by Marni Lane
US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics’ (USSTAG) Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) dominated the top-ten Finn Medal Race from start to finish today, earning a bullet that punctuated his strategy-testing week at the 41st Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, one of seven International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup events.
Women’s Match Racing - Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre
USA’s Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.), Katie Pettibone (Sacramento, Calif.) and Suzy Leech (Avon, Conn.) won the petit-finals today against Great Britain and secured a bronze medal in the Women’s Match Racing event. The week-long event was plagued by spring’s varying weather conditions, but nature handed sailors a steadier Southwest sea breeze of 7-9 knots for today’s Medal Races.
Today, Railey nailed the start in the middle of the line, holding his lane and eventually pinching off and sending 2 boats to the right. When the wind pressure stayed left, he owned and protected the left side of the course and rounded the top mark ahead by five boat lengths. Covering the fleet, he maintained his lead around the bottom mark. His lead shortened slightly around the third mark but he gained speed to ultimately finish five boat lengths ahead of the fleet to grab the bullet. His final result was ninth overall.
Railey, the 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist, dedicated this week to trying new techniques on the starting line in order to make progress this spring, which caused some initial setbacks in his results. He said he learned from some of the mistakes he made earlier in the week, and as the week went on, he felt more comfortable executing what he and the USSTAG coaches had been working on.
'It was great to get out front and stay there today, unlike earlier in the week when I was rounding further back and had to work my way through the fleet,' said Railey. 'It’s good to know if I have a bad race, I have the ability to catch up, but that’s not the key to success in a big fleet like this.'
'My goal is to keep getting better and better toward 2012,' said Railey. 'I feel confident I took big steps forward this week. It’s like building blocks. This is just the start of the European season, and I will keep building on my skills as the season goes on and we get closer to the Finn World Championship.'
Making progress and trying out new techniques were consistent themes for the entire team, as they prepare for their respective class’s world championship ISAF Sailing World Cup event.
'We’ve been training a lot of new techniques and skills over the winter and this event was an opportunity to test them out,' said USSTAG’s High Performance Director/Head Coach Kenneth Andreasen (Tampa, Fla.). 'When you try out new techniques, you take chances – and in challenging conditions, sometimes they work to your advantage and sometimes they don’t. We learned some valuable lessons about what works and what doesn’t, what needs a little tweaking and what we should solve going forward.'
'We saw a lot of bright points and improvements in techniques this week in Palma,' said Andreasen. 'Our final results aren’t indicative of where our team stands. Our team is on the right track to succeed in 2012.'
Barkow Wins Bronze in Women’s Match Racing
In a battle for bronze today in the Women’s Match Racing petit-finals, Barkow, the 2008 Olympian in the Yngling, and her team defeated the British team skippered by Lucy MacGregor, 2-1. All three races were tight matches, but thanks to a steadier sea breeze today than what they experienced all week, they were able to concentrate on their boat speed, which they used to their advantage. In addition, they won two out of the three starts, which Barkow said made all the difference.
'We were confident in our boat speed against a very strong team,' said Barkow, who left the Congressional Cup in Long Beach, Calif., a day early to jump right in at Princess Sofia. 'We feel really satisfied; it was a great week.'
The 'pretty crazy' conditions they experienced earlier in the week made for tough racing on the match racing course. 'We had two days of shifty and windy conditions and then light pressures off the beach, which made for risky match racing,' said Barkow. 'When the breeze was coming offshore, we had to manage risk on the race course. We had to play the tactical game: it was more boat-on-boat tactics when it was shifty.'
Tough Medal Races for 470 Classes
In the Men’s 470 Medal Race today, USSTAG’s Stu McNay (Boston, Mass.) and Graham Biehl (San Diego, Calif.) enjoyed a strong start and maintained their position over to the left side of the course and consolidated to the middle protecting any gains made on the right. At the top mark, they hit the layline late and squeezed around in third. At the leeward gate, they chose the right gate, while the top two boats chose left. They lost a boat and rounded fourth at the top mark, a position they held until the race’s finish. Their fourth place finish secured a sixth place overall.
USSTAG’s Amanda Clark (Shelter Harbor, N.Y.) and Sarah Chin (Hoboken, N.J.) saw the same shifty conditions that have dominated this regatta during the Women’s 470 Medal Race today. They also had a strong start but fell behind after choosing the left side of the course while the pressure filled in on the right side, and they were unable to get in full trapeze in the 5-7 knots. As a result, they weren’t able to make any more gains, and finished eighth. They also finished the event eighth overall.
For final results of all USSTAG sailors, please visit the event web site: http://www.trofeoprincesasofia.org/result.php?miclase=470%20Men