Charlie Buckingham and Paige Railey have been collecting trophies since they were kids, but Sunday they won some of the more precious hardware: the George D. O'Day trophy for men and Helen Willis Hanley trophy for women in the U.S. Sailing Singlehanded Championships.
The competition hosted by Alamitos Bay Yacht Club was part of the Laser North American Championships, where the pair also prevailed over fleets of 73 Laser standard rigs and 108 Radials from 14 countries, respectively.
Buckingham, 25, from Newport Beach, California, held off Brazil's Bruno Fontes by four points---each won three of the 11 races---while Railey, 26, of Clearwater, Florida., won by 20 points with only two finishes worse than third, both of which were discards.
Chris Barnard, also from Newport Beach, staged a fast finish, winning both races Sunday to place third overall.
Conditions over four days on the open ocean trapezoid course varied from a 19-knot blowout Thursday to a wispy Sunday. The constant oscillations in direction from south to southwest and back and velocity from 4 to 8 knots caused several delays, and in the end the race committee was forced to abandon a scheduled 12th race when the 15:00 deadline ran out a minute after a botched desperate start by the Lasers, preventing a restart.
The two winners figured it all out better than anyone.
Railey said, "I may be blonde, but I can still think about things."
Buckingham said, "I felt like I sailed a solid week. Over four days we had everything, and the competition forced you to sail well against good people."
He also credited other good people: US Sailing and his sponsor, West Coast University and chairman Dave Pyle.
Gage Wilson of Cape Coral, Fla. won the nine-boat Laser 4.7 fleet with four wins.
Fontes, ranked World #4, higher than anyone else in the event, started the day one point behind Buckingham, his training partner, but struggled in the conditions, especially in the next to last race.
"The wind shifted and I went the wrong way,"
he said somberly.
Next month he will join US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider members Buckingham, Barnard and Railey at a pre-Olympic training regatta in his homeland, in the meantime continuing to work with them out of ABYC under the guidance of the team's Laser coach, Mark Littlejohn.
"This showed us things are on course,"
Littlejohn said. "It's good to see a range of conditions to assess the sailors."
Railey, the 2006 ISAF Rolex Female World Sailor of the Year, said, "All the hard work is paying off."