And those weren't the only ones to do or die in fluky conditions up and down the coast. Zach RAILEY's big Finn lead was cut in half by Geoffrey EWENSON at Newport Beach and Mark MENDELBLATT and Magnus LILJEDAHL's cozy Star margin at Marina del Rey totally disappeared behind a pair of firsts by George SZABO and Andrew SCOTT.
Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Balboa
Second-place Geoffrey EWENSON cut Zach RAILEY's huge lead in half to seven points on a long day of dealing with fickle winds off Newport Beach. EWENSON, 37, of Annapolis scored first- and third-place finishes as RAILEY, 23, went 3,8. Winds never topped 6 knots and didn't allow a start that wasn't abandoned until nearly two and a half hours behind schedule. "This regatta is not over yet," EWENSON said. "Zach is a little stronger downwind with better technique, but maybe being a little older makes me a little more patient." - Jeff JOHNSON reporting
San Diego Yacht Club
Playing wispy winds of 4-5 knots for all they were worth, Robbie DANIEL and crew Hunter STUNZI won both races to break away from their week-long arm-wrestle with John LOVELL and Charlie OGLETREE to take a three-point lead - the first of five days that hasn't ended with them tied with the three-time Olympians and 2004 silver medallists.
DANIEL and STUNZI maintained their streak of all firsts and seconds, but LOVELL and OGLETREE slipped to a 4,3 - their worst two finishes. STUNZI said, "Finally, we've broken that awful tie." They made their best gains downwind, passing LOVELL and OGLETREE on the first run leading to an incident at the leeward mark when the latter held starboard right-of-way. "We were going to duck them and they were hunting us," STUNZI said. There was a protest and LOVELL and OGLETREE did a penalty turn that cost them critical distance. "The wind was so light that we weren't flying a hull at all today," STUNZI said. "It's in the stronger wind that they seem to have a significant edge." - Mike FOSTER reporting
California Yacht Club, Marina del Rey
Mark MENDELBLATT and Magnus LILJEDAHL's seemingly secure ten-point lead vanished in George SZABO and Andrew SCOTT's mastery of the gentle zephyrs of Santa Monica Bay Thursday, leaving the two boats even with a six-point lead over resurgent veteran John DANE and his son-in-law crew, Austin SPERRY. While MENDELBLATT and LILJEDAHL (10,4) took their first double-digit finish in ten races, SZABO and SCOTT (1,1) swept the day with comfortable margins ahead of DANE and SPERRY's 2,3.
Winds were 6-8 knots for the first race dropping to 5-7 for the second. SZABO said: "Andrew had the race course figured out and I got to handle the tiller. We went everywhere - left in the first race, right in the second . . . not an easy day."
It looks like a three-boat race now, but SZABO's Quantum Sails boss, Mark REYNOLDS with Hal HAENEL - silver and gold medallists in 1988 and 1992 - are 19 points off the pace with five races left, "and we know better than to count them out," SZABO said. Through 11 races in this well-behaved 19-boat fleet, there have been no protests of general recalls. - Tom O'CONOR reporting
Alamitos Bay Yacht Club and US Sailing Centre, Long Beach
It wasn't their best day (6,4), but Stuart MCNAY and crew Graham BIEHL were looking China-bound Thursday because their strongest rivals, Mikee ANDERSON-MITTERLING and David HUGHES, had a worse day (5,7) in the mixed fleet. Instead, in single-digit breeze from the south, focus turned to the contest for the women's Olympic berth between Amanda CLARK and Sarah MERGENTHALER (1,5) and Erin MAXWELL and Isabelle KINSOLVING (3,2), now only seven points apart in second and third place in the mixed scoring table that will determine the winners.
CLARK said, "That was a good day - a great day! Even the fifth place wasn't bad because we were over early and had to go back." MCNAY said, "The shifts were tricky and there were big wind holes all over the course." After CLARK and MERGENTHALER, the other win went to Boston College all-American Adam ROBERTS and crew Nick MARTIN, both of San Diego. - Rick ROBERTS reporting
Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, Long Beach
"Just like [the movie] 'Groundhog Day,' " was how four-time Olympian Michael GEBHARDT summed up another afternoon of swapping wins with his onetime protégé, Ben BARGER. GEBHARDT won the first race in lighter wind of 3-4 knots, then bowed to the larger BARGER in 7-8.
"It came down to who had the better start," GEBHARDT said. "I ran a little conservative moving my board." In his win, BARGER said, "I was planing, which gives me an advantage, just trying to hold him back. Each day's race is a big one. I'm trying not to mess up."
Amongst the women Nancy RIOS (1,2) lived it up in the light wind to move into second place and shrink Farrah HALL's (2,3) lead to two points. "I'm just trying to maintain my speed and sail smart," said HALL. "Nancy is really light and does well in light air." RIOS: "My goal was to be first off the starts. I pumped the whole first race." - Rick ROBERTS reporting
Southwestern Yacht Club, San Diego
Morgan LARSON and crew Pete SPAULDING had a breakaway day with two wins and a second place but cut only three points off Tim WADLOW and Chris RAST's (1,3,3) commanding lead Thursday. They're due to make a bigger gain Friday when they discard their second 14-point OCS after the 17th race, while WADLOW and RAST drop a mere three points, but there figures to be a sizable gap left with eight races remaining. For now, Dalton BERGAN and Zack MAXAM (3,2,2), due to toss a four, remain in the middle of the three-boat fight.
BERGAN, in his second full-on Olympic campaign with MAXAM dating to 2001, said, "We still have to reel in somebody before things get too crazy. We've had some bad starts. Two of the three today we were doing [penalty] circles for hitting the pin and another boat." - Margo HEMOND reporting
For complete information on the US Olympic and Paralympic Team Trials - Sailing, please visit www.ussailing.org/olympics/OlympicTrials. Video from the event with commentary by Gary JOBSON will be available daily on the website of the NBC network at www.NBCOlympics.com.