Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network)-
Olympic sailing has been around since the 1900 Games in Paris, when the United Kingdom and France each took home three gold medals. There were seven events and three classes of boats. Today, there will be 11 events - four for the men, four for the women and three in the "open" category, and nine different boats. Up until the 1984 games in Los Angeles, the sailing events were totally unisex. Although now, some events have separate men's and women's categories, others remain open to either gender.
Scoring in sailing is quite simple: the fewer points you receive, the better your position in the standings. For example, one point is awarded for first place, two points for second place, etc. Each class will be in an 11-race round-robin series and the winner will be the one with the fewest points. In the Yngling (ING-ling) class, the top six boats match up head-to-head to determine the final standings.
There are nine different classes of boats:
Mistral One-Design, Finn, Europe, 470, Laser, Tornado, Star, 49er and Yngling. Each boat has its own dimensions for length, weight, crew size and sailing area.
The Mistral One-Design and 470 class each have separate men's and women's events, while Finn is strictly a male event and Europe is solely for women. The remaining classes are open to either men or women.
A total of 54 countries have qualified for at least one of the 11 events. Australia, Spain, England, Germany, Greece (host), Italy and USA have qualified in all of the events. The Mistral One-Design for men will have the most participants at 35 countries.
Team USA will be represented in all nine classes. In 2000, the American squad took home four sailing medals, including gold from Mark Reynolds, as well as Magnus Liljedahl, who came away with the top prize in the Star class. Silver medals were won in the men's 470 class by Paul Foerster and Robert Merrick and in the women's 470 class by Jennifer JJ Isler and Sarah Glasser. A bronze medal was won by the team of Jonathan McKee and Charlie McKee in the 49er class.
This year, the American team will consist of 18 sailors - 11 men and seven women. Five members have previous Olympic experience: Paul Foerster (Korea, 1988 & Barcelona, 1992); Kevin Burnham (Barcelona, 1992), Johnny Lowell (Atlanta, 1996 & Sydney, 2000), Charlie Ogletree (Atlanta, 1996 & Sydney, 2000) and Phil Cayard (Los Angeles, 1984). All seven women will be making their first Olympic appearances.
|Paul Cayard is one of the best known sailors in the world and has been a member of the U.S. Sailing team for the better part of the last four years.|
Among the top athletes for the United States will be the Star class team of Paul Cayard and Phil Trinter, who met during the two series of America's Cup races. Cayard is one of the best known sailors in the world. He has been a member of the U.S. Sailing team for the better part of the last four years, including the last two. Cayard was the 1998 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and was the winner of the prestigious Whitbread "Round the World" Race.
"I can't explain how excited I am about being in the Olympics," said Trinter, who will be in his first Olympic Games. "Right now, I hope to get a great experience from the games. 10-20 years from now, I think that's where I will get the most out of it."
Trinter and Cayard went to Athens earlier this year for a pre-test event. Everything looked fine, including the seas.
"Not concerned at all. Warm water, beautiful place, sunny skies. You end up with two different winds - northerly and southerly," explained Trinter. "One comes rolling in off the mountains and the other is a sea breeze. Both are shifty at times. You end up relying a little bit on luck than true sailing skill and boat speed."
On the women's side, Mary Ellen "Meg" Gaillard will compete in the Europe class. She made the Olympic Team by dominating the trials, winning 13 of the 14 races she entered. Gaillard was named 2003 U.S. Sailing Female Athlete of the Year after she took first place in the Europe World Championships in Spain. Gaillard also won a bronze medal in 2000.
Australia will be a very formidable country at the Athens Games. They won two gold, one silver and one bronze medal in the 2000 Sydney Games. The Australian's will be lead by veteran Colin Beashel, who has been to five straight Summer Games, beginning in Los Angeles in 1984. He, along with his partner David Giles, won a bronze medal in the Star Class in Atlanta. Other members include, Tornado Class silver medalists John Forbes and Darren Bundock, Laser Class bronze medalist Michael Blackburn.
As for the Australian women, Belinda Stowell and Jenny Armstrong will be on hand to defend their gold medal in the 470 Class. Armstrong will be making her third appearance in the Summer Games, while Stowell will be in her second games.
Brazil's Robert Scheidt will be a force to contend with in the Laser Class. Scheidt recently won back his world championship title and now has seven world titles to his credit.
By Kevin Spiegel, Olympic Contributing Editor