Andrew CAMPBELL and Anna TUNNICLIFFE are set to represent the USA in the Laser and Laser Radial at Qingdao as the US East Coast Trials came to a conclusion over the weekend.
After a 16-race series off Aquidneck Island, in shifty winds that ranged from light and fluky to sustained 18 knots and surfable seas, winners in five classes have been named to the US Olympic and Paralympic Teams and are slated to represent the USA at the 2008 Games in China. Hosted by the Rhode Island Sailing Foundation, working with Sail Newport, New York Yacht Club, and Ida Lewis Yacht Club, the nine-day regatta drew 87 competitors from throughout the country.
Winners of the largest classes racing at the East Coast Trials were Andrew CAMPBELL
in the 33-boat Laser class and Anna TUNNICLIFFE
in the 22-boat Laser Radial fleet.
Competition in the Laser class kept race-watchers on the edge of their seats. Four-time collegiate All-American Clay JOHNSON
, who finished third, captured an early lead in the regatta. But Brad FUNK
rose to that position on the second day of racing, soon to be joined by CAMPBELL. But as FUNK and CAMPBELL sailed further from the fleet in the point standings, the competition between the two of them only intensified as they flip-flopped as class leaders.
CAMPBELL sailed into the final day with a five-point edge, which was only erased when FUNK won race 15 to once again reverse the leading order. CAMPBELL's second in the last race and FUNK's third put these two rivals into a points tie that was taken into the protest room over an altercation at the weather mark.
The protest was disallowed, and CAMPBELL won the Laser berth on a tiebreaker. But the long round of applause that CAMPBELL got at the awards ceremony and the standing ovation that FUNK received were telling signs of what this contest had become. These Laser peers were clearly honouring two Herculean talents who had given it everything they had - and essentially ended up even.
The Laser Radial class was decided before the start of the final race. TUNNICLIFFE - ranked #1 in her class in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings - won the opening race of the regatta and then proceeded to build a points edge over her closest opponent, Paige RAILEY
, which she never relinquished. Heading to the starting line on Sunday, both sailors were carrying a third place as their worst race. With a four-point lead going into the final day, TUNNICLIFFE only needed to finish third or better to seal the class win.
After an altercation at the start in race 15, TUNNICLIFFE did penalty turns for insurance and ducked the fleet on port tack after the start. But the move put her in good position in relation to the wind patterns to work back to the top of the class; she won the race by a strong margin, with RAILEY second. With the class win decided, TUNNICLIFFE and RAILEY sailed off the course and did not compete in the last race.
The competition for the Laser Radial berth had escalated into a two-boat battle, and after regatta's end, TUNNICLIFFE commended the talented opponent she has faced in many Laser Radial events: "If Paige wasn't as good a sailor as she is, I would not be where I am now … She is a great sailor, and it was a tough battle." Sarah LIHAN
The Sonar team of Rick DOERR, Tim ANGLE
, and Bill DONOHUE
captured this three person Paralympic class by four points. Victory aside, as DOERR surveyed the past nine days at regatta's end, he depicted a long and sometimes rugged road to first place. After taking three bullets in the first four races, DOERR and his crew were shaping up to be the odds-on favourite - but that trend did not continue.
Back-of-the-fleet finishes and tough competition from second-place Paul CALLAHAN
, racing with Roger CLEWORTH
and Tom BROWN
, and Albert FOSTER
, racing with David BURDETTE and Jim THWEATT
, ensued. The long, high-stakes regatta was also developing into a strategic mindgame for DOERR and his crew: "It's a long regatta - and it was easy to get torn between protecting your lead, and sailing your own race."
DOERR found the tough battle to be good preparation for the international arena of the Paralympic Games: "The strong competition here in the US has only pushed us to another level."
Competition for the 2.4 Metre berth developed into the closest points situation of the East Coast classes. John RUF and Mark LEBLANC came off the water tied in points today, with RUF capturing the berth in this one person Paralympic class on a tiebreaker. He sailed strong in the second half of the regatta, winning race 10 and proceeding to take all bullets in the next three races. Finishes of 2,2 for RUF on the final day moved him from second overall and into the lead.
2.4 Metre sailor Mark BRYANT finished third, only one point behind the winner. These three Paralympic sailors raced a lethally close contest: at different times during the regatta, each of them held the class lead and only one point separated the top three boats in the final tally.
The SKUD18 class was also decided before the final race. Nick SCANDONE and Maureen MCKINNON-TUCKER had mathematically sewn up a victory before the last day of competition. SCANDONE, the 2005 US SAILING Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, and MCKINNON-TUCKER are a new pairing in this twp person class making its Paralympic debut in 2008 - and one to be watched. They were also silver medallists at last month's IFDS Disabled World Sailing Championships. SKUD sailors Scott WHITMAN and Julia DORSETT won the final two races to move into second place, with Karen MITCHELL and JP CREIGNOU taking third.
For complete information on the US Olympic and Paralympic Team Trials - Sailing, please visit www.ussailing.org/olympics/OlympicTrials. Video from the event with commentary by Gary JOBSON will be available daily on the website of the NBC network at www.NBCOlympics.com.