In the 26-boat Finn class, Zach RAILEY shares the notion felt my many classes: "About 10 to 12 sailors can make it to the podium at the 2008 Olympic Games." He explained, "It depends from week to week. You can have a guy get third place one week and then ninth the next. It all depends on who puts a consistent series together in the week we race here at the Games." Top medal contenders in the Finn are Great Britain, Denmark, Spain, Croatia, Holland, Slovenia and Italy. RAILEY is ranked #17 and has recently shown marked and consistent improvement in his ISAF Grade 1 events finishes. He appears prepared to peak at the 2008 Olympics.
John DANE and Austin SPERRY race together in the Star class. The Star class is known for its depth of talent and tends to attract legendary sailors with multiple world championships from various classes under their belts. While over half of this 16-boat fleet has a chance at a medal, favourites include Brazil, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, Poland and Sweden. At 58, DANE is the oldest American going to the Olympics, and he hopes to be the oldest American to come home with a medal.
As many of the United States' representatives have expressed competitive closeness in their classes, Andrew CAMPBELL, who races in the Laser class, emphasizes the parity in his class by listing about fifteen sailors who have reached the podium at this quad's Grade 1 events. He notes six medal favourites and another eight "possible race winners with medal potential." CAMPBELL's strongest countries in the 40-boat Laser class include Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden. As potential dark horses, Canada, Brazil, Croatia, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain show promise. CAMPBELL has only sailed an aggressive schedule in the Grade 1 circuit for two years but has reached #15 in the rankings. He says of his chances, "I think in less than 12 knots I'm between the two groups [medal favourites and potential medal winners]. The coaches certainly like taking pictures of me during practice races recently."
Amanda CLARK and Sarah MERGENTHALER will compete in the 19-boat Women's 470 class. Crew MERGENTHALER observed, "At almost every major event this year we have had a different winner. Anyone in the top ten in the rankings can get to the podium." Among the top group are Australia, Japan the Netherlands, France and Sweden. Italy, Great Britain and Brazil are more potential podium contenders. CLARK and MERGENTHALER list themselves as wild cards. CLARK explained, "We are currently ranked seventh, but we have been ranked as high as fifth. We are right in the mix on speed and now it's about tying in consistent finishes." MERGENTHALER said, "A lot of it depends on the first race-- who combusts and who holds it together."
Stuart MCNAY and Graham BIEHL are competing in the Men's 470. BIEHL said, "Twelve countries can win medals, honestly. There are a lot of people who can win; it just goes down to how they sail this regatta. You can usually tell by the second day." Medal favourites in this 30-boat class are Great Britain, Australia, the Netherlands Israel and France. In reference to potential wild cards, BIEHL notes that New Zealand puts forth a strong pair, but as they are both 17 years old, it's not clear how they'd handle a pressure situation like the Olympics. MCNAY and BIEHL are currently ranked #9 in the world in the Men's 470 class, and they put forth their best performances in Qingdao's typically lighter breezes under twelve knots.
In the 35-boat Men's RS:X windsurfing class, Ben BARGER counts 11 racers who have won Olympic medals, World Championships, or have performed in the top five at recent test events in China. To top that leaderboard, BARGER said New Zealand, Greece, France and China look like the strongest medal hopes. BARGER expects to finish somewhere in the middle of that 35-person windsurfing class.
In the Women's RS:X windsurfer, 20 year old Nancy RIOS races as the youngest person on the US Olympic Team for Sailing. France, Italy and Spain are expected to perform well in this 28-person Olympic event.
Four hundred sailors from 62 countries will race at the Olympic Sailing Competition from 9-21August. Event schedules are staggered over the 13-day period, with reserve days built into the end of the Olympic Sailing Competition as well as during each individual event. Under normal scheduling, reserve days are lay days for the sailors, but may be used as race days for weather reasons. On 9 August, the Olympic Sailing Competition begins with the Finn and Yngling classes.
For more information, news, features and updates on the US Olympic Team for Sailing, please visit http://olympics.ussailing.org/Olympics.htm.
For daily video, pictures and blog coverage by Gary Jobson on NBC, please visit www.nbcolympics.com/sailing/index.html.