If there’s one thing American sailors do well in this country, it’s pay little attention to our Olympic sailors. It’s easy to understand why: Olympic sailing doesn’t have the high-tech, big-money attraction of other major events, namely the forthcoming America’s Cup; and the sailors themselves do a pretty lousy job at promoting themselves outside of their own circle of friends, families, and supporters.Recognizing this, the media side of US SAILING’s Olympic arm tells us they’re stepping up publicity efforts as the current crop of young athletes enter the most important year of their respective campaigns for the 2008 Olympics in China, which includes a series of spring regattas in Europe. We’ve committed to help spread the word, so look for regular team updates at both www.usailing.org and at www.sailingworld.com.The spring Olympic classes regattas measure where U.S. sailors stand at the international level, and with the U.S. Olympic trials later this year (October) on both U.S. coasts, most team members have either embarked, or are about to, on this requisite European tour. “This is a younger group of athletes than we’ve had in a long time,” says Olympic sailing committee chair Dean Brenner, “so this really exciting.”Thirty members of the team are sailing in the spring circuit’s first event, the Princess Sofia Trophy Regatta in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, which started on Saturday. The U.S. contingent includes three 470 teams: Mikee Anderson-Mitterling and David Hughes; Stu McNay and Graham Biehl; Justin Law and Michael Miller. The 470 women are Amanda Clark and Sarah Mergenthaler, Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving, Molly Carapiet and Molly O’Bryan. Representing in the 49ers are Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast, and Dalton Bergan and Zack Maxam. Finn reps are Zach Railey and Geoffrey Ewenson, and Brad Funk and Andrew Campbell are representing in the Lasers. With 19-year-old Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Paige Railey home training this week, her rival in the Laser Radial class, Anna Tunnicliffe, is in Palma. In the RS:X men’s and women’s windsurfing classes are Bob Willis and Farrah Hall. John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree, and Don Thinschmidt and Drew Wierda, are mixing it up in the Tornados, and the sole Yngling team is Sally Barkow, Debbie Capozzi, and Carrie Howe.We checked in with the team on Monday evening after the second day of racing, and caught up with Tunnicliffe, who described her day on the water as “not so good, unfortunately.” In conditions she says were light and fluky, she was OCS in the day’s only race. She was near the boat, so it was a quick re-round. Off to the right side she went, according to her pre-race plan, just not as soon as she’d hoped. At one point, she says, she was the farthest boat right, and the wind filled from the left. The damage was done, and there was not enough racetrack for any recovery.Having finished 22nd in yesterday’s single race, Tunnicliffe understands the errors of her ways. “I know what I’m doing wrong,” she says. “I’ve been trying to work on starting at the ends, and this place, with the wind so variable, isn’t the place to practice starting at an end-it commits you to working one side, which is clearly not working.” Tomorrow, she adds, she’ll go back to her normal starting techniques and save the end-starting practice for a later regatta. “I’ve always been a good mid-line starter and Paige [Railey] is a great end starter, so I need to work on it,” she says of her main competitor for the Olympic berth, “it’s about positioning and spacing, just working the boat in a much smaller space.”After the Princess Sofia Trophy, Tunnicliffe will remaine in Palma to work on this further before traveling to Hyeres, France, for the Semaine Olympique Francaise, in mid April. Here’s what else is in store for the Team for the next several months:March 30 – April 6: HRH Princess Sofia Trophy, Palma de Mallorca, SpainApril 19 – 27: Semaine Olympique Francaise de Voile, Hyeres, FranceMay 23 – 27: Holland Regatta, Medemblik, The NetherlandsJune 1-10 : 470 European Championship, Thessaloniki, GreeceJune 1-9: Finn European Championship, Balatonfoldvar, HungaryJune 2-9: Laser European Championship and Laser Youth European Championship, Hyeres, FranceJune 5-15: RS:X European Championship, Limassol, CyprusJune 14-17: Laser North American Championship, Hyannis, MA, USAJune 16-30: Kiel Week, Kiel, GermanyJune 28-July 13: ISAF Combined Olympic Class World Championship in Cascais, Portugal (first Olympic Qualifier for all classes)
For photos from the first day of racing I Palma, check out the photo gallery, with photos courtesy of Nico Martinez.