U.S. Olympic Trials, Day 1 Report

From Rhode Island and Southern California, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Trials get underway. Fog prevents the Laser and Radial fleet from getting in a second race, but everyone other fleet gets in two or three races.

East Coast ReportIf you could bottle the adrenaline as the 70-boat fleet racing the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team Trials - Sailing traveled to starting lines today off Aquidneck Island, you might make a dent in the nation's energy reserves. After years of training and testing and competing, racers in five classes are banking their hopes for Olympic and Paralympic medals on this winner-takes-all contest that will determine who will represent the United States at the 2008 Games, and the mood of anticipation was fittingly thick-as thick as the fog that rolled in toward the finish of the first race in the Laser and Laser Radial classes. "You try and tell yourself that this is like any other regatta," said Sonar skipper Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), who won the opening race in this triplehanded Paralympic class. "You sail out, go through your pre-race maneuvers … But then, this thought creeps into your head: This is for everything! Today was definitely nerve-racking." Nerves aside, Doerr and his crew of Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J.) and Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass.), fresh off a win in the Sonar class at the 2007 IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship, had a gameplan. Seeing better wind pressure on the right side of the course, they picked their starting-line position and, as Doerr said, "We owned the right." Playing current and their prediction for better pressure on the right-hand side worked to their favor for the first race win in the Sonar class in this nine-day series. Doerr and skipper Jennifer French (St. Petersburg, Fla.), racing with Brad Kendell (Tampa, Fla.) and Michael Hersey (Hyannis, Mass.), are tied in points after two races. Three Paralympic classes completed two races each on Narragansett Bay, on a course located between Rose and Goat islands, in breeze that ranged 7 to 11 knots with haze and fog. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) leads the 2.4mR class. The doublehanded SKUD-18 class also completed two races, but the second race was shortened as heavy fog rolled over the course; the teams of Nick Scandone/Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Fountain Valley, Calif./Marblehead, Mass.) and Scott Whitman/Julia Dorsett (Brick, N.J./West Chester, Penn.) are tied with 4 points each. Four-time collegiate All-American Clay Johnson (Toms River, N.J.) is leading the 33-boat Laser class after winning today's opening race. The Laser and Laser Radial classes are sailing from Middletown's Third Beach and racing at the mouth of the Sakonnet River. Both classes got one race in today, in breeze that ranged 10 to 14 knots with a good chop, before thick fog rolled over the course, canceling the second scheduled race. After training in Rhode Island for nearly a month, along with many of his classmates in the Laser and Laser Radial classes, Johnson sailed to the starting line 45 minutes early today to survey the course. His key to winning was taking time to form a solid gameplan-and then being able to execute it in this crowded, competitive fleet. But as pleased as Johnson sounded with his opening-day performance, his enthusiasm was clearly tempered by the knowledge that he and his peers face a long road ahead at an event that has attracted the nation's best. "It's very easy to get amped up [at this regatta]," said Johnson, at day's end. "It's a big regatta, and it's a long regatta. I have to take it one race at a time. I'm psyched to be leading after today. But I'll be more psyched if I'm leading after day eight…" Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.)-number one in the Laser Radial ISAF (International Sailing Federation) World Rankings-is leading in the 22-boat Laser Radial class after winning today's opener. West Coast ReportMen's 470: Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl posted a pair of subtle second-place finishes to seize the first-day lead over the favored Mikee Anderson-Mitterling and Dave Hughes (5-1), who had to claw their way back from a poor beginning in the opening race. McNay and Biehl pushed Keith David and crew Brad Rodi to a 15-second win in the first race and followed Anderson-Mitterling and Hughes by a much larger margin in the second. Earlier, the latter were caught on the wrong side of a 30-degree shift in the first race that started at noon in a 6-knot southerly. "We were a bit conservative," Anderson-Mitterling said. "We wanted the pin [start] and got the pin, but then there was a huge righty." By the time the second race started the wind had settled into a southwesterly sea breeze of 13 knots. They led at every mark and won by half the last leg of the Olympic-style trapezoid course.--Rick Roberts reporting Women's 470: There was little to choose among Amanda Clark and Sarah Mergenthaler and their male peers Saturday. With the five women's teams competing alongside eight men's entries in the same fleet, the New York women finished fourth and third overall and first twice among their gender to take the early lead in their series. They stand third overall among the 13 boats. Men's RS:X: Robert Willis, 20, was barely walking when Mike Gebhardt sailed in his first of four Olympics in 1988. Now, momentarily and just barely, he stands between Gebhardt and a fifth Olympics with finishes of 1-2 to Gebhardt's 2-3 on opening day. Another of the favorites, Ben Barger, stands fourth after a retired-after-finished (RAF) in the first race before be bounced back to win the second. With light, shifty wind prevailing on the course off the Seal Beach Pier, PRO Mark Townsend held the small fleet on shore to start two hours late at 2 p.m., expecting a double-digit southwesterly sea breeze to fill in. Good call. Willis caught Gebhardt on the second beat and covered the rest of the way, and in the second race, Willis said, "I was just trying go keep Gebi behind me," as Barger recovered with a victory. Gebhardt, 41, was Willis' coach for awhile. "We're still friends," Willis said, "but it's good to be in front of him right now." --Rick Roberts reporting Women's RS:X: There's a lot at stake, but for Lisa Kremer the first day of the Trials was also "a lot of fun," she said after grabbing the early lead with a 1-2 performance. "When the wind picked up I was able to plane," she said. It's the first Olympic campaign for the 19-year-old from Worthington, Minn.49er: After finishing a hard 2004 Olympic campaign in fifth place at Athens, Tim Wadlow said, "I was pretty burnt out and didn't want to see a 49er for awhile." So his crew Pete Spaulding joined Morgan Larson's new campaign. Then 18 months ago a refreshed Wadlow cranked up another campaign with Chris Rast as crew. Saturday they opened the Trials with 1-2-1 finishes to take the early lead over Dalton Bergan and Zack Maxam (2-4-3). Larson and Spaulding were in fifth after starting early in the first race before blazing back with a 1-2. They'll discard their opening mis-step later. Winds were 11-15 knots with a large San Diego swell and chop on Coronado Roads. "We're one of the lightest 49ers internationally at 145 kilos (319 pounds)," Wadlow said. "A lot of the guys lost weight because they thought it would be light wind here. We saw in the practice days that when the wind was up we were a bit stronger."-Margo Hemond reporting Finn: It's the largest fleet in the Trials with 42 boats and veteran campaigners as old as 72, but Zach Railey, 23, led the way with a 1-2 in the first two races. With winds of 8 knots building to 14 through the afternoon, Railey held off Geoff Ewenson (2-3), 37, by three points. Andrew Pimental, 49, won the second race to hold a third-place tie. Star: From shifty and light to fresh double digits, Santa Monica Bay threw the whole mix at some of America's best sailors, who couldn't get enough. Not knowing when they might see such conditions again, the race committee ran an extra third race, which Mark Mendelblatt and crew Magnus Liljedahl (3-3-1) won to jump into a solid seven-point lead. With only the scheduled two races, George Szabo and crew Andrew Scott would have been on top with 2-1 finishes, but they slipped to 11th in the third. "It was a good start for us," Mendelblatt said, "but only a start. We got our share of breaks. It's easy to fall into pressure holes here. We tried to stay in the middle, but you can get hurt anyplace." Szabo and Scott are second and Mark Reynolds and Hal Haenel-there's a pair of familiar names-are third. -Tom O'Conor reportingTornado: If anyone was going to play spoilers for John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree's to reach their fourth Olympics, it figured to be Robbie Daniel and crew Hunter Stunzi. They swapped firsts and seconds to set the stage for a week-long scenario of high-performance sailing. "We're happy with the day," said Daniel, who spoke of leads changing on subtle shifts in winds building to 18 knots on Coronado Roads by day's end, of covering Lovell/Ogletree with a dozen matching jibes to the finish of the first race, and of Lovell/Ogletree "attacking before the start" of the second race. "They're a lot faster when the wind comes up," Daniel said. "We didn't change gears for it." -Mike Foster and Jared Wohlgemuth reportingPreliminary Scores470 Men (8 boats; 2 of 16 races): 1. Stuart McNay (Lincoln, Mass.)/Graham Biehl (San Diego), 2-2, 4 points; 2. Mikee Anderson-Mitterling (Coronado, Calif.)/David Hughes (San Diego), 5-1, 6; 3. Charles Modica (Hobe Sound, Fla.)/Han Jensen (Duxbury, Mass.), 3-5, 8. 470 Women (5 boats; 2 of 16 races): 1. Amanda Clark (Shelter Island, N.Y.)/Sarah Mergenthaler (New York, N.Y.), 1-1, 2 points ; 2. tie between Molly Carapiet (Belvedere, Calif.)/Molly O'Bryan (San Diego), 2-3, and Erin Maxwell (Norwalk, Conn.)/Isabelle Kinsolving (New York, N.Y.), 3-2, 5. RS:X Men (6 boats): 1. Robert Willis (Chicago, Ill.), 1-2, 3 points; 2. Ben Barger (Tampa, Fla.); 2. Mike Gebhardt (Ft. Pierce, Fla.), 2-3, 5 ; 3. Jim Sobeck (EastQuoge, N.Y.), 3-4, 7. RS:X Women (7 boats): 1. Lisa Kremer (Worthington, Minn.), 1-2, 3 points; 2. Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.), 4-1, 5; 3. Nancy Rios (Miami, Fla.), 2-4, 6. 49er (13 boats; 3 of 24 races): 1. Tim Wadlow (Beverly, Mass.)/Chris Rast (San Diego), 1-2-1, 4 points; 2. Dalton Bergan (Seattle, Wash.)/Zack Maxam (Costa Mesa, Calif.), 2-4-3, 9; 3. John Heineken (Larkspur, Calif.)/Matt Noble (Pt. Richmond, Calif.), 4-5-4, 13. Finn (42 boats): 1. Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.), 1-2, 3 points; 2. Geoffrey Ewenson (Annapolis), 2-3, 5; 3. tie among Andrew Pimental (Portsmouth, R.I.), 7-1, Bryan Boyd (Annapolis), 3-5, and Darrell Peck (Gresham, Ore.), 4-4, 8. Star (19 boats): 1. Mark Mendelblatt (St. Petersburg, Fla.)/Magnus Liljedahl (Miami, Fla.), 3-3-1, 7 points; 2. George Szabo (San Diego)/Andrew Scott (Annapolis), 2-1-11, 14; 3. Mark Reynolds (San Diego)/Hal Haenel (Los Angeles), 12-2-2, 16. Tornado (6 boats): 1. Tie between Robbie Daniel (Clearwater, Fla.)/Hunter Stunzi (Charleston, S.C.), 1-2, and John Lovell (New Orleans, La.)/Charlie Ogletree (Kemah, Tex.), 2-1, 3 points; 3. Colin Merrick (Portsmouth, R.I.)/John Sampson (Portsmouth, R.I.), 4-3, 7.2.4mR (4 boats/after 2 races)1. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wisc.); 3, 1: 4 points2. Charles Rosenfield (Woodstock, Conn.); 1, 4: 5 points3. Mark Bryant, (Estero, Fla.); 2, 3: 5 points Laser (33 boats/after 2 races)1. Clay Johnson (Toms River, N.J.); 1: 1 point2. Trevor Moore (N. Pomfret, Vt.); 2: 2 points3. Brad Funk (Plantation, Fla.); 3; 3 points Laser Radial (22 boats/after 1 race)1. Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.); 1: 1 point2. Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.); 2: 2 points3. Sarah Lihan (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.); 3: 3 points SKUD-18 (5 boats/after 2 races)1. Nick Scandone/Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Fountain Valley, Calif./Marblehead, Mass.); 3, 1: 4 points2. Scott Whitman/Julia Dorsett (Brick, N.J./West Chester, Penn.); 2, 2: 4 points3. Karen Mitchell/JP Creignou (Deerfield Beach, Fla./St. Petersburg, Fla.); 1, 4: 5 points Sonar (6 boats/after 2 races)1. Rick Doerr/Tim Angle/Bill Donohue (Clifton, N.J./Marblehead, Mass./Brick, N.J.); 1, 3: 4 points2. Jennifer French/Brad Kendell/Michael Hersey (St. Petersburg, Fla./Tampa, Fla./Hyannis, Mass.); 2, 2: 4 points3. Albert Foster/David Burdette/Jim Thweatt (Wayzata, Minn./Lutherville, Md./W. Sacramento, Calif.); 5, 1: 6 points