Wow, what a finish! Paul and I just ended our two-plus-year Olympic campaign by winning the final race of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. We sailed a near-perfect race in the finale, taking the gun in a dying breeze, but we couldn't keep the Australian teamTom King and Mark Turnbullfrom sailing a good race as well. At the end, it was nip and tuck, but we managed to edge them out just before the finish. Their second place was enough to nail down the gold medal and give us the silver.
We started in roughly 15 knots of breeze, and were in great shape at the first markTom and Mark were in 10th. But they steadily made their way up through the fleet to pull even with us. We traded the lead a few times, but got ahead of them in the end. It was a pretty amazing scene with hundreds of spectator boats out there and countless people on shore.
Adding to the intensity, the final race in the Women's 470 took place just before our race, and it was a similar Australia-vs.-USA scenario. JJ [Isler] and Pease [Glaser] sailed well to finish sixth and win the silver medal after the Australian team finished first. It's hard to describe the kind of atmosphere that win produced. Jenny Armstrong and Belinda Stowell, the Australian 470 sailors, sailed around with the Australian flag tied to their mast and the crowd loved it.
Earlier this week we experienced the first medal ceremony for Olympic sailing. Medals were given to Mistral Men and Women, Tornadoes, and 49ers. The ceremony was held at the base of the steps to the Opera House with the Sydney Harbor Bridge lit in the background. Most of the sailing team was there to cheer on Jonathan and Charlie McKee, our teams first sailing medallists of these games. Jonathan and Charlie won the bronze in the 49er class. Team Leader Magnus Liljedahl summed up the experience later that night when he said, "It just makes you want to try even harder," if that's possible.
It may be an over simplification, but at this point, trying as hard as you can all the time seems to be the key to doing well. In our class at leastMens 470the teams that have finished well are the teams that have been able to slug it out when the chips are down. All the best teams have had mark roundings in the 20s, but the teams at the top have been able to grind back consistently through the fleet and turn the race into a top-10 or low-teen score. On Sunday, the Portuguese found this out the hard way. After finishing 25th and 16th that day, they dropped from second to sixth overall.
When you are back in the pack, the temptation to wing it out to a corner and hope for some luck is far too strong. This strategy, however, almost never works. At this level, everyone else on the course is too well in tune with what's going on to miss some big shift that you may catch by luck. Fortunately Paul and I have been able to do our share of successfully slugging it out in the pack and we've managed to stay in the hunt. The first race of the regatta was one of those races. We did two 720s at the weather mark and rounded the second mark almost in last. At this point you have to think to yourself that you can't change the past so you just race from where you are. We finished eighth that race and managed to save our throw-outs for later and it made a big difference as things turned out.
Another big mistake would have been to not do our circles and risk being disqualified. It was a close call and we may have been in the right, but it was too big a risk. The defending gold medallists from the Ukraine found this out on Tuesday when they were disqualified in a port-starboard incident with the Portuguese. It was their second disqualification of the regatta. That combined with a premature start in Race four put them back in the pack for good.
We've had some crazy moments over the past few days, but the mood has been relatively relaxed. Its a mindset that we tried to maintain throughout the last race, and it looks like it paid off. All in all it's been a great Olympics.
The Medal CountFormerly a powerhouse in Olympic sailing, the US Team came away from the 96 Olympic Regatta in Savannah with only two medals. Now, more than halfway through the Sydney Games, the US Team has secured medals in three of the 11 classes. Heres a look at how the medals have been distributed to date.
| Mistral Men |
|Bronze||New Zealand||Aaron McIntosh|
| Mistral Women |
|Gold ||Italy||Alessandra Sensini|
|Bronze||New Zealand ||Barbara Kendall|
| Tornado |
| Gold|| Austria || Roman Hagara and Peter Steinacher|
| Silver|| Australia ||Darren Bundock and John Forbes|
| Bronze|| Germany || Roland Gaebler and Rene Schwall|
| Gold || Finland||Thomas Johanson and Jravi Jyrki|
| Silver|| Great Britain ||Ian Barker and Simon Hiscocks|
| Bronze|| US ||Jonathan and Charlie McKee|
|Mens 470 |
| Gold|| Australia||Mark Turnbull and Tom King|
| Silver|| US||Paul Foerster and Bob Merrick|
| Bronze|| Argentine|| Javier Conte and Juan De La Fuente|
| Womens 470 |
| Gold||Australia ||Belinda Stowell and Jenny Armstrong |
| Silver||US||JJ Isler and Pease Glaser|
| Bronze||Ukraine||Olena Pakholchyk and Ruslana Taran|
Suggested Reading List
1. Olympic Report - 9/4/00 by Bob Merrick
2. Olympic Report - 9/19/00 by Bob Merrick
3. Olympic Report - 9/26/00 by Bob Merrick