After the third day of racing at the US Olympic & Paralympic Team Trials the leaders in all five classes racing off Aquidneck Island are holding onto their leading edge.
However a study of the scores tells a deeper story: rivalries are heating up and point spreads are progressing into the territory of little-margin-for-error sailing. Fast forward to eight races, when racers can discard their worst race, and the picture gets even more interesting.
In the Laser class - a 33-boat fleet filled with talents both seasoned and up-and-coming - odds makers before this event were eyeing two sailors from two coasts: Florida-based Brad FUNK
(Plantation, Fla.) and San Diego sailor Andrew CAMPBELL
FUNK moved into the class lead with a five-point margin after Sunday's racing. But two bullets in Monday's two races escalate CAMPBELL into the number two slot. Once a discard is factored in, CAMPBELL's throwout of a 20th-place finish and FUNK's 9th make this a battle of class talents about to reach a boiling point. After Monday, FUNK stands in first, with CAMPBELL second, tied in points with Clay JOHNSON
2.4 Metre sailor Mark BRYANT
has seen some close finishes here in Newport. On the Paralympic course on Monday - which saw squirrelly conditions, where the breeze never topped 10 knots and did an about-face from west-southeast to east-northeast - he lost a race to John RUF
of Pewaukee, Wisc. by only a foot at the finish line.
"That's the third race I've lost in this regatta by only a foot,"
he said. Although the on-the-water distances are close and the points scores are lethal - with only three points separating the top-three boats - "I'm standing right where I want to be,"
he said after today's racing. For a man disabled by degenerative arthritis, that standing position is likely more than simply his spot on the leaderboard - but also the chance to compete for a spot amongst the world's top athletes heading to the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games in China next year.
As predicted, the battle for the Laser Radial win is developing into a battle of two titans in this new Olympic class, with world #1 Anna TUNNICLIFFE
(Plantation, Fla.) leading and Paige RAILEY
(Clearwater, Fla.) in second. After TUNNICLIFFE's two bullets on Monday and RAILEY's two seconds, TUNNICLIFFE leads by three points.
"It was tricky sailing today, with light winds and big waves,"
said TUNNICLIFFE. Winds on the Laser course started at about 13-15 knots and steadily died to as little as 4 knots.
For TUNNICLIFFE, this regatta is both a mental and physical challenge - but one she prepared for. She trained with long strings of sailing days with little breaks between, to learn how her stamina would fare during such an intense stretch of racing. So far, it is faring better than most: TUNICLIFFE shares the fleet's lowest point score (8 points) with SKUD18 racers Nick SCANDONE
and Maureen MCKINNON-TUCKER
(Fountain Valley, Calif./Marblehead, Mass.), who also took two first-place finishes to retain their lead in the two person keelboat Paralympic Class.
Sonar skipper Rick DOERR (Clifton, N.J.), racing with Tim ANGLE
, and Bill DONOHUE
(Marblehead, Mass./BRICK, N.J.), still leads this six-boat class. But a jury decision to reinstate race 2, which was originally abandoned, moves the team of Albert FOSTER
, David BURDETTE and Jim THWEATT
(Wayzata, Minn./Lutherville, Md./W. Sacramento, Calif.) into second, only one point ahead of the team of Paul CALLAHAN
, Roger CLEWORTH
and Tom BROWN
(Newport, R.I. and Cape Coral, Fla./Lithia, Fla./Northeast Harbor, Maine). CALLAHAN represented the USA at the 2000 Paralympic Games.
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.