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Sailing / Rich Roberts : Americans Fare Well in Pre-Olympic Regatta

October 02, 1987|Rich Roberts

American sailors collected two gold medals, two silvers and three bronze in the pre-Olympic regatta at Pusan, South Korea, this week.

That's not quite as strong as their 3 gold-4 silver performance in the 1984 Games at Long Beach, but it's spectacular by previous standards.

"We're encouraged by the results," said Jonathan Harley, director of the United States Yacht Racing Union's Olympic program. "Some of our best people weren't there, but most of the other (foreign) competitors that will be there in '88 were. They have already been selected."

The U.S. Olympic team will be determined in trials next year.

The United States was shut out in only one class--men's 470 dinghy--where English, Swiss and Swedish boats swept the medals. But three of America's top 470 sailors--'84 silver medalist Steve Benjamin of Oyster Bay, N.Y.; Dave Ullman of Newport Beach, and John Shadden of Long Beach--didn't compete.

In fact, only one of this country's '84 medalists was there--sailboarder Scott Steele of Fort Pierce, Fla., who won another silver.

Gary Knapp of Port Washington, N.Y., with crew Chris Steinfeld, won a Tornado bronze in the absence of '84 silver medalist Randy Smyth of Huntington Beach, who also plans to compete.

Star favorite Vince Brun of San Diego and '84 gold medalist Bill Buchan of Seattle weren't there, but the United States remains so strong in that class that Ed Adams of Newport, R.I., with crew Tom Olsen, won easily with two firsts and two seconds in six races.

Brun and Buchan, who is just getting his campaign back into gear, also missed the recent Star world regatta at Chicago, where Adams also won.

The other gold went to Soling sailor John Kostecki of San Francisco, with crew Bob Billingham and Will Baylis. He remains the favorite since '84 gold medalist Robbie Haines quit the class.

Lisa Niece of Vashon, Wash., with crew Pat Raymond, emerged as a factor in the new women's 470 class by winning a silver behind England's Kathy Foster. This class figures to be one of the tightest battles in the U.S. trials.

Besides Knapp, other bronze medals went to Scott McLeod, Rowayton, Conn., in the Finn class and J.B. Braun, Marblehead, Mass., with crew Bill Kenney, in the Flying Dutchman class. With '84 gold medalist Jonathan McKee and crew Carl Buchan dropping out, Braun and Kenney have been the front-runners to represent the United States for some time.

Until now, Pusan has been far out of the mainstream of international sailing and little was known about the racing conditions there.

"There were some surprises," Harley said. "It blew harder than we thought it would--in the upper ranges around 25 (knots) some days--and there was much more current than we expected."

After a typhoon that blew through the Sea of Japan just before the regatta, the current ran as strong as 3 1/2 knots, and in the farthest courses five miles offshore the water was 600 feet deep, making it difficult to anchor committee boats and secure marks.

"They may decide to stretch out the sailing (schedule) and just use the two courses closer to shore instead of four," Harley said.

That issue will be determined when the International Yacht Racing Union meets at London Nov. 1-6.

There was another surprise, according to Harley: "Absolutely the finest yachting facilities I've seen anywhere in the world."

At Long Beach, the sailors, committee people and media worked on the beach in tents and mobile homes. At Pusan there will be numerous hoists, two 50-yard-wide launching ramps, generous container space and a large permanent administration building--all built for the Asian Games in '86 and the ensuing competitions.

Also, at the end of a long, hard day under sail, the sailors won't have to drag their boats back up onto the beach themselves.

"There were helpers assigned to every boat," Harley said.

OLYMPIC GAMES--Rex Sellers and crew Chris Timms, who won the '84 Tornado gold medal in a major upset, competed for Fiji at Pusan. . . . Scott Steele's sailboard silver marked a dramatic comeback. At only 120 pounds, he hadn't seemed competitive on the larger boards to be used at Pusan and was ranked only fourth among U.S. hopefuls. Also, his father died recently. Robert Nagy of France won the gold in the class dominated by Europeans.

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