Big Breeze Hurts Schedule, U.S. Medal Hopes on Day 3

Olympic0816
Stuart Streuli

ATHENS--The Meltemi breeze made its presence felt today at the 2004 Olympics, laying waste to the regatta schedule and all but killing the medal chances for two American teams. A full slate of races were scheduled for today?seven classes on four circles. But only the Finns and Ynglings, sailing together on Circle D, left the harbor. The 470, 49er, Laser, and Europe competitors never saw the answering pennant drop from the flag pole. According to witnesses on the water, the wind spent much of the day in the low 20s, but there were some powerful gusts that came close to 30 knots. The last two legs of the second Yngling race were sailed in 25 knots according to the race course instruments. The story of the day, however, was Ben Ainslie's Lazarus impression in the Finn class. After a ninth and a DSQ courtesy of a protest by French sailor Guillaume Florent on Day 1, it seemed that the two-time Olympic Laser medalist's chances of earning a third were pretty slim. Yet four races later, three of which he won, Ainslie is in first place by a point over Rafael Trujillo of Spain as the Finns head into their lay day. Ainslie's improbable comeback was given a huge boost today both by Ainslie's own performance--he was as deep as 10th in the first race before climbing into fifth and then won the second race wire-to-wire--and a disastrous day for 1996 Finn gold medalist Mateusz Kusznierewicz of Poland, who finished 11th in the opening race today and then compounded his problems by being over the line early in the second and not re-starting. Kusznierewicz had held a commanding lead in the regatta after four solid races, but now finds himself chasing Ainslie. Given that Ainslie is carrying a DSQ and Kusznierewicz a OCS, the best-placed sailor is clearly Trujillo, who has three thirds and no finish worse than an eighth. Former world champ Sebastien Godefroid of Belgium is forth, but has a 19th and a 12th on his scorecard. While Ainslie has relished the Meltemi breeze, the same cannot be said for American Kevin Hall, who hasn't broken the top-12 in four races in the unpredictable offshore breeze. Hall had a solid mid-line start in the first race while a number of his competitors squeezed down toward the pin creating in a large pile-up. He appeared to hang with the lead pack for much of the first leg, but a big left-hand shift on the top third of the beat hurt a number of other competitors, Hall among them. Hall rounded the top mark in 19th and was able to pick up a few boats from there, but never break into the top group. In the second race, Hall rounded the top mark in 14th and while he would drop to 15th by the first leeward mark he was able to move back up to 14th on the next run and that was where he finished. Hall now stands tied on points for 14th with Daniel Birgmark of Sweden. The day started on an even worse note for the U.S Yngling team of Carol Cronin, Liz Filter, and Nancy Haberland. They went for the pin end start in the first race and got the worst of it, fouling another boat. After they cleared themselves and did a 720-degree penalty turn they were over a minute behind the rest of the fleet. They picked off one boat, but that was it and finished 15th. The second race was only marginally better as they struggled out of the gate, rounded the first mark in 11th and bounced around the double digits for the rest of the race before finishing 10th. "It's nice sailing, but it's really hard," said Cronin, who was upbeat despite the finishes. "It's really shifty and there are these lines of breeze that come down. It's kind of a rich get richer situation. If you don't get a good start it's hard to come back. It's long shifts so you've got to get to them, get on the right tack, hold your lane, and then get to the next one and get on the right tack. So it's hard to come back from the middle." They are now tied on points for 11th with the Spanish team. At the head of this fleet is another British former Olympic medalist, Shirley Robertson, who's sailing with Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton. She's been dominant, especially in the breeze. While every other team in the fleet has at least one double-digit finish, Robertson and her crew have yet to finish outside the top five. They lead Dorte Jensen's team from Denmark by 9 points. At press time it was unclear what the schedule would be Tuesday. The 470s were scheduled for a reserve day, but it's likely they will sail. The 49ers, which are sharing Circle C with the Mistrals, were also scheduled for a day off. Where they would race is the question, as the Mistrals are scheduled to sail on Tuesday. The Lasers and Europes will also race tomorrow. The only other news of the day was that the first race for the Mistrals was thrown out due to a race committee error. It is scheduled to be re-sailed tomorrow afternoon. Results of Interest Men's Mistral (34 boards) Peter Wells (USA): (21) 21st Women's Mistral (26 boards) Karla Barrera (PUR): (26, 24) 26th Lanee Beashel (USA): (13, 16) 16th Finn (25 boats) Richard Clarke (CAN): (10, 18, 15, (22), 19, 15) 19th Ben Ainslie (GBR): (9, (DSQ), 1, 1, 4, 1) eighth Dean Barker (NZL): (5, 10, 7, 11, 7, (16)) tied on points for seventh Kevin Hall (USA): (11, 6, 13, (17), 16, 14) 14th Europe (25 boats) Meg Gaillard (USA): (9, 11) tied on points for 20th) Laser (42 boats) Robert Scheidt (BRA): (3, 8) second Bernard Luttmer (CAN): (15, 25) 21st Timothy Pitts (ISV): (42, 40) 42nd Hamish Pepper (NZL): (24, 9) 16th Mark Mendelblatt (USA): (2, 14) sixth Men's 470 (27 boats) Paul Foerster/Kevin Burnham (USA): (1, 9, 2, 15) second Women's 470 (20 boats) Jen Provan/Nikola Girke (CAN): (5, 13, 18, 11) tied on points for 13th Katie McDowell/Isabelle Kinsolving (USA): (12, 16, 3, 12) 12th 49er (19 boats) Tim Wadlow/Pete Spaulding (USA): Racing postponed until Tuesday Tornado (17 boats) Oskar Johansson/John Curtis (CAN): Will start competing on Aug. 21 Enrique Figueroa/Jorge Hernandez (PUR): Will start competing on Aug. 21 John Lovell/Charlie Ogletree (USA): Will start competing on Aug. 21 Star (17 boats) Peter Bromby/Lee White (BER): Will start competing on Aug. 21 Torben Grael/Marcelo Ferreira (BRA): Will start competing on Aug. 21 Ross MacDonald/Mike Wolfs (CAN): Will start competing on Aug. 21 Paul Cayard/Phil Trinter (USA): Will start competing on Aug. 21 Yngling (16 boats) Paula Lewin/Peta Lewin/Christine Patton (BER): (4, 15, 6, 14, (16), 14) tied on points for 13th Lisa Ross/Chantal Leger/Deirdre Crampton (CAN): (13, 9, (15), 15, 12, 12) 16th Carol Cronin/Liz Filter/Nancy Haberland (USA): (2, 10, (16), 9, 15, 10) tied on points for 11th