New Yorker Isabelle Kinsolving had finished fifth at the 2004 Athens Olympics with Katie McDowell. In 2006 she teamed as crew with the talented Co-ed All American, Erin Maxwell. Their dream was to step onto the podium in Qingdao. In the US Sailing Team trials last November, Maxwell and Kinsolving finished a close second, behind Amanda Clark and Sarah Mergenthaler.
The US Trials are sudden death, its winner take all. For the losers that is the end of the road. But not for this pairing.
US 470 Coach Skip Whyte who coached Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham to 470 Gold Medal in Athens 2004, explained, ‘Our Olympic selection system rewards peaking at a specific event, another team peaked at the trials and this team just has to live with that. But its tribute to the qualities of these gals. After failing to win selections, most crews just fold their tents, but they said, ‘we are in pretty good shape, let’s go to Australia and find out just how good we are. And they did.’
Two weeks ago Maxwell and Kinsolving won the Asia Pacific 470 titles as part of Sail Melbourne and this last week they dominated the World title rounds. This morning as they sailed out to Medal Race, they knew they could finish eight places behind the defending World Champions, Italian’s Giula Conti and Giovanna Micol and still take the 2008 title.
Maxwell told the story,
‘In today’s race, we were behind from starting. For a moment on the first upwind the Italians were leading and we were ninth, and our hearts simultaneously fluttered. But we got the only right shift on the first beat and we came back. At the top mark the Italians rounded first, we were seventh.’
Down the run the American duo had surged to fourth place by their spinnaker drop with excellent boat speed.
At top mark for last time it was Italy, Austria, USA, Great Britain, and then Australia. Behind them Argentina was ahead of the Netherlands, then Germany, France with Sweden last.
The American’s only had to keep their mast in the boat to win the title.
Italy led to finish line, ahead of the Austrians, then the British with USA sailing conservatively in fourth place ahead of Australia. Maxwell and Kinsolving were the 2008 World Champions . . . it was seventeen years coming for the USA.
1991 was the last time that the USA had won the Women’s Worlds. - J. J. Isler and her crew, Pam Healy won in Brisbane Australia, so this is the lucky country for USA 470 sailors.
Across the line the new champions capsized their boat, and then climbed up onto the keel, waving the US flag. Coach Whyte helped them right the boat. A bottle of champagne arrived - Maxwell shook it enthusiastically to douse both coach and crew.
On the beach the petite Australian skipper Elise Rechichi and crew Tessa Parkinson were excited, they had a bronze medal.
Rechichi commented. ' It was a really difficult race, very shifty. We were fourth on points going into the Medal race. From the start there was nothing we could do about the Americans, we had a slim change for silver ahead of the Italians but when they cleared out, we focused on sailing a fast race to stay ahead of the Dutch and the French. If we could finish ahead of them we would pick up the Bronze medal.
‘The wind was up and down; we had to keep our heads, be patient and keep chipping away. We managed to do just that and we have the Bronze. We are happy with our performance in light wind and we will be ready for the regatta of our lives in Qingdao.’
The USA’s Qingdao 470 Womens representative’s Amanda Clark and crew Sarah Mergenthaler finished the World titles in 12th place.
How did the new World Champions feel about missing out on the Olympics, but finishing so far ahead of their rivals?
Kinsolving commented, ‘Amanda and Sarah sailed really well; they just had a couple of bad breaks. It could have easily been them up here and us missing out on the Medal Race.
‘Right now they are happy going to the Olympics and we are happy to win the World titles. This is pretty much our wildest dream come true.’