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30 October 2006, 10:31 am
Third Week Of US Pre-Trials Concludes
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Beijing 2008

Stuart MCNAY and Graham BIEHL (USA) in the Men's 470, Amanda CLARK and Sarah MERGENTHALER (USA) in the Women's 470 and Ben BARGER (USA) and Nancy RIOS (USA) in the Men's and Women's RS:X windsurfer, respectively, were winners in Southern California's final set of US Sailing Olympic Pre-Trials, which concluded on Sunday.
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BARGER and RIOS also qualified for the USA berths in the Pan-Am Games next year.

More Than A Dress Rehearsal

This was not just a dress rehearsal for the big show a year from now when they will compete for the sole slots in their classes to represent the USA in the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition at Qingdao, China. It was worth more than that.

'A whole lot more,' said CLARK, referring to the campaign funding available to members of the US Sailing Team.

'It's an important step for us being ranked number one,' MCNAY said.

The Southern California Pre-Trials in eight of the eleven Olympic events this month were the first of three ranking events for the US Sailing Team of 2007, which is now only three deep in each class, instead of five as in past years, so that available funds for travel, shipping and equipment may be concentrated on the cream of the crop prospects.

Also, being number one is even better because that means medical insurance, plus possibly additional grants from the US Olympic Sailing Committee based on performance.

CLARK and MERGENTHALER were ranked number one by US SAILING in the past two years, but were the second women's team behind Erin MAXWELL and Isabelle KINSOLVING (UASA) starting the fourth and final day Sunday.

Pressure On

'We were under pressure to get our [number one] slot back,' CLARK said.

Worse, a starting violation on the first day put them in a hole they dug their way out of through six consecutive races with no finish worse than fifth climaxed by first place in the second of three races Sunday. They finished three points up on MAXWELL and KINSOLVING as four women's teams placed second through fifth in the combined scoring with the men - and how about that?

'These were conditions that women can do very well in,' CLARK said, referring to the generally single digit winds that picked up only slightly to 8 or 9 knots Sunday. 'That's what is good about the 470. We can be very competitive with men.'

But they feared they had blown it all in the last race when, MERGENTHALER said, 'We sailed for the wrong windward mark.'

Before realizing their error, they sailed toward a mark being used by a fleet of 70 footers racing farther offshore. Their mark had been moved because of a wind shift.

'We were just trying to cover our competition,' CLARK said, 'and fortunately our competition sailed there, too.'

MCNAY Seizes Initiative

MCNAY and BIEHL have a temporary leg up on their strongest rivals, Mikee ANDERSON and David HUGHES, who missed the first day because ANDERSON had an economics exam at USC. The latter won two of their seven races, but MCNAY and BIEHL finished ahead of them in four. ANDERSON and HUGHES wound up as the third men's team, behind Justin LAW and Michael MILLER (USA), and seventh overall.

'It made for some competitive racing,' MCNAY said, but the best part was winning the last race.

BIEHL said, 'We were talking about that on the final leg - how it's always nice to finish a regatta with a first.'

BARGER Perfect

BARGER won all nine of the men's RS:X races, while RIOS posted her fifth and sixth wins in eight women's races. Although the time limit had not passed for starting another race, the tenth race was cancelled because the wind was lighter than the minimum required to protect the board sailors from overextending themselves with the physical exertion required to pump their sails.

The 470s sailed out of the US Sailing Centre while the RS:X fleet was 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.

For a complete list of all the news about the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games CLICK HERE.

Rich ROBERTS (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Amanda CLARK and Sarah MERGENTHALER scored victory in the Women's 470:© Rich ROBERTS
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