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Old 05-28-2000
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Bob Merrick is on a distinguished road
Olympic Reportó05/29/00

 
Merrick and Foerster try to juice-up their speed on Lake Balaton.
 
My skipper Paul Foerster and I traveled to Balatonfured in Hungary earlier this month to compete in the 470 World Championships. As most people know, Hungary is a landlocked country, but it contains the largest lake in central Europe, Lake Balaton, where the regatta took place. The lake is 48 miles long and almost nine miles wide, but the average depth is only about seven feet, so it's perfect, in the event of a capsize, for sticking 470 masts into the mud. Sailing is very popular here, so the day before the regatta started there were about 200 keelboats on the water for opening day, milling about in some five knots of breeze. For most residents, sailing is the only way to get out on the lake since powerboats are strictly prohibited. Only the Hungarian Yachting Association has permission to use powerboats on the lake, in order to run sailboat races. Along with the organizers, the foreign coaches were given special permission to use their motorboats during the regatta.

When we first arrived in Balatonfured, the lack of wind left us wondering if it would be possible to complete the six races needed to constitute a World Championship series. Many teams had arrived early to train, but due to uncooperative winds they managed very little sailing time. Fortunately, after an ultra-light-air qualifying round and a raceless first day, the wind finally arrived and we ended up having four great days of competition.

 
Light air ruled the first few days of the 470 Championships.
 
Europe is the home of mega-fleets when it comes to one-designs, and 179 boats representing 44 countries made the trip to Balatonfured for the Worlds—112 in the men's fleet and 67 in the women's. For many countries, this regatta was the last chance to qualify for the Olympic Games. (The previous qualifiers were the 1998 Worlds in Spain, where we qualified, and the 1999 Worlds in Australia.) Eight countries from both of those championships earned a spot, so there were nine spots up for grabs in Hungary, putting an added emphasis on the competition.

The organizers stipulated a qualifying round as a means of cutting the fleet down to a size that more closely matched the Olympic fleet. To start, the teams were split into three groups—two for the women—each with approximately equal talent levels based upon the current ISAF rankings. After a series of races, the top third of each group moved on to comprise the Gold fleet while the rest of the boats raced in the Silver and Bronze fleets. The scores from the qualifying round didn't count toward the finals, so we all started with a clean slate.

 
SailNet's Team 2000 takes a break while practicing.
 
Given the extremely light conditions, there were surprisingly few top teams that did not qualify for Gold Fleet. Paul and I know all too well that this can happen because we missed qualifying last year when our centerboard gaskets came unglued during the last qualifying day at the 1999 Worlds. We fared a bit better this year and finished first in our qualifying group. For many teams hoping to secure a berth for their country at the Olympic regatta, the qualifying round was crucial. Just making the Gold Fleet would assure eight of the teams a berth for their country at the Sydney Games. The final berth would be determined in the Silver Fleet.

When the first day of the finals came and went with no racing, due to lack of wind, competitors were starting to wonder what would happen if we didn't get in all six races. We all tried to stay out of the sun that day, playing cards, reading, or doing just about anything as long as it meant staying in the shade. Temperatures around the lake were in the 90s.

The conditions didn't look any better when the second day arrived, but by about 2:00 p.m. Some wind materialized and we got out racing. The wind was light, but building all day and by the last race we were well into de-power mode. The committee completed three races that day. After a week of no wind, the solid breeze caught many by surprise. More than a few boats arrived back at the dock with the telltale mud stains at the top of their mainsails after capsizing in the shallow waters.

 
Much of this year's 470 Worlds were sailed in marginal conditions.
 
We had mixed results on that first day. Our third in the first race was a good start, but we followed it with a 19 and a 17—not a winning start in such a talent-laden fleet. On top of our mediocre scores, it had been a long day and we didn't get back to the dock until about 7:30 p.m. Like most of the other competitors, we were nonetheless happy just to be finally racing.

For the second day of racing we got out on the water at the scheduled time and had three more races in marginal trapezing conditions (that's when it's windy enough for the crews to trapeze, but not flat out). Our speed wasn't as good as it could have been, but we raced well and logged a 5-7-9 to move up from seventh to fifth place overall.

Meanwhile, the French and Australian teams were getting launched and leaving the rest of the fleet behind. Australians Tom King and Mark Turnbull started with a DNF (Did Not Finish) because they ripped their spinnaker in half, and then sailed to scores of 1-8-1-1-1. French sailors Gildas Philippe and Tanguy Cariou were the only other team close with a 2-9-1-2-20 in the first two days. Barring a catastrophe, first and second place already looked out of reach for Team 2000.

On the third day of the finals, the wind shifted to the north, which meant we would be racing in the lee of a large hill and it would be shiftier and puffier than it had been. The wind built all day and ended up in the 18-knot range. Our results from that day were a mixed bag with an 8-7-18. At the end of the day we were seven points behind the Ukrainians (Euhen Braslavets and Ihor Matuiienko) in third with one day of racing left. The British team was also within striking distance of third place. Using two throw-outs, which the scorers could do if the fleet got in one more race, they would be ahead of us by one point.

The final day, much like the previous one, began in a building wind. We finally found our speed and had a strong day finishing with an 8-1-1 trio, but the Ukrainians did equally well, always staying close to us in order to protect their third-place position. They ended the final day with a 3-3-6. The British team faded to sixth, and so we finished the regatta in fourth.

The Australians and the French both enjoyed an advantage in upwind boatspeed, but there are plenty of regattas yet to sail this spring, so we'll see those teams again. As we look forward to Sydney in September, we'll keep working on our boatspeed and keep trying to improve our overall chances for a medal.

Overall Results

* denotes throw out

Men's Overall Results
NationCrewPoints
1.AUS 333Tom King,Mark Turnbull DNF*-1-8-1-1-1-9-8-2-6-DNF*-239
2.FRA 2574Gildas Philippe, Tanguy Cariou 2-9-1-2-20*-12-28*-2-1-5-8-547
3.UKR 7Euhen Braslavets, Ihor Matuiienko13-8-9-8-14*-2-2-18*-7-3-3-6 61
4.USA 1722Paul Foerster,Bob Merrick3-19*-17-5-7-9-8-7-18*-8-1-1 66
5.GRE 131Andreas Kosmatopoulos, Kostas Trigonis6-2-18-3-15-31*-19-31*-8-1-14-9 95
6.GBR 791Nicholas Rogers, Joe Glanfield8-22*-39*-13-3-5-12-9-3-12-20-11 96
7.ITA 42Matteo Ivaldi, Francesco Ivaldi 9-3-38*-9-29*-29-1-11-12-10-9-23 116
8.ISR 7Kliger Gideon, Gal Ehud11-6-4-4-31*-13-23-22-17-13-13-26* 126
9.SWE 315Johan Molund, Mattias Rahm 10-25-28*-25-25-16-3-1-13-4-7-33* 129
10.GER 4873Lucas Zellmer, Felix Krabbe19-7-22*-7-16-3-20-3-20-21-2-27* 138

Women's Overall Results
 NationCrew Points
1.GRE 64Sofia Bekatorou, Emilia Tsoulfa24*-1-14*-2-1-1-10-2-6-11-1 35
2.AUS 314Jenny Armstrong, Belinda Stowell3-2-17-4-12-24*-18*-1-1-2-2 44
3.ESP 1788Natalia Via-Dufresne, Sandra Azon2-14*-3-5-8-19*-2-6-7-12-10 55
4.UKR 1Ruslana Taran, Olena Pakholchyk1-24*-6-17-4-18*-1-7-4-13-9 62
5.JPN 3773Yumiko Shige, Alicia Kinoshita14-7-7-3-6-2-12-13-19*-17*-4 68
6.NED 1070Caroljn Brouwer, Alexandra Verbeek 17-8-4-20*-23*-9-4-8-9-4-6 69
7.ITA 4143Federica Salva, Emanuela Sossi 5-3-24-1-27*-5-26*-5-18-7 70
8.ISR 114Kedmi Shany, Fabrikant Anat 13-16-8-7-3-14-9-DSQ*-1-5 76
9.RUS 21Anna Basalkina, Vlada Oikraintseva4-4-15-16-3-17*8-DNF*-10-16-13 89
10.GER 4885Stephanie Trubel, Caroline Grosser 10-10-19*-9-14-7-17-24*-14-3-12 96



 

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