To start, I thought I’d share a couple of things I learned from the USA Daily publication we receive every morning. There are over 6,000 athletes competing from 42 countries in the Pan Am Games – 617 from the US. In 11 of the sports, U.S. athletes are competing for a berth in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Security has increased significantly since we first arrived. Getting into the hotel or the yacht club is like going through security at the airport. In addition, the Mexican Navy is patrolling the coast of our hotel and the sailing area – wow!
On Sunday we had a practice race. Our coach boat towed us out of the harbor along with the U.S. Snipe and Lightning teams. We fly the American flag from our forestay, and it was pretty cool to see some American tourists at the edge of the harbor jumping and cheering for us. We nailed the start and went on to “win” the practice race (we didn’t finish of course). The conditions are very tricky and it’s going to be a long week. It’s also ridiculously hot on the water. For the first time in my adult life, I was okay with getting hit by a couple of waves. (I’m terrified of the water. Don’t ask.)
I feel like karma should be on our side. The Canadian team’s jib got lost in transport, so we gave them our practice jib which only has a few days on it. [ed.’s note: When Rossi Milev’s Canadian team couldn’t make it, another team Canadian team, led by Roger Burns, filled their spot. You can find the crew list for the J/24 fleet here]. Otherwise, they would have been sailing with a jib that looks older than the kids I coach at Brown.
Race day finally arrived on Monday. The start isn’t until 1 p.m. every day because there really isn’t much point to getting going before the sea breeze rolls in. I used the time to modify my wardrobe – I had to put sail tape over the Harken logo on my hat because there is absolutely no advertising allowed.
We started our tow out in no wind, but by the time we got to our course it had picked up to about 5 knots and things got going on schedule. There are no OCS hails at the start (typically the RC hails by VHF for J/24’s) so I know at some point this week, the first question after the X flag goes up will be, “Danny, is that us?” At which time I hope I have a better response than “Uhhhhhh…”
We were a little slow off the line in the first start but were able to tack to port pretty early to work to the right as planned. Unfortunately, our lane was very thin and we had to tack off eventually. After falling back to around 4th halfway up the beat, we found a nice lefty to work back right. Geoff made a great call to short tack the layline and the top 2 boats, and by the weather mark we were tied for 1st with Peru. We pulled off a nice jibe set, which we actually practiced yesterday so it went smoothly. From that point on we extended nicely, but found ourselves at the leeward gate with the Snipe and Lightning fleets (they have shorter weather marks). Our competitors bore the brunt of the fleet conversion, though, and we went on to win the first race of the regatta.
The breeze built to around 8 knots for the second start. John did a great job holding the fleet head to wind near the boat end and then peeled off for an awesome start. We were able to tack immediately and cross towards the favored right side and win the beat with Chile pretty close behind. The breeze built towards 12 knots downwind, and the RC lengthened the course to about a 2 mile beat. Even with the extra course length, though, it was pretty straight forward covering and we went on for the win.
It was a good day for Team USA on our course, as the Lightning team (led by Jody Lutz) had a couple of top 3s and the Snipe team (Augie Diaz and Kathleen Tocke) had a couple of top 5s. We were also strong in the singlehanded boats: Paige Railey had a 1-5 in the Laser Radial, Clay Johnson had a 7-5 in the Laser, and Paul Foerster picked up a 1-2 in the Sunfish.
US SAILING Press Release from Dana Paxton:
_Pan American Games — SAILING: Team USA Tops Four Classes Following Day One _
NUEVO VALLARTA, Mexico — Following Monday’s opening day of Pan American Games sailing action at the Vallarta Yacht Club, Team USA holds or shares the lead in a quartet of classes — J/24, Lightning, Snipe and Sunfish.
Skippered by John Mollicone (Newport, R.I.), the J/24 was the lone U.S. craft to win both of its races Monday and holds an outright lead in the regatta with the minimum of two points. “We really used speed to our advantage,” Mollicone said. “The races are really long, even longer than Worlds.”
_Joining Mollicone on the J/24 are Geoffrey Becker (Arnold, Md.), Daniel Rabin (Charlestown, Mass.) and Paul Abdullah (Jacksonville, Fla.). _
_Four-time Olympian Paul Foerster (Heath, Texas) won the first Sunfish race and took second in race No. 2 to share the top spot with Brazil’s Matheus Dellagnello with three points. “I did a little better than I thought, but I’ve got to get faster to beat (Dellagnello), who’s super fast downwind,” Foerster said. _
_Jody Lutz (Brick, N.J.) and the U.S. Lightning boat also share the lead with Brazil with four points following a first- and a third-place effort today. Jay Lutz (Houston, Texas) and Derek Gauger (Ann Arbor, Mich.) round out the Lightning crew. _
_The U.S. Snipe, featuring Augie Diaz (Miami, Fla.) and Kathleen Tocke (Miami, Fla.), shares the top spot in its fleet with Brazil with six points, following second- and fourth-place finishes. _
_Each sailing class is slated to race twice per day, with the exception of a scheduled off day Thursday. The medal races, reserved just the top five in each class, are set for Saturday. The low point total at the end of competition will decide the medalists. _
“It’s pretty important,” Foerster said about getting off to a quick start. “But it’s more important to keep it going.”