More than just bragging rights were at stake this past weekend, and that fact drew one of the largest turnouts of 470 sailors for a U.S. event in recent years.
Among the 18 teams competing at the 470 Olympic Pre-Trials, hosted by Houston Yacht Club in Texas, were members of the Canadian national team, and four Olympic medallists whose recent return to the class has raised the competitive bar for the class as a whole. The prize for the winning teams in each division (men and women) was a highly coveted entry to the 2003 Olympic Test Event in Athens. Generating additional pressure to do well at this event was the ranking system that will determine the 470 members of the 2003 US Sailing Team. It mandated this event and one other - the 2003 Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta - as the only events that will count towards the 2003 rankings.
Dominating a fleet of this standard is no easy task, but that is exactly what Steve Hunt and Michael Miller did after grabbing hold of the lead position from day one of the event. With both the men and women's divisions sailing as one fleet, Hunt and Miller posted five first-place finishes in the seven-race series to win the regatta. In unrelenting hot pursuit were Olympians Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham, who finished four points behind to take second place overall. 2002 US Sailing Team members Mark Ivey and Howard Cromwell were third. Hunt and Miller have been sailing together since 1999. They represented the U.S.A. at the 1999 World University Games where they won a bronze medal, and are ranked number one on the 2002 US Sailing Team.
Katie McDowell and Isabelle Kinsolving emerged from the combined fleet victorious in the 470 women's division after placing fourth overall. They faced tough competition from the six all-women teams that included Amanda Clark with Sara Mergenthaler; 1988 470 Women's Olympic Gold Medallists Allison Jolly and Lynne Shore; and Erin Maxwell with Jen Morgan; who finished sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. McDowell and Kinsolving have been ranked on the US Sailing Team since pairing up in 2000.
As winners of their respective divisions, Hunt and Miller, and McDowell and Kinsolving, will preview the Olympic venues at the 2003 Test Event in Athens, scheduled for August 14-28.