The breeze was OK for Day 2 of US Sailing Olympic Pre-Trials at three venues along the Southern California coast Saturday, but what some of the sailors needed most was radar.
“We got lost,” said Andy Horton, the top-ranked U.S. Star sailor who with crew Brad Nichol, once a fog bank rolled through, recovered from a mediocre opening day Friday to win both races at Marina del Rey Saturday.
Casey, Tony Wattson and veteran Henry Sprague dominated two races in tricky conditions to beat a fog bank rolling down the coast.
At San Diego, with visibility limited to 50 meters, Southwestern Yacht Club principal race officer Bruce Greene had to hold the 49ers for two hours but then ran three races. Dalton Bergan and crew Zack Maxam scored 1-1-2 to pull within three points of the leaders, Morgan Larson and crew Pete Spaulding (2-2-1). So with one race remaining Sunday, it’s a battle between two veteran teams. Winds were 5 to 9 knots.
The breeze was a pleasant 7 to 9 knots at Marina del Rey, but it delivered a thick layer of soup that caused California Yacht Club PRO Bill Stump to abandon the first race on the second upwind leg.
“How anybody found the windward mark boggles the mind,” said Cal YC member Tom Leweck, the Curmudgeon of Scuttlebutt notoriety.
Horton and Nichol didn’t. They thought they had their position worked out from timing their tacks on the first lap, “but we went right past the mark and kept on going,” Horton said.
They didn’t hear any abandonment signals but soon started sailing back downwind until they found a chase boat, which also was lost.
“This is only my second time racing in Southern California,” said Horton, a Vermont native, “and my first time seeing this wind cycle. Once the fog lifted we just got back to sailing the way we know how to sail.”
Their two wins, along with a throwout kicking in after five races, got them back up to third place, a point behind Andrew MacDonald and crew Brian Faith but off the pace of leaders George Szabo and crew Mark Strube, who have no finish worse than third.
The Finns won’t benefit from a throwout unless they manage to sail three races Sunday for a total of five, which changes the complexion of the event for Sprague. The 61-year-old veteran from Long Beach was among five boats cited for jumping the starting line at the pin end in the first race but rebounded to win the second race. Unless he can toss those 40 points he won’t have a prayer of a podium result.
Notified of his indiscretion at the first windward mark, Sprague said, “I was pretty disappointed. I took a stupid chance of being over.”
In the second race, he said, “I was scared to death of being over again, but I did decide I was going to go [to the] right [side of the course], and the right worked.”
Now he hopes the wind Sunday will be strong enough to race but light enough to serve his strength.
“In 7 knots or less I’m ready to ballet with any of these guys,” he said.
Tony Wattson of Newport Beach won the first race and Andy Casey of nearby Fountain Valley is the overall leader. Zack Railey, the top-ranked American in the class, is four points behind Casey in a three-way tie with Brian Boyd and Geoff Ewenson. Railey was second in the first race despite doing a downwind penalty turn after the on-water umpires yellow-flagged him for excessive kinetics.
Bergan and Maxam found their 49er stride after posting three third places Friday.
“We’re getting to know the conditions,” Bergan said, “We’ve been surprisingly fast downwind. At the 2004 Olympic Trials [when they were second] downwind was a problem, so the last two years we’ve been working hard on it.”
The Pre-Trials spectacle will finish Oct. 26-29 with four days of racing for the men’s and women’s 470s at the US Sailing Center in Long Beach and the men’s and women’s RS:X—the new Olympic sailboard—just down the street at Alamitos Bay YC.
A year from now the same venues will host the formal Olympic Trials to select the one boat in each class that will represent the United States at the Olympics in 2008.
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