U.S. Olympic Trials, Day 8 Report

Stu McNay and Graham Biehl are the first sailors to clinch a trip to Qingdao, winning the Men's 470 division with two races to go. Other sailors have all but wrapped up the spot, however, there are plenty of races that will be decided on the final day.

West Coast Report: 470 sailors McNay and Biehl first to clinch an Olympic slot in West Coast Trials Stuart McNay of Lincoln, Mass. and crew Graham Biehl, San Diego, dominating the men's 470 competition in the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Team Trials - Sailing at Long Beach, became the first to clinch a 2008 Olympic sailing bid in West Coast Trials Saturday, joining Nick Scandone of Fountain Valley, Calif., who wrapped up SKUD-18 honors sailing with Maureen McKinnon-Tucker of Marblehead, Mass. in the Paralympic Trials at Newport, R.I. A few others are poised to break out the chopsticks for trips to China next summer, but the Stars remain a standoff at Marina del Rey, along with the Tornados at San Diego. Dreadfully light winds in the backwash of overnight rains drained all venues of brisk breeze Saturday, but the better competitors seemed to find their way best around the courses along the coast. 470 dinghy, Men and Women, Alamitos Bay Yacht Club/US Sailing Center, Long Beach, Calif.: Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl are first among those seeking Olympic stature in eight West Coast Trials who can declare, "We're going to China!" But after long months stretching into years of campaigning, it hasn't sunk in. "Not quite," Biehl said after they finished 6-1 Saturday and put themselves out of reach of Mikee Anderson-Mitterling and David Hughes with two races to go, which they probably won't sail. Among the first to congratulate them was class advisor Kevin Burnham, whose famous back flip marked the gold medal victory for him and skipper Paul Foerster at Athens in 2004. "We've got a lot of big shoes to fill," Biehl said. McNay said, "We're looking forward to the release of a lot of tension." Meanwhile, in the same fleet, New Yorkers Amanda Blake and crew Sarah Mergenthaler moved within arm's length of the women's 470 berth with a 17-point lead over Erin Maxwell and 2004 Olympian Isabelle Kinsolving. "While not mathematically eliminated from winning the trials, we are practically eliminated," Kinsolving wrote in a newsletter later. "All they have to do is finish one of [Sunday's] races." -Rick Roberts reporting 49er skiff, Southwestern Yacht Club, San Diego: Tim Wadlow and crew Chris Rast went over the edge with Morgan Larson and Pete Spaulding Saturday, but the latter veterans took the hardest fall. After Larson/Spaulding scored 1-4 to Wadlow/Rast's 2-2 in the first two races, both were called for being over the start line early (OCS-on course side) in the third. That left Wadlow/Rast in a virtually unbeatable position for the Olympic slot and Larson/Spaulding all but mathematically out of it. Wadlow/Rast could discard the 14-point result, but Larson/Spaulding had already burned both of their discards on previous OCSs in the 24-race series. Wadlow, who finished fifth at Athens in 2004 with Spaulding as his crew, said, "It's not over, but we can start to think about it." The Wadlow/Rast strategy Saturday was to push their rivals into just such errors. "In all three races we were the aggressors match racing them," Wadlow said, "while their thing was to sail clean." Both suspected they were over the line but neither returned to re-start. "We were [thinking], 'If he goes back, we go back,' " Wadlow said, "and they were probably thinking the same thing." To officially clinch, they need only finish eighth in one race Sunday and can blow off the other with their second discard. Their next worst finish has been fourth. Dalton Bergan and Zack Maxam moved up to second with a 3-1-1 day. -Margo Hemond and Jerelyn Biehl reporting Star keelboat, California Yacht Club, Marina del Rey: On a clear day the hillside Hollywood sign near downtown L.A. is visible from Santa Monica Bay, where a real-life sporting drama is reaching a climax. George Szabo and crew Andrew Scott led a shuffle of the three boats still in contention for the Olympic bid by finishing fourth and third Saturday to take a one-point lead over John Dane III and Austin Sperry (3-6) as earlier leaders Mark Mendelblatt and Magnus Liljedahl slipped to 9-5, now five points off the pace with a single race remaining Sunday. After a 1 1/2-hour delay to resolve a five-boat protest by non-contenders against the race committee's OCS calls the previous day (they all were awarded redress), racing started with a shifty 10-knot breeze dropping to 4 by day's end. Szabo/Scott saved their day by charging back from 14th at the first leeward gate rounding to third place at the end-just enough to gain a shaky first place overall. -Tom O'Conor reporting Tornado multihull, San Diego Yacht Club: Going into Saturday, Charlie Ogletree's daily newsletter report said, "We must now win all four remaining races [against leaders Robbie Daniel and Hunter Stunzi] over the weekend to go to China." Two down and two to go-with a joker in the deck. After winning both races comfortably Saturday by 2:28 and 3:28 in wickedly wimpy winds topping out at 5 1/2 knots, Ogletree and skipper John Lovell filed a double protest against Daniel/Stunzi and Norman and Gary Chu for team racing against them. If that failed to fly in a hearing under way as this went to press, they will still have to win both of Sunday's final races to win the right to race in their fourth Olympics and improve on the silver medals they won in 2004. They trail by one point, but Daniel/Stunzi hold the tiebreaker card with more second-place finishes. Both teams have won seven races. -Mike Foster reporting RS:X sailboard, Men, ABYC: Although pleased that "it couldn't have been better today," Ben Barger got at least one of his two wins the hard way to widen his lead to four points over veteran Mike Gebhardt with two races remaining. On shore after racing Barger faced a late protest filed by Gebhardt's coach, Zach Plavsic of Canada, that he had failed to do his penalty turns after Friday's collision with Gebhardt. The jury dismissed the protest. In Saturday's racing Barger jumped the gun in the first race and had to run down Gebhardt after re-starting properly. "I just kept digging in and closing the gap," he said. In the second race when his rivals ganged up at the committee boat end of the line, Barger went to the pin end, and "the wind came to me," he said. Gebhardt, 2-2 on a day with wind of only 5-8 knots that forced the sailors to work their boards like gym equipment, said, "It was tough racing. I felt I had it in the bag, but I burned a lot of energy and just didn't have it." He'll need a major comeback Sunday to reach his fifth Olympics. To prevent that, Barger said, "All I have to do is win." -Rick Roberts reporting RS:X sailboard, Women, ABYC: It's only a three-point lead with two races to go, but the way Nancy Rios is going with six consecutive wins it's going to be difficult to derail her drive to the Olympics. "I feel very good about going into [Sunday]," the diminutive Floridian said, "as long as it doesn't blow hard." On the other hand, as little wind as there was Saturday-5-8 knots-means working harder to make the boards go. "On the last downwind leg today the wind went away almost completely," Rios said. "I had to pump all the way." -Rick Roberts reporting Finn dinghy, Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Balboa: Geoff Ewenson knows he doesn't have much chance of catching Zach Railey, but he's going to make the younger sailor earn his Olympic slot. The 38-year-old veteran from Annapolis-sixth in the 2000 Trials and second in 2004-tightened his grip on second with two races to go by winning Saturday's only race, with Railey, 23, second. Ewenson, who trails Railey by 13 points, said, "Zach would have to make a catastrophic error to lose. I'd rather be in his place, but at least I'm pushing Zach and maybe making him better." Ewenson said this would probably be his last Olympic campaign. "I really like the competitive racing, but when you have to spend a quarter of your time visiting a chiropractor your days are numbered." -Jeff Johnson reporting East Coast Report: Racing Concludes Sunday, But Many Classes Are Too Close to Call Gamblers would be forewarned before placing bets on winners at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Team Trials - Sailing. The final day of racing is tomorrow, and odds for victory have gelled in only two classes. In the doublehanded SKUD-18 class, Nick Scandone (Fountain Valley, Calif.) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) can already start making their travel plans to China, as they have mathematically sewn up a victory before the last day of racing. Racing in this new Paralympic class, Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker proved to be untouchable on the racecourse, winning 11 individual races and never finishing worse than third place. Laser Radial leader Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.) has found a worthy opponent in Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.). But all Tunnicliffe needs to do tomorrow is keep sailing the way she has been. She has not finished below third place-despite instances where she took penalty turns, and one race where she thought she was over early at the start and returned to re-cross the line. She has proven that she can stumble, but has the ability to regain lost ground. The Laser, Sonar, and 2.4mR classes are a completely different story: lead changes have been volatile and the competition has been so close and cutthroat that Olympic and Paralympic hopes will ride on a single day of racing tomorrow. Andrew Campbell (San Diego, Calif.) took the lead in the 33-boat Laser class today from Brad Funk (Plantation, Fla.) on a challenging three-race day for Laser and Laser Radial sailors-where a postponement was signaled while the wind swung in 30-degree arcs; where light, shifty winds and velocity changes challenged racers with random patterns of breeze; and where sailors had to switch gears from the morning's tricky light air to firmer breeze that built to 18 knots for the last race. Campbell's strong 1-3-5 day puts him five points ahead of Funk, and the race committee could get two more races in tomorrow. In a class where frontrunners are already carrying discards in the back of the fleet (Campbell's is a 20th, but Funk's is a 9th) and no single sailor can consistently finish in the top 5, banking on Campbell or Funk at this point is a throw of the dice. Paul Callahan (Cape Coral, Fla. and Newport, R.I.), sailing with Roger Cleworth and Tom Brown (Lithia, Fla./Northeast Harbor, Maine), has taken over the lead in the Sonar class with a 1-1 performance today and some intense match-racing with Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), who held the class lead going into today's racing. Callahan holds a four-point lead over Doerr, but results at presstime are provisional. 2.4mR sailor Marc LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) has a two-point edge over John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wisc.) heading into the final day. All classes have completed 14 races, except the Sonars, which have completed 15. Stay tuned for final results on Sunday. PROVISIONAL RESULTS (Top 3 in class) 470 COMBINED FLEET/Official scoring* (13 boats; 14 of 16 races; 1 discard): 1. Stuart McNay (Lincoln, Mass.)/Graham Biehl (San Diego), 2-2-2-2-1-2-4-1-(6)-4-2-1-6-1, 30 points**; 2. Amanda Clark (Shelter Island, N.Y.)/Sarah Mergenthaler (New York, N.Y.), 4-3-1-(6)-3-3-2-4-1-5-1-6-3-4, 40; 3. Mikee Anderson-Mitterling (Coronado, Calif.)/David Hughes (San Diego), 5-1-6-3-4-4-1-5-5-(7)-5-4-5-3, 51; 4. Erin Maxwell (Norwalk, Conn.)/Isabelle Kinsolving (New York, N.Y.), 9-7-5-5-2-1-5-3-3-2-8-3-4-(14/OCS), 57. *--For purpose of selecting Olympic representatives. **--Clinched Olympic berth. 49ER (13 boats; 22 of 24 races; 2 discards): 1. Tim Wadlow (Beverly, Mass.)/Chris Rast (San Diego), 1-2-1-1-3-1-(4)-3-3-1-1-1-1-1-3-3-3-2-3-2-2-(14/OCS), 38 points; 2. Dalton Bergan (Seattle, Wash.)/Zack Maxam (Costa Mesa, Calif.), 2-4-3-4-1-2-2-2-(14/OCS)-3-4-3-(4)-3-2-2-2-3-2-3-1-1, 49; 3. Morgan Larson (Capitola, Calif.)/Pete Spaulding (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), (14/OCS)-1-2-2-9-(14/OCS)-1-1-1-2-2-2-5-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-4-14/OCS, 54. *TORNADO ( 6 boats; 14 of 16 races; 1 discard): 1. Robbie Daniel (Clearwater, Fla.)/Hunter Stunzi (Charleston, S.C.), 1-(2)-2-1-1-2-2-1-1-1-2-1-2-2, 19 points; 2. John Lovell (New Orleans, La.)/Charlie Ogletree (Kemah, Tex.), 2-1-1-2-2-1-1-2-(4)-3-1-2-1-1, 20; 3. Colin Merrick (Portsmouth, R.I.)/John Sampson (Rumson, N.J.), 4-3-5-3-4-4-3-4-3-4-(6)-4-4-5, 50. *-Pending protest. STAR (19 boats; 15 of 16 races; 1 discard): 1. George Szabo (San Diego)/Andrew Scott (Annapolis), 2-1-(1)-1-7-3-4-9-6-2-1-1-8-6-4-3, 57; 2. John Dane III/Austin Sperry (Gulfport, Miss.), 1-10-6-2-8-1-5-4-(12)-2-3-4-3-3-6, 58; 3. Mark Mendelblatt (St. Petersburg, Fla.)/Magnus Liljedahl (Miami, Fla.), 3-3-1-8-1-3-6-2-5-10-4-(12)-2-9-5, 62. FINN (42 boats; 14 of 16 races; 1 discard): 1. Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.), 1-2-(12)-1-1-1-1-13-8-3-1-2, 26 points; 2. Geoffrey Ewenson (Annapolis), 2-3-(10)-4-3-2-2-4-3-1-3-7-4-1, 39; 3. Darrell Peck (Gresham, Ore.), 4-4-1-3-2-3-4-3-4-(6)-5-5-1-5-6, 45. RS:X MEN (6 boats; 14 of 16 races; 1 discard): 1. Ben Barger (Tampa, Fla.), (8/RAF)-1-2-1-2-1-3-2-2-1-2-2-1-1, 21 points; 2. Mike Gebhardt (Ft. Pierce, Fla.), 2-(3)-1-2-1-2-1-3-1-2-3-3-2-2, 25; 3. Robert Willis (Chicago, Ill.), 1-2-5-3-(6)-3-2-1-4-4-1-1-6-3, 36. RS:X WOMEN (7 boats; 14 of 16 races; 1 discard): 1. Nancy Rios (Miami, Fla.), 2-(4)-1-3-2-2-4-4-1-1-1-1-1-1, 24 points; 2. Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.), (4)-1-4-1-3-3-1-1-2-3-2-2-3-2, 27; 3. Monica Wilson (Newport, R.I.), 3-3-3-2-1-(4)-3-3-3-4-4-4-2-3, 37.2.4mR (4 boats/after 14 races)1. Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.); [4], 2, 1, 1, 3, 3, 1, 2, 1, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1: 24 points2. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wisc.); [3], 3, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 3: 26 points3. Mark Bryant (Estero, Fla.); 2, 1, 2, 3, 2, 1, 2, 1, 4, 2, [5/OCS], 4, 3, 2: 29 points Laser (33 boats/after 14 races)1. Andrew Campbell (San Diego, Calif.); 4, 4, 1, [20], 1, 1, 2, 5, 1, 2, 5, 1, 3, 5: 35 points2. Brad Funk (Plantation, Fla.); 3, 2, 2, [9], 4, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 9, 5, 6: 40 points3. Clay Johnson (Toms River, N.J.); 1, 1, 4, 15, 2, 8, 7, 25, [34/OCS], 3, 3, 3, 4, 1: 77 points Laser Radial (22 boats/after 14 races)1. Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.); 1, 1, 1, [3], 1, 1, 2, 1, 3, 1, 2, 2, 1, 3: 20 points2. Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.); 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, [3], 2, 1, 3, 1, 1, 3, 2: 24 points3. Sarah Lihan (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.); 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 6, 1, [11], 2, 2, 3, 9, 11, 1: 52 points SKUD-18 (5 boats/after 14 races)1. Nick Scandone/Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Fountain Valley, Calif./Marblehead, Mass.); [3], 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 3, 1: 16 points2. Karen Mitchell/JP Creignou (Deerfield Beach, Fla./St. Petersburg, Fla.); 1, [4], 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 2, 3, 1, 3: 29 points3. Scott Whitman/Julia Dorsett (Brick, N.J./West Chester, Penn.); 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, [4], 2, 1, 2, 3, 2, 2, 2: 30 points Sonar (6 boats/after 15 races)1. Paul Callahan/Roger Cleworth/Tom Brown (Newport, R.I. and Cape Coral, Fla./Lithia, Fla./Northeast Harbor, Maine); 4, [7/DSQ], 2, 3, 1, 1, 4, 3, 3, 1, 3, 5, 1, 1, 1: 33 points1. Rick Doerr/Tim Angle/Bill Donohue (Clifton, N.J./Marblehead, Mass./Brick, N.J.); 1, 3, 1, 1, [7/DSQ], 3, 2, 4, 4, 2, 1, 3, 4, 4, 4: 37 points3. Albert Foster/David Burdette/Jim Thweatt (Wayzata, Minn./Lutherville, Md./W. Sacramento, Calif.); [5], 1, 3, 4, 2, 5, 1, 1, 1, 5, 5, 2, 2, 3, 5: 40 points