Monday, April 19, 2004
By Chris Stromboe, Contributing writer
If there were any questions about New Orleanian Andy Lovell's place among the top sailors in the world, he answered those Sunday by winning the Star Championship of the Western Hemisphere at the Southern Club in New Orleans. Lovell and crew Magnus Liljedahl held off three-time Olympic Medalist Mark Reynolds and crew Will Stout to finish second in the sixth and final race of the series, winning by one point.
"The race came down to the wire," Lovell said. "At the very end we tacked the boat about 15 times to try to cut them off and push them off to the side. They stayed about 20 feet behind us the whole final leg, and I knew that the southeastern wind would be coming in, and luckily we read it right and got a 20-degree shift."
Reynolds and Stout had passed Lovell on the downwind several times this week, but Lovell returned the favor to win his first Silver Star, which is awarded for continental championships. The only higher accomplishment in the Star Class is a gold star, awarded for a world championship.
"Our accomplishment today definitely validated all of the training we did for the Olympic Trials (last month). Finishing second in the Olympic Trials was like kissing your sister, but today the training paid off and helped us to a very big accomplishment."
Susie Pegel and crew Brian Buffaloe finished first in the race and seventh overall. Two other local sailors based out of the Southern Yacht Club also finished in the top 10. Guy Brierre and crew Buddy Clarke finished sixth and Stephen Murray and crew Austin Sperry finished ninth.
Because of the difficulty of racing Star Class boats, the crew is given the same awards and recognition as the sailor. So Liljedahl, who won a gold medal with Reynolds in 2000, added a Silver Star.
"It was an incredible race for me and anyone who appreciates sailing," Liljedahl said. "Andy cemented his name in the Star Class category for a long time today. Andy proved that he's a winner, winning the race today under a lot of pressure."
George Szabo and Darin Jensen, who were tied for the lead Saturday, finished third overall, a point behind Reynolds and Stout.
Sailors in three-way tie after 5 races
With one race to go at the Southern Yacht Club, there is a three-way battle for first at the 2004 Star Championships of the Western Hemisphere.
Andy Lovell, George Szabo and Mark Reynolds are all tied for first place with eight points after five races.
Saturday, Reynolds and crew Will Stout came in first, their best finish of the competition thus far, with Lovell coming in second and Szabo finishing third.
"It all comes down tomorrow with one race left," Lovell said. "We had trouble finishing again in the last run heading downwind. But we changed something on our boat about halfway down the last leg, and that allowed us to hold on to second."
"The change we made today might not even be a factor tomorrow, because we're expecting a different wind direction," said Magnus Liljedahl, Lovell's crew who won an Olympic Gold Medal in 2000. "It's a nice position to be in to have a shot at winning the event on the last day. Just that in itself is an accomplishment with the level of competition in this race. Andy has as much talent as anyone I've ever sailed with, and he'll win the Olympics one day."
Reynolds, who has won three Olympic Medals, has two seconds and two thirds in the previous four races.
"Will's setting up the boat well for going downwind, and today we were able to catch Andy in the last leg and hold on for the win," Reynolds said. "Andy's beaten us off the start almost every race, but luckily we've been able to play catch up."
After five races Lovell and Liljedahl are in first place because they currently own the tiebreaker, which is determined on how many first-place finishes the sailor has, then how many second-place finishes and so on.
But, if all three finish in the top three today, the winner of the sixth and final race determines the winner of the Championships. The winner receives a silver star to represent their continental championship, the second-highest honor in sailing, ranking behind the gold star, which symbolizes a World Championship.
Szabo moves ahead, Lovell falls into tie for second place
George Szabo along with crew Darin Jensen finished first in both races of the Star Championships of the Western Hemisphere on Friday at the Southern Yacht Club on Lake Pontchartrain.
Szabo, 33, who resides in San Diego, won the North American Championship in the Star Class in 2001 after taking a four-year break to race a Snipe Class boat.
"We had a little bit better conditions today then yesterday, and we started figuring out the wind shifts better," Szabo said. "Darin and I haven't sailed together for about a year; we got a little more accustomed to working with each other."
Local sailor Andy Lovell and crew Magnus Liljedahl finished fourth in both races, dropping them into a tie for second place with two-time gold medalist Mark Reynolds with 10 points, one point behind Szabo and Jensen.
"We were going well upwind, but downwind we were having a hard time gaining speed and direction," Lovell said.
Lovell finished three feet behind local sailor Guy Brierre in the first race. Brierre took third place in the first race and fifth in the second. Brierre and crew Buddy Clarke moved from seventh place to fifth.
Competition continues today with one race scheduled for 11 a.m. After today's race, each sailor's highest finish will be thrown out, and the standings will be adjusted accordingly. The sixth and final race is scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m.
Lovell leads by three points, Local sailors Murray, Sperry in top 10
Lovell and Liljedahl have six victories, one second, one third, one fourth and one 12th. They lead by three points with four races left in the next three days.
"I think a lot of our success as of late can be credited to our three months of intense training before the Olympic Trials (last month)," Lovell said. "The training gave us the confidence and mental ability to overcome anything that happens on the water.
"We executed perfect at one point today, and Magnus looked at me and said, 'We really aced that one.' It was like hitting a hole-in-one."
Lovell and Liljedahl defeated Mark Reynolds and Will Stout in the first race and beat off John McCausland and Brad Nichol in the second.
Two other local sailors and crew, Stephen Murray with crew Austin Sperry, and Guy Brierre with crew Buddy Clarke, also finished in the top 10, in sixth and seventh.
"We finished just boat lengths behind the first three guys in the first race, and we were right where we wanted to be," Brierre said. "We had a little trouble in the second race, but we're only one point out of fifth place and our goal is to finish in the top five."
Mark Reynolds and Will Stout finished in second with five points.