Competitors at the East Coast US Olympic & Paralympic Team Trials grappled with shifty northeasterly winds on Tuesday. Sizeable shifts turned the water into a patchwork of oscillations that racers navigated carefully, like a minefield. But there were some who definitely chose to travel the right route.
Laser-class leader Brad FUNK (Plantation, Fla) and Sonar skipper Albert FOSTER (Wayzata, Minn.) both sailed 1,1 days. For FOSTER, his top performance moves him to the head of his class. For FUNK, it keeps him in the number-one spot in the 33-boat Laser fleet.
Sailors gave different estimates of how big the oscillations were, but Laser Radial sailor Sarah LIHAN (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) had her own gauge: "How big were the shifts? Big enough to make a difference."
LIHAN used those shifts as the ticket to her first race win in this series. In the day's opening race, she led the 22-boat class to the first mark of the course. But the two sailors who stand first and second in the Laser Radials - Anna TUNNICLIFFE (Plantation, Fla.) and Paige RAILEY (Clearwater, Fla.) - are a hard pair to fend off. Although LIHAN lost her lead, she regained it on the second windward leg, using a right-hand shift to position herself for a bullet at the finish line.
LIHAN may be the first Laser Radial sailor to break the winning streak of TUNNICLIFFE and RAILEY, who have won every other race to date; but the battle for the Laser Radial Olympic berth is shaping up to be a duel between these two rivals.
The second race of the day was, as TUNNICLIFFE says, "one to remember." RAILEY had the lead at the weather mark; TUNNICLIFFE caught her on the run, but was yellow-flagged for pumping. TUNNICLIFFE did her two penalty turns and chased her opponent to eventually win her sixth race of the series. She now leads the class by five points.
Racing in the Sonar class has evolved into a close battle for the berth to the Paralympic Games in China - and these three person keelboats are close on the water, and in the point scores. In one race on Tuesday, three boats finished one race within half a boat length. FOSTER, racing with David BURDETTE and Jim THWEATT (Lutherville, Md./W. Sacramento, Calif.), now has the class lead by a slim one point over Rick DOERR, Tim ANGLE, and Bill DONOHUE (Clifton, N.J./Marblehead, Mass./Brick, N.J.).
In the 2.4 Metre class, Mark BRYANT (Estero, Fla.) continues to lead by two points. Nick SCANDONE and Maureen MCKINNON-TUCKER (Fountain Valley, Calif./Marblehead, Mass.) won yet another race on Tuesday to retain their lead in the two person SKUD18 class.
Most classes have sailed eight of the scheduled 16 races, and this long regatta is now officially at its halfway point. Sailors will enjoy a lay day on Wednesday - but there is at least one racer who is not yet ready to rest.
"Normally at this stage of a big event, I'm feeling the negative effects of expending a lot of physical exertion and mental energy," said Laser sailor FUNK. "But it feels like the regatta has just begun and I'm raring to go."
FUNK has every reason to be weary. He fought hard for his two wins on Tuesday. Not having the luxury of having the lead at the top mark, he used every opportunity on the successive legs to gain ground. Wednesday he expects his "halftime" report from his coach. But he'll be one of those players eager to get back into the game. Although he only has a three-point lead in a big class with eight more races to go, he is clearly not feeling the pressure as much as he is the joy of going racing. As FUNK said after racing on Tuesday evening: "I kind of wish Wednesday wasn't a lay day."
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.