'It's wonderful,' Isabelle KINSOLVING said on Thursday as the first day of 470 dinghy racing in the third week of Southern California's US Sailing Olympic Pre-Trials turned into Ladies Day on the water.
Stuart MCNAY and Graham BIEHL (USA) emerged as the early leaders with two first places and a second, but the women's teams of Erin MAXWELL and KINSOLVING, Canada's Jennifer PROVAN and Carol Luttmer and the Czech Republic's Lenka SMIDOVA with Elizabeth KRATZIG grace the next three positions after the first of four days' racing.
The genders are separated in the RS:X windsurfer classes nearer the beach east of Long Beach, with Ben BARGER (USA), runner-up to Peter WELLS (USA) in the 2004 US Trials, posting two runaway victories on the new Olympic board and Nancy RIOS (USA) and Farrah HALL (USA) swapping firsts and seconds to share the women's lead after two races.
Following morning Santa Ana desert winds up to 15 knots, the breeze shifted 180 degrees to onshore for the rest of the day but only flirted with double-digit velocity, raising the opinion that the light wind favoured the women because they are smaller. KINSOLVING, a slim six feet tall and an Olympic participant at Athens, was not buying any of that.
'None of the men's teams here are significantly bigger than the women,' she said.
Paul FOERSTER, a 2004 Olympic gold medallist who is coaching some of the women this week, chimed in, 'They're just better sailors!'
PROVAN and LUTTMER showed that when they won the first race by relentlessly holding off MCNAY and BIEHL and MAXWELL and KINSOLVING on two laps around the trapezoid track.
'They're our tuning partners,' MCNAY said. 'They caught a nice right shift coming off the starting line and passed everyone.'
SMIDOVA also can be expected to hold her own this week. She won a silver medal for the Czech Republic in the Europe at Athens and plans to sail with KRATZIG, an American, as crew at Qingdao in 2008. KRATZIG said nationality will not be a problem. 'I have a residence there and meet all the requirements,' she said.
Other sailors have switched countries from one Olympics to another - notably, Rod DAVIS, who won a gold medal for the USA at Long Beach in 1984 and a silver for New Zealand eight years later.
KINSOLVING said she welcomes the head-on rivalry instead of separate scoring because, 'otherwise when you work real hard to pass a boat and it turns out to be a man, it doesn't mean as much.'
BARGER (pronounced with a hard G, as in burger) was never challenged in his two wins. 'The rest of the Americans here aren't as tuned up in the light air,' he said.
The 470s are sailing out of the US Sailing Centre while the RS:Xs are based at Alamitos Bay Yacht Club down the street.
Previous Pre-Trials hosted this month are: Tornado, San Diego YC; 49er, Southwestern YC, San Diego; Finn, Newport Harbour YC, Newport Beach; Star, California YC, Marina del Rey.
A year from now the same venues will host the formal Olympic Trials to select the one boat in each class that will represent the USA in the Olympic Sailing Competition at Qingdao, China in 2008.
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