Sizing up the U.S. hopefuls

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49ER

Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast, both mechanical engineers and veteran Olympians, teamed up late in the 2008 Olympic chase, but they clicked and at last check were ranked fourth in the world in the high-tech, ultrafast 49er.

The pair met at the 2004 games in Athens, where Wadlow and his crewmember, old friend Pete Spaulding, finished fifth in the 49er, and Rast, who holds dual U.S.-Swiss citizenship, skippered a 49er to a 12th-place finish for Switzerland. Wadlow wanted a rest after 2004 but decided to return to the action. With Spaulding already in the throes of a campaign, he partnered with Rast in April 2006.

A light, double-trapeze skiff powered by 639 square feet of sail, the 16-foot 49er has explosive speed but is prone to flip at the slightest provocation. Wadlow characterizes the boat as “humbling.” He and Rast have approached their racing and training with the meticulous analysis, planning and attention to equipment and other details one would expect of a couple engineers. Wadlow is a 1997 college sailor of the year and three-time All-American. Rast is a three-time Olympian, having sailed a 470 in the 1996 games as well.

 

 Chris Rast, Tim Wadlow

TIM WADLOW (skipper)

MEMBER OF: Southwestern Yacht Club COLLEGE: Boston University AGE: 34 BIRTHPLACE: Westerly, R.I. HOMETOWN: Beverly, Mass. OCCUPATION: mechanical engineer/consultant SAILING SINCE AGE: 9 WEB: www.wadlowrast.com

CHRIS RAST (crew)

MEMBER OF: Southwestern Yacht Club, Thunersee Yacht Club, RegattaClubOberhofenCOLLEGE: University of Biel/Engineering AGE: 36 BIRTHPLACE: Columbus, Ga. HOMETOWN: San Diego OCCUPATION: full-time athlete SAILING SINCE AGE: 11 WEB: www.wadlowrast.com

MEN’S 470

Stu McNay and Graham Biehl have proven a winning combination for 2008 after unsuccessful bids for the 2004 games with different teammates. McNay has been campaigning with Biehl full time since his 2005 graduation from YaleUniversity with a degree in architecture. He started racing at the Beverly (Mass.) Yacht Club in Optimist dinghies, moved on to 420s and the Laser Radial, then the 470, a double-handed centerboarder. Reflecting his architect’s training, he says he brings to the team an ability to think strategically, both on the race course and in managing their Olympic program.

Biehl, a graduate of San Diego Yacht Club’s junior sailing program and captain of Point Loma High School’s national championship sailing team, sailed Sabots and Snipes before moving on to the 470. He attended UC Irvine, but took a sabbatical from college to train full time for the Olympics. He is an avid surfer and loves to be on the water.

The pair took third at their first big regatta, the 2005 Miami Olympic Classes Regatta. They easily won the U.S. trials, wrapping it up with two races to go.

 

 Graham Biehl, Stu McNay

STU MCNAY (skipper)

MEMBER OF: BeverlyYachtClubCOLLEGE: Yale University AGE: 27 BIRTHPLACE: Boston HOMETOWN: Lincoln, Mass. OCCUPATION: full-time sailor SAILING SINCE AGE: 9 WEB: www.teammb.org

GRAHAM BIEHL (crew)

MEMBER OF: San Diego Yacht Club AGE: 22

BIRTHPLACE: San Diego HOMETOWN: San Diego OCCUPATION: full-time sailor SAILING SINCE AGE: 7 WEB: www.teammb.org

WOMEN’S 470

Amanda Clark and Sarah Mergenthaler had been sailing against each other since they were kids in Optimist dinghies, but now they sail with each other in the 470 and are ranked sixth in the world as they head for Qingdao. Skipper Clark learned to sail at the Shelter Island Yacht Club and went on to an illustrious career in international Optimist, Laser Radial, Lightning and Europe dinghy competition. She has sailed in 16 world championships and raced in 39 countries.

Growing up in Red Bank, N.J., Mergenthaler was a superb athlete who not only raced Optis, Lasers and Lightnings but competed on the varsity cross country, basketball, track, soccer and football teams at Marlboro High School, where she garnered all-district, all-conference and all-state honors. She was the first female in New Jersey to kick a field goal in a high school football game.

This is the second 470 Olympic bid for Clark, a ConnecticutCollege graduate in art and art history, and Mergenthaler, a University of Richmond graduate in business and sports management. They were runners-up in the U.S. trials in 2003, but handily won the trials last October at AlamitosBay (Calif.) Yacht Club.

 

Clark, Mergenthaler

AMANDA CLARK (skipper)

MEMBER OF: ShelterIsland Yacht Club, New York Yacht Club, SeawanhakaCorinthianYachtClubCOLLEGE: Connecticut College AGE: 26 BIRTHPLACE: Southampton, N.Y. HOMETOWN: Shelter Island, N.Y. OCCUPATION: full-time sailor and coach SAILING SINCE AGE: 6 WEB: www.teamgosail.org

SARAH MERGENTHALER (crew)

MEMBER OF: SurfCityYachtClubCOLLEGE: University of RichmondAGE: 29 BIRTHPLACE: Red Bank, N.J. HOMETOWN: New York, N.Y. OCCUPATION: full-time athlete SAILING SINCE AGE: 7 WEB: www.teamgosail.org

FINN

Young, strong and focused, Finn sailor Zach Railey has been making waves in world-class racing since he was 11 years old, when he was the youngest competitor in the 1995 Optimist World Championships. Railey started sailing Optis at age 8, after his mother’s dentist suggested he enroll in a summer sailing program at the Clearwater Yacht Club, where he went on to excel as a Laser sailor.

 

 Zach Railey

While in college, he launched an unsuccessful bid to go to the 2004 Olympics in the Laser. He returns in 2008 in the Finn, a one-man centerboard dinghy more suitable to his powerful 6-foot, 4-inch, 215-pound frame and tremendous athleticism. Railey handily won the U.S. Olympic Finn Trials in Balboa, Calif., last October, even though he had been sailing a Finn for only three years and was among the youngest competitors in the 42-boat fleet. He finished first or second in 10 of 16 races and recently was ranked 13th internationally in the Finn, which at 56 years is the longest continuously running Olympic sailing class.

The brother of champion Laser Radial sailor Paige Railey, he is a 2006 cum laude graduate of the University of Miami with a major in sports management.

ZACH RAILEY

MEMBER OF: St. Francis Yacht Club COLLEGE: University of Miami AGE: 24 BIRTHPLACE: St. Petersburg, Fla. HOMETOWN: Clearwater, Fla. OCCUPATION: full-time sailor SAILING SINCE AGE: 8 WEB: www.zachrailey.com

LASER

Andrew Campbell grew up in a sailing family, honed his skills at a yacht club that promoted junior sailing, and graduated from a university with a proud sailing tradition. Now he is fulfilling a dream to sail in the Olympics. He is the son of Bill Campbell, navigator on Bill Koch’s 1992 America’s Cup winner America3, and came up through the ranks of the junior sailing program at the San Diego Yacht Club, notable for both its record of Cup victors and one of the oldest junior programs in the country (founded in 1928).

 

 Andrew Campbell

Campbell was named the club’s yachtsman of the year in 2001, after winning three U.S. youth championships and a U.S. junior championship. He went on to Georgetown University, where he graduated in 2006 with a degree in comparative Latin American studies and added to his sailing resume, winning four college single-handed national championships, college All-American honors four years running, and college sailor of the year.

Campbell and Brad Funk, of Plantation, Fla., raced neck-and-neck at the U.S. Olympic trials and ended the 16-race cliffhanger in a tie, a protest that was disallowed, and Campbell winning under tiebreaker rules.

ANDREW CAMPBELL

MEMBER OF: San DiegoYachtClubCOLLEGE: Georgetown University AGE: 24 BIRTHPLACE: Toms River, N.J. HOMETOWN: San DiegoOCCUPATION: full-time sailor SAILING SINCE AGE: 6 WEB: www.campbellsailing.com

LASER RADIAL

A strong contender to medal in Qingdao, Anna Tunnicliffe has been ranked first internationally in the Laser Radial class for much of 2007 and early 2008. The 25-year-old OldDominionUniversity graduate was born in England, where she sailed Optimist dinghies and on her parents’ yacht. When she was 12, her family moved to Perrysburg, Ohio, where she raced the double-handed CFJ and later a standard Laser out of the North Cape Yacht Club on Lake Erie.

 

 Anna Tunnicliffe

While continuing to sail, she lettered in swimming, cross country and track in high school, and set a new high school record in the 800-meter run. Tunnicliffe debated whether to pursue track or sailing in college and chose to sail at Old Dominion, where she majored in accounting and decision sciences, minored in music performance, and led the university to four national championships.

Tunnicliffe started campaigning full time in 2005 and within a year had risen to one of the world’s top three women sailors in the single-handed Laser Radial, which carries 19 percent less sail area than the standard men’s Laser. She edged out Paige Railey, of Clearwater, Fla., another commanding figure in the class, by five points in the U.S. trials off Aquidneck Island, R.I.

ANNA TUNNICLIFFE

MEMBER OF: North Cape Yacht Club COLLEGE: Old Dominion University AGE: 25 BIRTHPLACE: Doncaster, England HOMETOWN: Plantation, Fla. OCCUPATION: full-time sailor SAILING SINCE AGE: 8 WEB: www.annatunnicliffe.com

MEN’S RS:X

Ben Barger had to beat two-time Olympic medalist Mike Gebhardt and borrow a sailboard from a rival to win an Olympic berth at the U.S. trials. Barger trained under Gebhardt for the 2004 Olympics, but didn’t make the cut. Come the run-up to 2008, Barger found himself battling his friend and mentor at the U.S. trials for the chance to represent the United States.

 

 Ben Barger

At the trials, Barger and Gebhardt traded the lead time and again until the 11th race, when Barger crashed twice with rivals but still finished second — with a shark-size bite in his board from one of the collisions. Eric Rachefuerer, stuck far back in the pack, loaned Barger his sailboard and sat out a race, giving Barger time to repair his board and get back on the water with it the next day. He went on to win the trials and finish the 16-race series with four bullets.

Barger grew up sailing Florida’s west coast on his family’s Corsair F27 trimaran. He learned boardsailing on a cruise to the Bahamas, where the grade-schooler found the sailboard the ideal platform for getting away on his own. His Olympic steed is the men’s RS:X, a 9.4-foot-board with 102.6 square feet of sail.

BEN BARGER

MEMBER OF: Davis Island Yacht Club, St. Petersburg Yacht Club COLLEGE: Eckerd College AGE: 27 BIRTHPLACE: Greenville, TexasHOMETOWN: Tampa, Fla. OCCUPATION: business consultant/marketing and nutrition SAILING SINCE AGE: 8 WEB: www.benbarger.com

WOMEN’S RS:X

Nancy Rios’ Olympic bid has survived its share of peril, first at the U.S. trials, where it nearly went down in a collision, then in a rules challenge. Rios led Farrah Hall by four points going into the last day of the October 2007 trials after posting six straight firsts. She wound up the 16-race series with a second and a fourth, dropping her a point behind Hall, but a protest committee bumped her up from fourth to second after Rios protested a collision in the last race that left a 6-inch tear in her sail.

 

 Nancy Rios

That gave her a one-point edge over Hall and a ticket to Qingdao, but Hall then sought to overturn the ruling, first before a protest committee and then an arbitrator. Both ruled in Rios’ favor, the final ruling coming May 22, just two months before the start of the Games.

Rios, whose parents ran an adventure sports business near Acapulco, Mexico, grew up river rafting, water skiing and fishing offshore. She learned to boardsail when she was 14, along with the rest of her family, who enjoy it as a leisure sport. Rios races a women’s RS:X , a 9.4-foot board with 91.8 square feet of sail.

NANCY RIOS

MEMBER OF: Banana River Windsurfing Resort COLLEGE: Brevard Community College AGE: 20 BIRTHPLACE: Orange, Calif. HOMETOWN: MiamiOCCUPATION: full-time

sailor SAILING SINCE AGE: 14 WEB: www.cyrioswindsurfing.blogspot.com

TORNADO

Both 40 years old, John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree have been sailing Tornados as a team for 15 years. This is their fourth consecutive Olympics together in the 20-foot catamaran, the fastest of the Olympic-class boats, with a top speed of 30 knots. The class has been scratched from future games, so this is the pair’s last Olympics in this boat. They hope to top their 2004 silver medal performance in Athens and cap their Olympic Tornado careers with a gold medal.

A 10-time national Tornado champion, Lovell is a certified public account and graduate of the College of Charleston, where he was a four-time college All-American. Ogletree, a sailmaker who calls Kemah, Texas, and Columbia, N.C., home, is a graduate of TaborAcademy, a Massachusetts boarding school where he honed his sailing skills, and OldDominionUniversity, where he, too, was a college All-American. In his first Olympic bid in 1992, he finished sixth in the U.S. trials in the 470 class, then teamed up with Lovell in the Tornado.

Favorites to win the 2008 trials, the pair slipped behind and had to win the last four races to go to the Olympics, which they did, showing grace under fire.

 

John Lovell, Charlie Ogletree

JOHN LOVELL (skipper)

MEMBER OF: Southern Yacht Club, Houston Yacht Club COLLEGE: College of Charleston AGE: 40 BIRTHPLACE: Baton Rouge, La. HOMETOWN: New Orleans OCCUPATION: certified public accountant SAILING SINCE AGE: 11 WEB: www.t-squaredracing.com

CHARLIE OGLETREE (crew)

MEMBER OF: NewportHarbor Yacht Club, Houston Yacht Club COLLEGE: Old Dominion University AGE: 40 BIRTHPLACE: Greenville, N.C. HOMETOWN: Kemah, Texas OCCUPATION: sailmaker SAILING SINCE AGE: 6 WEB: www.t-squaredracing.com

YNGLING

Ranked second in the world, America’s Yngling team of Sally Barkow, Carrie Howe and Debbie Capozzi have been big winners this quadrennium. After wins in three of 2005’s top regattas — Yngling Worlds, Women’s Match Racing World Championships and Miami Olympic Classes Regatta — the trio has stayed in the hunt in the women’s 21-foot keelboat, taking third in the worlds in 2006 and second in 2007. The U.S. women are good bets to medal, but so are the Dutch, Germans and British.

Barkow, a 2002 psychology graduate from Old Dominion University, is a two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. Capozzi, the team’s tactician and jib trimmer, also graduated from Old Dominion, with an education degree and All-American sailing honors. Howe, the team’s spinnaker trimmer and tactician, is a cum laude graduate in finance from Boston College, where she was sailing team captain and a college All-American.

 

Barkow, Howe, Capozzi

SALLY BARKOW (skipper)

MEMBER OF: Pine Lake Yacht Club COLLEGE:Old Dominion University AGE: 28 BIRTHPLACE: Waukesha, Wis. HOMETOWN: Nashotah, Wis.OCCUPATION: full-time sailor SAILING SINCE AGE: 5 WEB: www.team7sailing.com

CARRIE HOWE (crew)

MEMBER OF: Grosse Pointe Yacht Club COLLEGE: Boston College AGE: 27 HOMETOWN: Grosse Pointe, Mich. OCCUPATION: full-time sailor SAILING SINCE AGE: 8 WEB: www.team7sailing.com

DEBBIE CAPOZZI (crew)

MEMBER OF: Sayville Yacht Club COLLEGE: OldDominion University AGE: 27 BIRTHPLACE: Smithtown, N.Y. HOMETOWN: Bayport, N.Y. OCCUPATION: full-time sailor SAILING SINCE AGE: 8 WEB: www.team7sailing.com