Winner takes all

Olympic spots up for grabs at US Olympic Trials which start Saturday

Friday February 13th 2004, Author: Jan Harley, Location: United States
It’s a hubbub of activity at three south Florida yacht clubs as the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Sailing gets underway from tomorrow for five of the nine classes chosen for the 2004 Olympic Games.  The sailors are in the second day of measurement, with opening ceremonies taking place at the respective host clubs later today: Ft. Lauderdale Yacht Club is hosting the trials for the Europe and Finn classes; Key Biscayne Yacht Club is hosting the 49er and Yngling; and Miami Yacht Club is hosting the Tornado.

The first race of the series (24 planned races for 49ers, 16 for all other fleets) is scheduled to start Saturday, February 14.  The format for the U.S. Trials replicates the Olympic Games as closely as possible. Racing continues until Sunday, February 22, and will incorporate a mandatory layday on Wednesday, February 18.  At the series conclusion, the winners in each event will be named to the 2004 Olympic Team that will represent the U.S.A. in Athens, Greece, next August at the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad.

From all indications, the Olympic Team Trials-Sailing will be as tough, if not tougher, than the Olympic Regatta itself. US Sailing's Olympic Director Jonathan Harley explained: "Though some of the athletes competing are ranked nationally among the top five teams in their classes and are members of the annually-designated US Sailing Team by virtue of those rankings, the Trials are a winner-take-all proposition. Everyone starts with a clean slate, which means previous regatta standings, championship titles and rankings mean nothing.  There is no room for mistakes, and if you don't win, there is no consolation prize."

Not every country runs its Olympic Sailing Trials that way, but Harley insists that it has--over the last five Olympiads--helped to make the U.S.A.'s Olympic Sailing Team one of the most successful of those competing in the Summer Olympic Games, with 27 medals won during that period.

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