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2004 US Olympic Trials

This Article Last Updated: Oct 14th, 2010 - 15:13:49 

US Olympic Trials - Fifth Day Report
By Rich Roberts for YachtRacing.com
Mar 25, 2004, 20:28

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First Day's Report
Second Day's Report
Third Day's Report
Fourth Day's Report
Sixth Day's Report
Seventh Day's Report
Final Report
Complete results

Thursday's wind: E/NE, 24-32 knots.
Friday's forecast (by Chris Bedford): E/NE, 19-24 knots.

MIAMI, Fla.---Wet, windy and nasty, two masts down, boats like bathtubs, more of the same due Friday and Paul Cayard now looking at George Szabo as his nearest threat in the U.S. Olympic Trials for the Star class.

That's the quick version of Thursday's competition that saw the fleet escorted onto Biscayne Bay by a drenching downpour. All 22 boats started the only race they could manage when a 24-knot easterly built to 32 as it chased the storm out over the Florida Keys. Waves were 3-4 feet.

"Today was survival more than anything else," said Austin Sperry, crew for Andy MacDonald, who finished seventh and are eighth overall.

Szabo and crew Mark Strube bagged their second win in the last four races, the only boat to match Cayard and crew Phil Trinter step for step lately as the trials reached the midway mark of 16 races scheduled with three days remaining. Szabo/Strube leapfrogged Vince Brun and Mike Dorgan (10th Thursday) into second place, 12 points behind Cayard/Trinter.

Brothers Doug and Bob Schofield from Boston finished second, followed by Andy Lovell and Magnus Liljedahl, Cayard/Trinter and Rick Merriman and Bill Bennett, who are sixth overall.

Howie Shiebler, a San Francisco veteran accustomed to similar conditions, and crew Will Stout were close behind Szabo/Strube on the second downwind leg to the finish. As they jibed, a puff rolled their boat and the whisker pole dipped into the emerald water, throwing them out of control and snapping their mast in the middle.

"Howie spun out right in front of us and almost took us out," Trinter said.

Moments later, John Dane of New Orleans and crew Henry Sprague, Long Beach, Calif., saw their mast drop quietly over the bow.

"We didn't make any mistake at all," Sprague said. "We were having a great race. We don't know why it broke. Funny, it's very peaceful when it comes down---not even a snapping sound."

The race committee had hoped to sail three races to get back on the two-a-day schedule. Before the rain blew through the plan looked good, but by the end of the lone race Jonathan Harley, US Sailing's Olympic director, had decided to call it a day even as a few boats headed back to shore on their own.

"At 11 o'clock it was a gorgeous day [with] 14-15 knots," Harley said. "Then I started hearing 30. That's not Star boat sailing."

The fallen masts were not a factor. "I did not know that the masts came down," Harley said.

Trinter said, "That's the most wind I've sailed a Star in since the '97 Europeans at Kiel."

Alas, the forecast is for similar conditions Friday. One day, people here are hoping, forecaster Chris Bedford of Sailing Weather Services will be wrong.

Cayard/Trinter started in the middle, went left toward shore with the pack and led Eric Doyle/Brian Sharp by two lengths at the first windward mark. By the leeward mark Szabo/Strube were in front and Doyle/Sharp had dropped well back, finishing 11th.

The problem, Sharp said, was that "we had water up to here in the boat," indicating halfway up his calf. "We buried our bow in a wave and couldn't get it to drain."

Unlike Volvo 60s, Stars don't sail well with water ballast. Brun/Dorgan had the same problem, as did several others.

Sharp has not had a good couple of days. He fell overboard in lighter wind Tuesday, and on Thursday his cap blew away for the second racing day in a row.

Shiebler's coach, veteran Star sailor Peter Bromby of Bermuda, said that before racing was abandoned for the day the team was prepared to replace the mast on the race course with one from their chase boat.

"We could have done it, but we were not relishing the prospect," Bromby said.

Another veteran, John MacCausland, currently fifth overall, said, "There were some fun rides, for sure, and it was as shifty as it was windy."

Strube said he and Szabo were relatively comfortable.

"We never felt like we were out of control," he said.

On the other hand, they didn't jibe on either downwind leg, probably a prudent decision, considering Shiebler's fate.

Strube also explained how they tried to keep their boat stable with body ballast. Normally, the crew is forward of the mast downwind.

But Strube said, "At some times I'd be aft of where George was sitting to keep the bow from diving."

Szabo: "I don't think I've ever seen that in a Star."

Cayard said he and Trinter sailed in a slightly conservative mode of "about 90 per cent," keeping their mast vertical instead of releasing it forward downwind, where most Star dismastings occur.

"Your ego says you want to win every race," Cayard said, "but with the position we're in we weren't willing to go for it. We sailed safer but on the edge of control."

Leaders (22 boats, 8 of 16 races, one discard):

1. Paul Cayard/Phil Trinter, San Francisco, 2-(6)-1-2-3-1-1-4, 14 points.
2. George Szabo/Mark Strube, San Diego, 4-5-(14)-9-1-4-2-1, 26.
3. Vince Brun/Mike Dorgan, San Diego, (23/OCS)-9-2-1-4-5-3-10, 34.
4. Eric Doyle/Brian Sharp, San Diego, 1-1-9-8-5-10-(12)-11, 45.
5. John MacCausland/Brad Nichol, Cherry Hill, N.J, 6-8-3-6-10-(15)-5-8, 46.
6. Rick Merriman/Bill Bennett, San Diego, 7-4-(17)-13-2-7-9-5, 47.
7. Mark Reynolds/Steve Erickson, San Diego, 5-2-10-7-13-2-(15)-9, 48.
8. Andrew MacDonald/Austin Sperry, Laguna Beach, Calif., 11-7-5-4-6-(13)-10-7, 50.
9. Andy Lovell/Magnus Liljedahl, New Orleans, (23/OCS)-23/DNS-4-3-11-3-7-3, 54.
10. Howie Shiebler/Will Stout, San Francisco, 3-3-6-(23/OCS)-12-9-6-23/DNF, 62.

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