from yesterday, and only one other country - Great Britain - that could mathematically push them back to a silver-medal position. That last fact became fiction, however, more than two minutes before the start, when the British team’s positioning went horribly wrong and the Americans trapped them.

"They were set up in a good spot," said Foerster, a two-time Olympic silver medalist (470 Men in 2000, Flying Dutchman in 1992), "but we were lucky enough to recognise that the breeze had dropped down to 5 or 6 knots. We knew if we took their air they couldn’t get to the starting line on time. Then it was a case of not letting up or letting them get past us." USA and Great Britain trailed the fleet around the course, but always with USA leading. Their final finish positions were 22nd and 23rd, which both teams counted as a worst-race throwout.

"Whenever we were in trouble we concentrated on boat speed and pulled out ahead," said Burnham about the match-racing moves he and Foerster employed, tacking eight times before the start and 20 or more times up the first leg of the course to cover the British whenever they tacked to escape. Mark roundings between the two teams were eight seconds apart at the first mark, and the team managed to extend the margin to 27 seconds by the finish.

When the finish horn blasted for the duo, Burnham, also a silver medalist (470 Men in 1992), performed a back flip off his boat, leaving skipper Foerster alone to douse the spinnaker and round up to retrieve him.

"It’s a real honour to win a gold medal," said Burnham. "It’s something I’ve been dreaming of since I first started sailing. And it’s just such a privilege to sail with Paul."

"For me, the journey has been 25 years or so," said Foerster. "I didn’t realise how much I wanted it until a few days ago when I knew we had a shot at it. I had to let it go, though. The tension would come and go, and I just said “you have to believe in yourself and your teammate."

Behind Great Britain, which settled for the silver medal after the 11-race series, was Japan taking the bronze.

While today’s shootout on the 470 course garnered massive attention from spectators and press, the Star and Tornados did not go unnoticed as they began their series for the Olympic Regatta. Both are high profile classes, the Stars boasting some of the best-known sailors in the world and the Tornados having gone from simply fast at the last Olympics to ridiculously fast this time due to a massive amount of added sail area.

In the Star class, the USA’s Paul Cayard (Kentfield, Calif.) and Phil Trinter (Lorain, Ohio/Port Washington, N.Y.) took the day with 1-6 finish positions. In the first race, the team led at all marks of the course, while in the second, it had to make a comeback. "We had a bad start," said Cayard. "At the top mark, we were in about fifth but had to almost go downwind to avoid a wall of guys on starboard. We rounded pretty deep, probably around 12th. Overall, we sailed well, we’re going fast. It was just a good first day."

Tornado sailors John Lovell (New Orleans, La.) and Charlie Ogletree (Houston, Texas/Columbia, N.C.) also had a splendid first day, taking seconds in both races to tie on points with Austria and land in second overall behind them due to tie-breaker rules. "We sailed fairly conservatively," said Lovell, "and tried not to make big mistakes and avoided tight situations. A couple of times we could have gone for first, but it was too risky. We’e happy with the second-place finishes."

Sailing their final medal races today along with the 470 Men’s class were athletes in the Yngling, 470 Women and Finn classes. The gold medals in Yngling and 470 Women were secured yesterday by the British and the Greek teams, respectively, so the battles in both classes for silver and bronze ensued today, but without the USA in contention.

Yngling sailors Carol Cronin (Jamestown, R.I.), Liz Filter (Stevensville, Md.) and Nancy Haberland (Annapolis, Md.) finished their Olympic Regatta in tenth overall after starting prematurely in today’s single race and failing to restart. The 17th they suffered from it was counted as their worse score and throwout. It dropped them two positions from yesterday. "I’m disappointed," said Cronin about her series, which had some brilliant moments including two victories in an 11-race lineup. "But would I have stayed away if I knew I wouldn’t win a medal? No way." Taking the silver and bronze medals were the Ukraine and Denmark.

In the 470 Women’s division, Katie McDowell (Barrington, R.I.) and Isabelle Kinsolving (New York, N.Y.) turned in an excellent last-race performance of fourth to move them up a notch from yesterday to fifth overall. "There is a disappointment about missing a medal," said McDowell, "but we were 15th after the first day, so fifth is a whole lot better. I’m pleased we ended strong. We had a couple of days that were great and two days where we had some tough luck, but generally we sailed pretty well. I am proud of how we did. I am proud of us." Winning the silver medal in this class was Spain, while Sweden took the bronze.

Finn sailor Kevin Hall (Bowie, Md./Ventura, Calif.) finished seventh today after leading at several marks and rose from 14th on the scoreboard yesterday to tenth today. Great Britain won the gold, while Spain and Poland took the silver and bronze medals. "My goal is always to sail well," said Hall. "I was happy with all my preparation and training, and I went into this feeling good, but somehow after it started it was like I got up on the wrong side of the bed, and I didn’t sort it out until today. It has been my childhood dream since I was five to go to the Olympics. If there is one thing I would take away from this as a lesson it would be that it’s harder than it looks. You can say it’s about participation, but for those who can really put it together, my hat’s off."

The Mistral fleets (men and women) continued racing today, with the USA’s Lanee Butler Beashel (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) adding a 6-14 to her scores to move up a spot to 16th overall. Peter Wells (La Canada/Newport Beach, Calif.) remains in 25th overall with finish positions of 28-24. Each class has three races to go.

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