The first two days of the 13th annual Miami Olympic Classes Regatta may well be representative of January in Miami. But if that's the case, why do the local weather forecasters keep talking about the "continued summer weather" that has prevailed in Biscayne Bay over the past two weeks. Of course, most of the 434 sailors in town for the 13th annual Miami OCR, haven't spent a lot of energy worrying whether the 80-degree temperatures, bath-warm water, and 10- to 15-knot easterly winds are normal, better than average, or wholly abnormal. They've got other things on their mind. Many are fighting for the coveted spots on the US SAILING team--the OCR is a required ranking regatta for anyone hoping to make the 2002 team--and the very limited slots at the Pre-Olympic regatta this summer in Athens, while others are merely hoping for a solid result in what certainly will be one of the most competitive dinghy regattas on the planet this season.
One of the former is Laser sailor Brett Davis. Davis, a 1997 graduate of Harvard, won two of three races on Wednesday, the first day of the OCR, to take the early lead in the 64-boat Laser class, but struggled on Thursday.
"Today didn't go quite as well," said Davis on Thursday evening. "I had an OCS in the second race and I think I was fifth in the first race and about ninth or so in the last race. So I'm probably dropping back a little bit, but people were all over the place."
Davis, who at 6-feet-2 and 168 pounds is about seven or eight pounds shy of the ideal weight for a Laser, noted that conditions on Thursday were a little more difficult than the day before.
"We had a building breeze throughout the day," he said. "By the third race it was a solid 15. It was shifty, pretty dramatic 15-degree shifts and then there'd be a couple of pretty big puffs and sheers as we got up toward Key Biscayne where they had our weather mark."
The breeze also kicked up the typical Biscayne Bay short chop.
"It makes it very physical upwind," he added. "You've got to pull a lot of vang on to get through it and you've got to steer aggressively and use a lot of torquing motions with your shoulders--mostly aft to keep your bow from digging in. That physically wears you out and that was a big factor.
"Downwind, ideally in the puffs you were jumping over the waves and it makes it unstable. There are times where you almost capsized because the waves were chaotic. Some people were struggling for sure with the downwind. I was here a week early training with Gary Bodie, so that was helpful."
For Davis, who finished third at the 2000 Olympic Laser Trials in San Francisco, this regatta is an important launching pad for his campaign toward a medal in 2004 in Athens. He hopes to be one of the top two Americans at the event, attend the Pre-Olympics in Athens in August, and turn that momentum into a top-10 finish at the 2002 Worlds in Hyannis, Mass. After Thursday's racing, Davis is tied for second with teenager Andrew Campbell. Each sailor has 24 points. Great Britain's Paul Goodison leads the regatta with just 10 points.
A few miles south of the Laser circle, the Ynglings were enjoying their first OCR experience. After seven races, Jody Swanson, Cory Sertl, and Pease Glaser lead the pack, but close on their heels is the team of Carol Cronin, Liz Filter, and Kate Fears. Though the latter trio may not have the name recognition of many of the teams competing in the regatta, they are proving at this regatta that they will be a force in the class. They won two of four races on Wednesday and another on Thursday. In addition, none of their finishes have been outside the top four.
"We felt great," said Cronin, from Jamestown, R.I., "We felt we could do no wrong. Liz had a great aunt die last week. She went up to the funeral on Tuesday, which was stressful for all of us, not having her around the day before the regatta. But we decided that when we had such a good day yesterday we had a guardian angel, it was her Great Aunt Nana."
When pressed, though, Cronin, admitted it was more than divine intervention that's lifted her team toward the top of the heap
"I think it was a combination (of boatspeed and tactics)," she added. "But our boatspeed is excellent and it's gotten us out of some mediocre to bad starts.
"I think we've definitely made a big jump We spent a week down her two weeks ago working on boathandling and then spent four days--Saturday to Tuesday--with Greg Fisher working on boatspeed and the combination of that has allowed us to make a huge leap."
But, as Cronin and Davis, will quickly tell anyone how asks, the regatta is far from over. Two more days of potentially lighter and shiftier conditions are predicted for Biscayne Bay and the standings could certainly change a lot between Thursday and when the trophies are handed out on Saturday.
Davis and Cronin will also tell you, if you ask, that if the last two days of the 2002 OCRare anything like the first two then everyone who came will go home, at the least, having enjoyed some outstanding weather.
"Conditions have been fabulous," said Cronin. "I don't think I've ever had two days of sailing back to back in T-shirt and shorts, warm when you're wet and warm when you're dry."
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