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3 April 2006, 12:00 pm
RAILEY Stars In Long Beach
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Alamitos Bay Olympic Classes Regatta 2006
Long Beach, California, USA

21 year old Zach RAILEY (USA) was the star of the show at the Alamitos Bay Olympic Classes Regatta overthe weekend, scoring five bullets from seven races to secure the Finn title in Long Beach, California, USA. Erik LIDECIS and Kyle HENEHAN (USA) also impressed with a comfortable with a narrow win the Star.
RAILEY and 41 year old Darrell PECK (USA) may seem unlikely buddies, but they will be hanging out a lot together for the next couple of years. RAILEY, the top ranked USA sailor in the Finn, won five of seven races in a fleet of 20 boats in Alamitos Bay Yacht Club's 46th Olympic Classes Regatta on Saturday and Sunday, while PECK's close second place jumped him from fifth to second ranking.

The top two in each Olympic class qualify for the ISAF Grade 2 Olympic Test Event at Qingdao, China in August, so RAILEY and PECK officially became a team. Besides the Olympic preview this year, they will train and sail alongside each other in other events in Europe, Canada and the USA, all leading up to the US Olympic Trials at Newport Beach in October of 2007.

PECK Looking Forward To Qingdao

'It's exciting,' said PECK, who has been chasing his Olympic dream sailing a Finn since 1988, when RAILEY was just three years old. 'I not only had to do well at this regatta but had to have another guy do badly - and that was Bryan's bad luck.'

Bryan BOYD (USA) of Annapolis, now number four, remains in the Olympic chase and was planning to compete for the China trip here but drove a chisel into his left hand two days before the event, putting him out of competition indefinitely. The other two sailors that PECK had to leapfrog did not compete, either.

'So I just sailed conservatively,' PECK said, 'And tried not to foul anybody or break anything.'

LIDECIS of nearby Huntington Beach and crew HENEHAN won four races and claimed the eleven boat Star class by one point over Ben MITCHELL of San Diego and crew Michael MARZAHI (USA). John PEARCE (USA) edged Alamitos Bay Yacht Club's Chris RAAB (USA) by a point among 31 Lasers. Michael SCHALKA (USA) of Seattle shaded Jon SCOTT (CAN) of Vancouver by two points among 16 Laser Radials, with Isabella BERTOLD (CAN) finishing as top woman in third.

Sunday's Action

In moderate winds Saturday and light five knot shifty breeze Sunday, PECK won the only two Finn races that RAILEY did not and had four seconds and a fifth, which he discarded.

'Zach deserved to win this regatta,' PECK said. 'He let me take one of those close finishes yesterday and another one today. Actually, I took one of them. I wanted it.'

The 14 foot Finns are physically demanding to the sail, but the class still manages to be multigenerational. The OCR fleet ranged from RAILEY, 21, to 71 year old August (Gus) MILLER (USA).

And Finn sailors are tough. Brad NIEUWSTAD (USA), sailed with a cast on his broken right forearm sustained two weeks ago and placed ninth. Veterans persevere, PECK said, because, 'It's a difficult boat to sail, and while a lot of people can sail it, few people can sail it well.'

RAILEY is a rarity who outgrew a Laser, stepped into a Finn two years ago and immediately found success.

RAILEY Looking Forward To The Future

'I'm really looking forward to sailing more with Darrell,' RAILEY said. 'We'll be in Croatia for the Finn Gold Cup [World Championship] in July, and I'm sure we'll help each other get better along the way.'

Like RAILEY and PECK, LICEDIS also has Olympic ambitions, and at six foot and nine inches he literally stands head and shoulders above the competition. MARZAHI, who is six foot five, is his usual crew but had committed to sail with MITCHELL before LICEDIS entered the event, so LICEDIS recruited HENEHAN on short notice.

'We had a really good first day,' LICEDIS said, 'And today we just wanted to control the fleet. But as soon as the wind goes light it's a scramble. When it gets strong we can walk on people. So we just tried to stay on the lifted tacks and in phase with the shifts.'

LICEDIS and HENEHAN (3,1,1,1,2,1) clinched victory before the last race but sailed it, anyway, finishing a laidback ninth.

'We just tried not to mess it up for anybody else,' LICEDIS said.

Rich ROBERTS (As Amended by ISAF). Image, Zach RAILEY (foreground) won his Finn battle with Darrell PECK:© Rich ROBERTS
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