by Dana Paxton
The 2012 London Olympics are underway in Weymouth and Portland, U.K. with racing in the Finn and Star classes, plus in Women’s Match Racing. The United States Olympic Sailing Team’s overall results after two races count Zach Railey in 15th (Finn) and Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih in 10th (Star). Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly O’Bryan Vandemoer and Debbie Capozzi finished their first two round robin matches with one win, one loss. Racing continues in all three events on July 30, along with Laser, Laser Radial and 49er.
Finn class - 2012 Olympic Games London / Weymouth
In the Finn class, the fleet began the day racing on the Nothe course and for the second race moved to the West course to join the Stars. The first race for Zach Railey ended with a 10th, but the second race found him rounding the first windward mark in 23rd. 'It was a very difficult day; it was very shifty,' said Railey at the dock. 'The second race I made two major mistakes on the first upwind and never got into it. I felt fine, but didn’t execute well. I’m going to worry about the third race in the regatta and go from there. There’s a lot more racing left to do.'
The Star class is packed with talent among the 16-boat fleet. For Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih, the day began with a fifth place in the first race, and then a 14th in the second. Fatih acknowledged the shifty nature of racing on the West Course. 'We were able to fight back in the first race,' he said. In the second race, it was even more difficult. 'We started off and there was a lot of current,' he said. 'It was tough to recover from the start.'
In Women’s Match Racing, Team USA won the first match-up against Denmark. Tunnicliffe and Capozzi come to the Games with Olympic experience – they both competed in ’08, however in separate events – but acknowledge that the first day can be different. 'Everyone has day one nerves in the Olympics,' said Capozzi. 'It was cool to sail out there and see what it all looks like. We were able to watch the first two flights, which was great. Our first race went well. Second race we made an error hitting the mark that we weren’t able to recover from.'
The match prior to their second – Finland versus Portugal – saw the Portuguese team hit the mark’s anchor line. As Capozzi explained the result was the mark moving slightly and into slightly more shallow water. Capozzi’s team caught the anchor line, which stopped them momentarily. It was a time deficit they could not recover from as their opponents, the Spanish team, had enough time to finish well ahead.
Monday’s two matches will be against Portugal and Australia on the Nothe course.
The Nothe course is positioned close to shore to allow for spectator viewing. Today saw approximately 3,000 people cheering on sailing from the Nothe Gardens, which is situated outside a decommissioned military fort high above Weymouth Bay. This is the first time that sailing is a ticketed event and with today’s experience it appears to be a success for both spectators and competitors.
'It changed the energy,' said Capozzi. 'Every time a boat rounded a windward mark they got a cheer from the spectators in the crowd. It’s awesome. It’s great for sailing to see that. We’re really excited to have that for the rest of the week.'
Rob Crane took part in the Laser practice race, while Paige Railey participated in the Laser Radial, ahead of the first day of racing on July 30. Two races are scheduled on the South Course at Noon BST.
After practice, Railey explained that getting out on the water helped give her piece of mind. 'At first I thought my legs might get tired or it could be a bad idea,' she said. 'but I’m so happy we went and did that race. All those pre-race jitters are out the window and I’m ready to go. We have stuck by what we’ve been working on the past few years and there’s no changing. I am going to focus on me and my boat. I got my blinders on and it’s just me, my boat, the mark and Luther.'
July 30 will also see practice racing for Bob Willis and for Farrah Hall in RS:X windsurfing on Portland Harbour.
Results to Date:
Women’s Match Racing, one win, one loss, Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.), Molly Vandemoer (Stanford, Calif.) and Debbie Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.)
10th, Star (Men’s Keelboat), Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih (both Miami, Fla.)
15th, Finn (Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy), Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.)
US Sailing website