Persistence paid off for Kevin HALL, when his fourth bid for an Olympic slot was a winner in the Finn class of the US Olympic Team Trials-Sailing being held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Hall had previously competed at the 1992 Olympic Trials in the Finn, finishing eighth, finished fifth at the 1996 Olympic Trials in the Laser, and second in the 2000 Olympic Trials in the 49er class. Undeniably, the fact that Hall only picked up sailing the Finn within the last year speaks volumes about the talent that has made him a noteworthy sailor since he won his first world championship in 1986. By winning the first four races of the Trials, conducted from Lauderdale Yacht Club, Hall established a commanding lead in the 23-boat Finn fleet.
Over the remaining races he would cross the finish line first an additional five times, including the 16 and final race of the series, which he did not have to sail. Although Hall picked up a DSQ in race seven for an on-the-water infraction, he never finished a race out of the top-four. Heading into yesterday, he had a comfortable 21-point cushion separating him from his closest competitor, Geoff EWENSON, and with a third-place finish in the opening race today, Hall mathematically secured his win of the Trials. The win of the final race of the series gave him a low score of 26 points, to the 53 points belonging to Ewenson after he scored 4-6 on the final day. Eric OETGEN posted finishes of 1-3 for 55 points to take third overall, just one point over Bryan BOYD who finished 5-8.
Down the coast, light air once more kept the 49er, Tornado and Yngling fleets postponed ashore until the stroke of noon, when the flag came down and all three fleets headed out on Biscayne Bay.
In the opening race for the Yngling fleet, with just four boatlengths to spare, Carol CRONIN, Liz FILTER and Nancy HABERLAND crossed the finish line first and secured their place on the USA's 2004 Olympic Team. That winning finish made them mathematically unbeatable, and they elected to sit out race 16 as the remaining five teams fought through the last race to determine the final standings for the fleet. Counting seven points for the DNS (did not start) in the last race, which they then discarded along with their worst placing in the series, a fifth in race four, Cronin, Filter and Haberland won with a low score of 31 points. Hannah SWETT with Joan TOUCHETTE and Melissa PURDY finished 4-3 to retain second overall on 36 points. Sally BARKOW, Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI kept third place overall after finishes of 2-4 gave them 38 points. Jody SWANSON, Cory SERTL and Elizabeth KRATZIG, who were tied on points on the penultimate day with Betsy ALISON, Lee ICYDA and Suzy LEECH, prevailed in that battle. Their win of the final race of the series, combined with a third in the day's first race to give them 41 points to the 44 earned by Alison, Icyda and Leech after placing 5-2 today.
Cronin and Filter have been teammates in the Yngling for three and a half years, adding Haberland to the mix only a few months ago. To win the series, held from Key Biscayne Yacht Club, they had to beat two teams that had won Yngling world championships in 2003. Swett, Touchette and Purdy won the class at the ISAF World Championship in Cadiz, Spain, while Alison, Icyda and Leech won the Open World Championship in Germany. Not only will Cronin, Filter and Haberland get to compete in Athens, but they will do so in the event making its Olympic debut at the 2004 Summer Games.
The 49er class also saw their champions decided before the final race of the day. Tim WADLOW and Pete SPAULDING opened the day by winning their tenth race of the series and followed that with a second place finish in the penultimate race of the series. It was a performance that allowed them to sit out the final race of the series, which they then dropped as a discard, for a total of 48 points. Dalton BERGAN and Zack MAXAM posted finishes of 2-1-1 to move back into second overall on 59 points, while Andy MACK and Adam LOWRY dropped back one spot in the overall standings, and finished third on 64 points after finishes of 3-3-4.
After trading wins on the previous day with Lars GUCK and Jonathan FARRAR, two-time Olympians John LOVELL and Charlie OGLETREE put the hammer down in the first race on the final day, turning a sizeable lead into a win. When Guck and Farrar crossed the finish line fifth, Lovell and Ogletree became mathematically unbeatable. Both teams elected to sit out the final race of the series, and the winners collected 16 net points to the 24 points netted by Guck and Farrar. Robbie DANIEL and Enrique RODRIGUEZ placed 3-3 to retain third place overall with 38 points
The winners of these Trials now become members of the USA's 2004 Olympic Sailing Team wich will compete be next August in the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad in Athens, Greece. For complete results visit the event website at the address below.