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Sailing – Mid-Atlantic

 Virginia’s Trinter earns gold at Rolex OCR

It’s not often in a sailing regatta that a single 30-minute race decides the outcome, but that’s exactly what happened on the last day of competition for U.S. Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR, which ran Jan. 25-31.

Phil Trinter of Charlottesville, Va., and skipper Rick Merriman of New York finished at the top of the 31-boat Star fleet.

The event hosted 444 sailors from 41 countries in 10 Olympic and three Paralympic classes. Nine of those Olympic classes participated in the finale.

“We didn’t necessarily expect to win the gold today, but thought we had as good a chance as anybody,” said Phil Trinter of Charlottesville, Va., after he and skipper Rick Merriman of New York turned in a performance that secured their spot at the top of the 31-boat Star fleet and the podium. Trinter, an Olympian in this class, described a disappointing start where being “the pickle in the middle” could only go from bad to worse. “By the time the dust settled,” he says, “we were ninth around the first weather mark (of a twice-around windward-leeward course).” Still in ninth after rounding the bottom mark, the team leveraged a right wind shift when everyone else went left and worked its way back to second at the second weather mark.

“We knew we only needed to be fourth to win, so we sailed the downwind leg conservatively,” says Trinter, explaining that a final race finish of third sufficed for their purposes. The performance also earned the team a spot on the U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics 2009, for which this regatta is the only qualifier.

In the 49er class, Australians Nico Delle Karth and Nikolaus Resch took the gold after a finish of sixth on the final day.

In the RS:X Women’s class, the 23-board fleet had more than a dozen countries represented, but it was Spain’s Marina Alabau that took gold.

In the 34-board RS:X Men’s class, where 10 different countries were represented in the final day’s 10 racing spots, Dorian van Rijsselberge of the Netherlands took the top spot on the podium.

There were two primary battles going on in the 30-boat Finn class: one for gold and one for bronze. In the end, it was Brit Edward Wright who took the top podium step, edging out Canada’s Christopher Cook by one point. The United States’ 2008 Finn silver medalist, Zach Railey of Clearwater, Fla., secured the bronze.

In the nine-boat 470 women’s class, Denmark’s Henriette Koch and Lene Sommer took the gold over silver medalists Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving of Norwalk, Conn./New York, who are the current world champions and now have a spot on the U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics.

In the 18-boat 470 men’s class, Spaniard Onan Barreiros, with crew Aaron Sarmiento, finished fifth in the medal race to maintain their lead at the top of the scoreboard, while Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl of Lincoln, Mass., and San Diego, secured the silver with a fourth in the medal race.

In the 63-boat Laser class, Great Britain’s Nick Thompson had to keep Pavlos Kontides at bay to win the gold.

The top battle in the 41-boat Laser Radial fleet was between longtime U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics members Anna Tunnicliffe of Plantation, Fla., and Paige Railey of Clearwater, Fla. Tunnicliffe, a gold medalist from Qingdao who was named U.S. Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, finished third to Railey’s fourth in the medal race, leaving Railey the silver medal.

While the Paralympic sailors competed in fair breezes, classes sailing later in the day (using a staggered start schedule) experienced things quite differently when squalls developed.

“It was very little wind to very much,” says Denmark’s Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen, who with Tina Schmidt and Trine Palludan won the gold medal in Women’s Match Racing. “We tried it all today.”

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(Left to right) Rolex Watch U.S.A.’s Peter Nicholson presents Anna Tunnicliffe of Plantation, Fla., and Terry Hutchinson of Annapolis, Md., with the 2008 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year honors, as US Sailing’s Charlie Leighton looks on. The awards were handed out Feb. 27 at the New York Yacht Club.

GREAT AMERICAN — Rich Wilson became only the second American to finish the Vendée Globe solo non-stop round-the-world race. Sailing Great American III, Wilson crossed the finish line March 10 off Les Sables d’Olonne, France. He finished ninth, completing the race in 121 days, 41 minutes, 19 seconds. The Rockport, Mass., sailor’s achievement came in a tough race where 19 in a fleet of 30 were forced to retire. “After coming around the second high-pressure system in the Atlantic, and we were closer to Boston than to France, [I thought] maybe I should turn left and go home,” Wilson said after finishing the race. Bruce Schwab was the first American to finish the race. He crossed the line in ninth in the 2004-’05 race on Ocean Planet.

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U.S. Sailing protest system ruled unlawful

The U.S. Olympic Committee unanimously held that U.S. Sailing’s protest and redress system violates the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act of 1978. U.S. Sailing was given six months to provide its athletes the right to fair treatment guaranteed by U.S. law. USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth appointed the panel with representatives from five different Olympic sports.

The case resulted from U.S. Sailing’s women’s RS-X Olympic windsurfing trials in October 2007. Windsurfer Farrah Hall won the trials, but was removed as winner by a protest committee appointed by U.S. Sailing after a one-party hearing requested by competitor Nancy Rios. Hall has never been accused of any wrongdoing and was not informed of the hearing. U.S. Sailing informed her that she had been replaced as its 2008 Olympic women’s windsurfing representative as she completed her shower after the event.

Hall sought a hearing under U.S. Sailing’s existing rules before losing her right to compete in China, but was refused. She then pursued the action before the USOC.

In its comprehensive 23-page ruling, the panel said: “This controversy could have been avoided if U.S. Sailing had notified Hall of Rios’ October 14 request for redress, allowed her to participate as a party, and made its determination on evidence submitted by both parties. Instead, U.S. Sailing seemed to have gotten wrapped around its own rules, and the Racing Rules of Sailing, and created a situation in which neither Hall nor Rios was ably served.”

U.S. Sailing has until Sept. 1 to act or face loss of its status as the national governing body for Olympic sailing.

Hall is now training for the 2012 Olympics.

This article originally appeared in the Mid-Atlantic Home Waters Section of the May 2009 issue.