If light winds were the order of the day for the start of US Sailing Olympic Pre-Trials in three classes Friday, most of the parties involved would like to know who ordered them.
Jeff Johnson, principal race officer for the Finns at Newport Beach, said, wryly, “As much as we want to duplicate light-air China, we were hoping for something better than this.”
Over a 150-mile spread of venues, it was a nice day at the beach with temperatures in the 70s, but the Finns were unable to race at all at Newport Beach, while Morgan Larson and crew Pete Spaulding won two of three 49er races with 10 knots dropping to 5 at San Diego, as George Szabo and new crew Mark Strube scored a first and two seconds in three Star races in 4-5 knots at Marina del Rey.
The bad news, with racing scheduled to continue Saturday and Sunday, is that Jennifer Lilly, US Sailing’s weather forecaster for the Pre-Trials, , , couldn’t offer much hope for the rest of the weekend.
“About 7 to 10 miles offshore [Friday] there was 15 knots of breeze but it just never made it all the way in,” she said. “As the Pacific High moves into the Pacific Northwest you end up with an offshore gradient, and the problem is that what usually creates the breeze here is the thermal in the afternoon [when] the thermal causes the wind to move onshore. But when you have an offshore gradient it fights with the onshore thermal breeze and you end up with nothing.
“Unfortunately, [Saturday] looks about the same as today. Temperatures ashore should be a little bit cooler, which will mean less of a thermal gradient, which means you might see a steady breeze but only 5 or 6 knots. It looks like there is very little hope of having a strong breeze throughout the weekend.”
No problem, said Larson. “We’re pretty happy in all conditions.” They hit the right side of the course hard all day.
“It was all about the right,” Larson said, “and some of the people weren’t really catching on. You could have done one-tack beats and been in first place in every race.”
Morgan, 35, of Capitola, Calif., will join Sweden’s Victory Challenge America’s Cup team after this event. He finished a close second in the 2000 Olympic Trials and didn’t campaign in 2004, then revived his effort two years ago with Spaulding, who was crew for Tim Wadlow when they finished fifth in the Athens Olympics in 2004.
Wadlow, now sailing with Christopher Rast as crew, is fifth overall after the first day. Ty Reed and Tedd White of Santa Barbara won the third race.
Szabo would call that a “typical crew rotation,” which is common in the Star class. He acquired the veteran Strube as a crew “less than a week ago,” he said. His former crew, Eric Monroe, is sailing with local veteran Ben Mitchell, and they are in eighth place after all single-digit finishes Friday.
Szabo’s biggest problem was a foul he committed in the second race against Ireland’s Maurice O’Connell, whose crew is Magnus Liljedahl, a former Olympic champion with Mark Reynolds, who is not competing this week.
“We tried to lee-bow [tack] on them at the windward mark and it didn’t work out,” Szabo said.
But they were able to do a penalty turn and hold onto second place, then followed veteran John MacCausland and crew Robert Schofield in the third race.
Szabo said, “We got lucky a few times today. We’re experimenting with light-air sail shape.”
At Newport Beach, Johnson said, there were signs of wind two miles out and he had hopes of starting a race until forced to abandon the effort in mid-afternoon.
“It toyed with us,” Johnson said. “We had 3-5 knots at the committee boat and 3-5 knots at the weather mark but a big hole in the middle. We moved [the course] out a mile but the breeze just continued to dissipate. The consensus of the competitors was that we did the right thing.”
The Stars will be hosted by California Yacht Club at Marina del Rey, the Finns by Newport Harbor YC off Newport Beach and the 49ers by Southwestern YC off San Diego. Those regattas are among eight classes grouped as US Olympic Trials West events that opened with last week’s Tornado class pre-trials. Racing will start at noon each day, conditions permitting.
A year from now the same venues will host the formal Olympic Trials to select the one boat in 8 of the 11 classes that will represent the United States at the Olympics in 2008.
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.
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