Narrow victory for Hall

Newcomer piles on the pressure at Finn North American Championships

Monday March 21st 2005, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States
Kevin Hall, the U.S. Finn class representative at Athens last year, says he isn't sure if he'll campaign for the 2008 Olympics in China, but he knows who one of his strongest rivals would be.

Zach Railey, a rookie from Clearwater, Fla. in one of the venerable Olympic classes, led Hall by a point Sunday going into the eighth and last race of the North American Championships, incorporated with Alamitos Bay Yacht Club's annual Olympic Classes Regatta.

It appeared he would win it all as he led the fleet into the last leeward gate, but he capsized in winds of 18 knots with gusts to 21 and failed to finish. Even after discarding that misfortune and winning half the races, he wound up a single point behind Hall.

Railey, 20, is the older brother of Paige Railey, 17, the top U.S. female youth sailor. In the 2004 U.S. Olympic Finn trials he was fifth and already knew he wasn't long for the class.

"It wasn't in my genes," said Railey, who is 6-4, 210 pounds and still growing. "My body outgrew the Laser, but it's perfect for the Finn. I just started sailing it a couple of months ago." But he is already ranked second only to Hall on the US Sailing Team for 2005. "I'm really happy with how I'm doing so far," he said.

Railey's spill left not only the North American title but the Llewellyn Bixby Trophy to Hall as winner of the most competitive class, an honor Hall also received in 1995 for winning the Laser class. The trophy is one of the original relay torches for the 1984 Games when the sailing was on these same waters.

Other class winners were ABYC's Kevin Taugher among 37 Lasers, Keamia Rasa of the Royal Vancouver (B.C.) Yacht Club in Laser Radial - the new Olympic class for 2008, replacing the Europe dinghy - and Will Stout and crew Darrell Hiatt of San Diego in the six-boat Star class, winning five of nine races with no finish worse than second.

Another surname famous in local Olympic lore excelled in Laser Radial. Lindsay Buchan, 23, granddaughter of Bill and daughter of Carl, both gold medalists in '84, was second to Rasa. She is ranked fourth on the US Sailing Team 2005.

Hall, 35, won't be sailing his Finn much more until after the 2007 America's Cup. He is a member of the Emirates Team New Zealand team bidding to recover the Cup for the Kiwis. "I'm just skipping class for a few days to do this," Hall said. "It's not [an Olympic] campaign yet, but I enjoy sailing and racing, and after all the hard work it would be silly not to keep my head in it."

Meanwhile, he and his wife Amanda are new adoptive parents of a son, Rainer, born New Year's Eve to a surrogate mother. Hall is a survivor of testicular cancer. "We'll all be together once the America's Cup campaign gets rolling," he said. "I'm looking forward to that."

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