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10 October 2007, 12:55 pm
Birthday Boys Battle At West Coast Trials
Robbie DANIEL and Hunter STUNZI racing in the Tornado at San Diego
Robbie DANIEL and Hunter STUNZI racing in the Tornado at San Diego

US Olympic & Paralympic Team Trials 2007

The Tornado battle is growing ever fiercer in San Diego as the West Coast Trials to decide the US team for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition continue.
John LOVELL and Charlie OGLETREE have sailed a Tornado catamaran for their country in the last three Olympics, won silver medals at the most recent Games in Athens in 2004 and are now trying for their fourth in a deadlocked battle with Robbie DANIEL and crew Hunter STUNZI. The teams have been dead even with 1,2 records after each of the four days of racing.

That probably means that even with Wednesday's lay day off LOVELL and OGLETREE won't have time to celebrate a special occasion. They both turn 40 on Thursday, but they're less concerned about blowing out candles than how the wind is going to blow. Yes, they were born on the same day in 1967, which just about puts them in their primes for a sport where Olympic medallists tend toward maturity, and their rapport remains strong.

Both are married and LOVELL has a two and a half year old son, Nick. "We've been good friends for a long time," LOVELL said, "and we've been successful."

OGLETREE: "We're just a couple of old guys who still get along."

After Monday's flameouts, all five venues enjoyed their windiest days of the week Tuesday, and there were three perfect days posted. Tim WADLOW and crew Chris RAST won all four 49er races at San Diego to strengthen their lead, while Zach RAILEY in the Finns and Farrah HALL in the Women's RS:X sailboards scored three- and two-race sweeps to take over first place at Newport Beach and Long Beach, respectively.

At midweek with a lay day due in all classes except Finns, who are one race behind schedule, it was a time for partial absolution of sailing's sins: the single excludes kicked in after seven of 16 scheduled races to tighten some contests a bit. The 49ers, with 24 scheduled races, already tossed their worst and will have one more to drop after 17 races.

In the Stars at Marina del Rey, Andy HORTON and crew Brad NICHOL made a big leap from sixth to third overall when they tossed their opening 18th-place finish while winning two of the races with a third in between.

Finn

Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Balboa

Suddenly, with three breezy races following Monday's total dud, strong performances by 23 year old Zach RAILEY (1,1,1) and veterans Darrell PECK (2,3,4) and Geoffrey EWENSON (3,2,2) turned this 42-boat scramble into a three-way battle at the top. The next nearest competitor is 21 points back.

The wind arrived early and blew 10 to 14 knots all afternoon. "I like sailing when it's windy," said RAILEY, who has won the last four races and five of the seven overall. He tossed his worst race, a 12. Ironically, RAILEY, 6-4 and 200 pounds, lost 15 to 20 pounds before the Trials "looking forward to light winds here at Newport Beach, but it's not so much the weight as it is being strong enough to hold the boat down." His rivals here range up to 72 years in age. "That says a lot about the class," RAILEY said. "They have a lot more experience than I do. You can't buy experience. You have to earn your stripes." - Jenn LANCASTER reporting

Tornado

San Diego Yacht Club

These guys have swapped 1,2 finishes the first four days in as tight a two-boat contest as possible. John LOVELL and Charlie OGLETREE won Tuesday's first race in 8-10 knots of breeze by 29 seconds, and Robbie DANIEL and crew Hunter STUNZI won the second in 12-14 by 49 seconds.

LOVELL said, "We're a little bit frustrated, but Robbie's sailing excellent. The boat speed's about the same, and it seems like the one that gets off to the favoured side on the first beat can stay in front." LOVELL and OGLETREE have been match racing their rivals for the favoured side in the pre-starts, "but they've been good at getting out of the pins," LOVELL said. "We're hoping for stronger wind. The forecast is for 20 knots [on the day off Wednesday]. That's just our luck." - Mike FOSTER reporting

Star

California Yacht Club, Marina del Rey

The wind swings daily from low single digits to as strong as 18 knots, as it did Tuesday, but while their closest contenders shuffle positions daily they haven't found any cracks in Mark MENDELBLATT and crew Magnus LILJEDAHL's steady performance through nine of the 16 scheduled races. Andy HORTON and Brad NICHOL jumped into third place with 1,3,1 finishes, while George SZABO and Andrew SCOTT held onto second with single-digit finishes in all but one race. But they couldn't stop the Floridians from increasing their lead to ten points with a 6,2,5 day. With a lay day Wednesday, Principal Race Officer Bill STUMP has managed a range of conditions well to remain one ahead of the two-a-day schedule. - Tom O'CONOR reporting

470

Alamitos Bay Yacht Club and US Sailing Centre, Long Beach

After no finish worse than second, Stuart MCNAY and crew Graham BIEHL went 4,1 in the mixed fleet Tuesday, and the fourth immediately became their throwout. Rivals Mikee ANDERSON-MITTERLING and David HUGHES had worse luck. After winning the first race in winds of 12 knots building to 19 on the day, ANDERSON-MITTERLING said, "We were holding onto second place [in the second race] and thought we had a good chance to win when we hit a trash bag" - a big, black plastic trash bag that wrapped around their rudder. By the time they got it cleared they had lost three boats and wound up fifth.

MCNAY blamed bad tactics for his first race result. "We went left because we thought it was the thing to do, but there was a pretty big [right] shift." They were seventh at the windward mark before fighting back to fourth. The next race they followed the building breeze to the right. "The right was better," MCNAY said. His plans for the lay day Wednesday: "I'm going go play some Frisbee and relax."

In the women's battle not much changed on a very windy day as the top two boats logged so-so finishes - 2,4 for Amanda CLARK and crew Sarah MERGENTHALER and 5,3 for Erin MAXWELL and Isabelle KINSOLVING - but CLARK was satisfied with an eight-point lead in the mixed men-women fleet. "We wanted to go into the lay day [with a good lead] and have it going when we come back [Thursday]," she said. - Rick ROBERTS reporting

RS:X

Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, Long Beach

It was a workout in big winds from 12 to 19 knots as Michael GEBHARDT (1,3) and Robert WILLIS (2,1) had the best days, but Ben BARGER (3,2) made the biggest gain by dropping his opening eighth place for sailing the wrong course to move into a first-place tie with GEBHARDT.

Amongst the women Farrah HALL was hard to find after winning both races and jumping into first place. Long after the racing was done she was still out on the race course practicing. "I enjoy sailing in big wind," she said. She also picked up some local knowledge that Long Beach regulars know well: "I learned yesterday that when the wind starts to blow you want to go right here in Long Beach. Not everybody did." - Rick ROBERTS reporting

49er

Southwestern Yacht Club, San Diego

Launched by solid breeze of 12 to 14 knots, Tim WADLOW and crew Chris RAST won all four races Tuesday to blunt a comeback by Morgan LARSON and Pete SPAULDING. They flew into the second half of their 24-race Trials with a commanding 15-point lead over Dalton BERGAN and Zack MAXAM, with LARSON and SPAULDING at 42 after a 2,2,2,5 day, following Monday's triple-bullet sweep. WADLOW and RAST have won eight of 13 races and count no finishes worse than third. - Margo HEMOND reporting

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.

Rich Roberts (As Amended By ISAF)
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