St. Petersburg, Fla. - Historically, U.S. sailors at the Olympics do well when the classes are keelboats, when the competitions among women, or when the class is any boat sailed in the Games for the first time. That was a thesis of the report Gary Bodie, U.S. Olympic head coach, made to US SAILINGs Olympic Sailing Committee last Saturday. He said that 70 percent was the typical medal-success rate of U.S. athletes in classes fitting those descriptions.
Summarizing U.S. chances for 2004, Bodie said that the historical perspective is still apt. "The Yngling class might be our most solid hopeful," he said. "When the class was first announced we put together a proposal to the USOC for funding because it was a new keelboat class sailed by women. The USOC jumped on the bandwagon and bought us some new boats." Bodie went on to report that the U.S. womens teams had swept the top five womens spots at the open Worlds. The top team-Betsy Alison, Nancy Haberland, and Joan Touchette-finished second overall in that event.
Bodie pointed out the good results Vince Brun/Mike Doran (third) and Mark Reynolds/Magnus Liljedahl (sixth) had in the Star Worlds where the U.S. has been traditionally strong.
"Most exciting," he said, "was the McKee brothers winning the 49er Worlds." He also mentioned the strong, returning team of Andy Mack and Adam Lowry, plus lots of young talent, which he termed "college sailor of the year level," referring specifically to recent All-Americans Tim Wadlow and Pete Spaulding.
He described the USOCs surprise when the U.S. picked up a sailing medal in 2000 in the Womens 470 class (JJ Isler and Pease Glaser), which was based on four "absolutely solid teams" going into the U.S. Trials. The U.S. faces a similar unknown situation this year, but he said he was pleased with several teams at the recent 470 Worlds after just a few months together in the boat. Courtney Becker Dey and Linda Wennerstrom finished 6th, and three other teams were in the top 20.
Among the 470 Men, Mark Ivey and Ward Cromwell finished 33rd in the gold fleet at the Worlds and another, Steve Hunt and Mike Miller, dominated the silver fleet, winning six races. Bodie referred to the precedent set by Paul Foerster and Bob Merrick who did the same thing in 99 and then went on to medal in Sydney. He said the Miller/Hunt team, now in its second campaign, had "proved they belonged in the gold fleet and possibly in the top half."
Bodie reported that the other doublehanded class, the Tornado, has also been changed and that "you could argue that its a new class because of its new rig and spinnaker." The coach persuaded the USOC of the same thing and secured funding to send teams to the European championship, in which they had promising, if not topnotch results.
In the Laser class, Bodie said Mark Mendelblatt finished in the top 20-down from his earlier top-10 form, but that hed been sailing recently with an Americas Cup syndicate. "The good news," said Bodie, "is that three of five members of our team are high school students and two qualified for the gold fleet. If you track their results against their peers from the Youth Worlds, a 40th or 50th in gold fleet is actually on track." Bodie said the threesome-Andrew Cambell, Clay Johnson, and Zach Railey-would of course be aiming for 2004, but were also on a good performance track for 2008.
In the Europe, Bodie said, "Meg Gaillard is our major hopeful there. You need to remember she finished third in the Worlds last year although she didnt match that this year." He also pointed out that several promising sailors had emerged from US SAILINGs Leiter Cup championship.
Bodie was less optimistic about the Finn, but credited Russ Silvestri for predicting hed win the Finn Gold Cup and then coming near to doing it. He added that Silvestri had been aggressive at the starts and paid the price with two OCS scores.
Addressing the IMCO windsurfer classes, Bodie indicated that veterans Mike Gebhart and Lanee Butler would probably retire, and said that he was really bothered about also possibly losing 99 Trials runner-up Randy Somnitz and third-place finisher Peter Wells. The latter had qualified for the gold fleet at the IMCO Worlds this year, but, said Bodie, "is unsure about continuing."