Laser and 470 Teams Make Gains in Inconsistent Breeze


Stuart Streuli

ATHENS--After a couple of days of largely disappointing results, the U.S. Sailing Team made some positive moves in three classes on Day 4 of the 2004 Olympic Regatta. In a shifty and inconsistent sea breeze that started in the west and eventually backed all the way to the east, the U.S. 470 teams and Laser sailor Mark Mendelblatt improved their overall standings and now stand either in the medals, or very close to them. The wind forced race committees to work overtime to get the scheduled races off. In fact, the final Women's 470 race didn't finish until nearly 7 p.m., and the competitors, who'd left the harbor before noon, were straggling into the harbor at sunset. But at least the 470s can now say they're back on schedule after racing on what was supposed to be a day off. The Men's Mistral class, already down a race because its first race on Sunday was thrown out, was unable to get a race in today and is now three races behind schedule. The women's boardsailing division got one race in and is a race down. The 49er class, sailing on a reserve day, completed one of three scheduled races. The Europes got in a pair of races, but are still two down and, with the Lasers, will likely race tomorrow on their reserve day. Mendelblatt came off the water frustrated with his performance, a 20th and a sixth. However, other top competitors had an even worse day, and with four races in the books, Mendelblatt is in fourth, just one point out of third. The unfortunate news is that he's also just 10 points out of 12th. The top end of the Laser class, with the exception of Robert Scheidt who has a 17-point lead over second and is well on his way to another gold medal, is very tightly packed. "I'm very surprised I'm in fourth," he said. "I don't feel I should move up with the day I had today." It was a battle all day long for Mendelblatt, who begun his day with a poor start in the opening race. "I thought that a lot of guys around me were going to be over early, so I hung back," he said. "It wasn't the right call because no one was over early. I was making a nice comeback on the first beat, but missed one big left shift at the top." He rounded the top mark in 18th and was unable to make any forward progress the rest of the way. The second race produced a better result, but was no less difficult. The breeze virtually disappeared during the final run and left all the competitors at the head of the pack sweating to protect their leads. "It went very light on the last run and anything could've happened at that stage," he said. "You've got to tell yourself to stay relaxed and just go where you think the wind is going to come. It's very hard when the people behind you are carrying wind and there's nothing you can do except for wait it out and try to position yourself in the best spot to get the breeze as soon as you can." Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham had another solid day in the 470s. Though their results, a 10th and a fourth, might not look so spectacular, they were better than all but one other boat. More importantly, they beat the first-place team from Great Britain in both races and are now second by just two points. Behind them, however, the fleet compressed as the throw out was taken into consideration. Both the Australians, now seventh, and the Argentines, now 10th, appear to be hitting their respective strides. In the Women's 470 division, the Greeks are running away with the regatta. They won both races today and now count just two seconds and three firsts on their scorecard. The back injury that forced skipper Sophia Bekatorou to abandon the European Championships in June and fly home is apparently a thing of the past. But, the silver and bronze are very much up for grabs, with seven competitors within 12 points of second place. Among this group is Katie McDowell and Isabelle Kinsolving of the United States. With a ninth and a second today they are now seventh. The U.S. 49er team of Tim Wadlow and Pete Spaulding started their regatta today with an eighth. The race was completed in very suspect breeze and the final run saw the fleet essentially invert with first going to 12th and ninth going to first. Wadlow and Spaulding held onto eighth. "It was pretty sketchy today," Wadlow said. "The last run was a bit of randomness.  We were looking like we might be second at point and then we were looking like we might be 15th at one point. The wind was filling in from behind. They'd carry the wind up to you and roll over you." Wadlow wasn't particularly happy with the result, but did acknowledge it could've been worse. The other U.S. results of the day were a 14th and a ninth for Europe sailor Meg Gaillard, she's now 10th overall, but still in touch with the leaders, and a ninth for Mistral sailor, Lanee Beashel, which moved her up to 14th. Classes scheduled to race tomorrow include the 470s, Mistrals, Lasers, Europes, Finns, Ynglings, and 49ers. Results of Interest Men's Mistral (34 boards) Peter Wells (USA): (21) 21st Women's Mistral (26 boards) Karla Barrera (PUR): (26, 24, 25) 26th Lanee Beashel (USA): (13, 16, 9) 14th 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, 14, 9) ninth Laser (42 boats) Robert Scheidt (BRA): (3, 8, 1, 3) first Bernard Luttmer (CAN): (15, 25, 22, 21) 20th Timothy Pitts (ISV): (42, 40, 41, 40) 42nd Hamish Pepper (NZL): (24, 9, 26, 11) 14th Mark Mendelblatt (USA): (2, 14, 20, 6) fourth Men's 470 (27 boats) Paul Foerster/Kevin Burnham (USA): (1, 9, 2, 15, 10, 4) second Women's 470 (20 boats) Jen Provan/Nikola Girke (CAN): (5, 13, (17), 11, 12, 7) tied on points for 12th Katie McDowell/Isabelle Kinsolving (USA): (12, (16), 3, 12, 9, 2) seventh 49er (19 boats) Tim Wadlow/Pete Spaulding (USA): (8) eighth 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