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Old 08-02-2000
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Bob Merrick is on a distinguished road
Olympic Reportó08/03/00

 
US Olympic sailors Foerster and Merrick negotiate a jibe.
 
After years of preparation, the time before the start of the Olympic Regatta is finally winding down. Paul and I have just completed the last of many pre-Olympic regattas and now face only a month of fine-tuning in Sydney before the opening ceremonies. Some of the top teams have been training in Sydney since the beginning of July, but our philosophy has always been to race as often as possible—so last month we returned to France for two events where the racing was against like-minded teams.

In the middle of July, we attended the French National Championships in Ile-Tudy on the Atlantic coast. We finished a disappointing 10th. In the third race we would have gotten a second had we not sailed to the wrong mark after a change of course by the race committee. We had been considering this event a less-serious practice regatta and weren't as prepared as we should have been. A closer reading of the race instructions would have prevented the costly mistake. Despite missing a day for lack of wind and sailing to the wrong mark, the regatta was good practice and an excellent reminder about how important the procedural rules can be.

 
Paul (left) and Bob savor their award at the Masters Regatta in Quiberon, France.
 
At the end of July we drove a few hours south to Quiberon for the Cornu Cup—also known as the 470 Masters Championship. Paul and I were Apprentice Masters (combined helm and crew age over 60). This was an open event so there were also plenty of younger teams racing to make up the 78 boats on the starting line. The conditions were shifty, but we raced well and won the event overall. It was a nice way to end our last trip to Europe. The US Women's 470 Team of JJ Isler and Pease Glaser won the masters event (combined helm and crew age over 70).

After the regatta we headed off to Paris with JJ and Pease to put our boats on a plane to Sydney, where we will meet them in mid August. Much to our chagrin, when we got to the airport, our paperwork wasn't in order, so the freight forwarder didn't want to take our boats. It took nine hours of begging before they finally gave in, accepting our promise that all the proper paperwork would arrive after the weekend.

From France, we headed to San Diego, along with the rest of the US Sailing Team, for meetings with the US Olympic Sailing committee. The agenda includes drug tests, rules discussions, venue access, tickets, and coaching. This will also be a chance for the whole sailing team to get together and discuss how to make sure that the day-to-day aspect of things runs smoothly during the Olympic Regatta.

 
Training partners, Mike Miller and Steve Hunt, get ready to launch.
 
Paul and I will arrive in Sydney in mid-August with our coach Skip Whyte and our training partners Steve Hunt and Mike Miller. We have also made arrangements to train with the French team of Philippe Gildas and Tanguy Cariou. Tanguy has a back injury that has prevented them from completing events lately, so their training plans may change from day to day. This pair dropped out of Kiel Week after two days, and at the French Nationals, Gildas was sailing with a substitute crew. We expected to see them back together at the Cornu Cup, but they didn't show up. Hopefully we'll see Tanguy at the Olympics. It would be really unfair if he had to watch from the sidelines. For the rest of us, it's a good reminder of how important it is to stay healthy over the next two months.

Fortunately, we have great training partners in Steve and Mike, so our time in August will be productive no matter what happens. Although our trials ended in October, Steve and Mike have continued sailing 470s. They have been sailing in Europe for most of the spring and just recently won the US 470 Nationals.

 
US Women's 470 racers JJ Isler (steering) and Pease Glaser are also preparing for Sydney.
 
We'll spend some of our time in Sydney speed testing in order to make our final equipment selections and modifications. We've been trying new things all spring and by now we've eliminated all but a few variables. The coaches from various teams have put together a racing schedule so we will probably spend at least half the time racing on Sydney Harbor. By mid-August, all of the top teams will be training in Sydney, so we should be able to have great racing on any given day. The conditions in Sydney are unique as we've seen in many races over the past two years and only racing will keep us sharp in the tricky winds.

At the end of August we'll head home again for US Olympic Committee processing and accreditation in California, where we'll receive our team uniforms and identification cards. After processing we'll spend a few days at home before making our final trip down to Sydney. When we arrive back in Australia, we'll be able to checkin at the Olympic Village and move our boats into the Olympic Harbor. Steve and Mike will still be in Sydney to do some final practices with us before we take everything apart for measurement. The 470 Class is one of the last to start racing. The opening ceremonies are scheduled for September 15, but our first race is not until the 20th, so we'll be trying to figure out when we can get out on the water to practice on days when the other teams are out racing. This could be somewhat difficult. There isn't a lot of room on the harbor and when the racing is going on, there is only a small channel open to public traffic.

For those that make it to Sydney for the event, however, watching the racing will not be a problem. Although water access will be limited, viewing from the shore will be excellent. The harbor is almost entirely surrounded by cliffs and hills with great views of the racecourses. To facilitate good viewing, all the boats will have their national flags printed on their sails, so the spectating opportunities at the Olympic Regatta should be the best ever. Everything is coming together and we're feeling ready to go, but we'll use all of August to make sure.

 

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