Tough Trials Forge Solid U.S. Team

Eighteen of the country's best sailors are headed for Qingdao after proving themselves in the rigorous U.S. Olympic Sailing Trials. "First Beat" from our October 16, 2007, /SW eNewsletter/

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Stuart Streuli

It took John Dane III nearly 40 years, but he finally won an Olympic Trials. The 57-year-old Mississippi resident, sailing with his 29-year-old son-in-law, held off an extremely talented fleet of Star sailors to earn an Olympic berth 39 years after finishing second in the 1968 Dragon Trials. Next August, Dane and Austin Sperry will join a group of 16 other sailors on the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team. Fifteen of those sailors were chosen during the U.S. Olympic Trials, which concluded on Sunday after nine days. The other three will be finalized at the Yngling World Championships in February.Only four members of the team have previous Olympic experience-Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast in the 49er, and three-time Olympians John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree in the Tornado. However, each team or sailor that qualified will be well served by the harsh competitive environment created by the U.S. Trials system. The pressure in each class was intense and an invaluable tune-up for the difficult conditions expected in Qingdao.Take, for example, Lovell and Ogletree, the defending Olympic silver medalists in the Tornado class. The Tornado fleet for the Trials was quite small, just six boats, and of those six, only two had a realistic shot at the Olympic berth. But those two teams were nearly dead even. Lovell and Ogletree traded first and second place finishes with Robbie Daniel and Hunter Stunzi until the fifth day of racing when the three-time Olympians faltered with a fourth and a third. Daniel and Stunzi built a three-point lead and seemed well in control of the trials, needing just two wins in the final six races to secure the berth.But Lovell and Ogletree won five of six races, including the last four, and clinched their fourth Olympic berth, a remarkable show of grace under pressure.It was equally as close between Laser sailors Andrew Campbell and Brad Funk. After 16 races, the finished tied on points, just as they had a year earlier at the Pre-Trials. As happened at that regatta, Campbell won the event on the tiebreaker. He had five first place finishes to four for Funk.Other winners included Anna Tunnicliffe in the Laser Radial, Stu McNay and Graham Biehl in the Men's 470, Amanda Clark and Sarah Merganthaler in the Women's 470, Ben Barger in the Men's RS:X, Nancy Rios, who has to win a redress hearing after the last race to claim the Women's RS:X championship, and Zach Railey in the Finn.For SailingWorld.com's complete coverage of the 2007 U.S. Olympic Trials, including daily round-ups from US SAILING, Podcasts, and photos, click here.