U.S. Olympic sailors are competing mostly against a team that isn't even at Pusan, South Korea: the 1984 U.S. team.
None of the 1984 sailors who won 3 gold and 4 silver medals in the 7 classes returned for these Games, but their standard continues to haunt their successors. After a mediocre start Tuesday, the '88 team sailed better Wednesday and ranked first in 2 classes and second in 2 others after 2 of 7 races. That's not bad, but it's not up to the '84 standard.
Putting that in perspective, Coach Dave Ullman of Newport Beach said by phone from Pusan: "If we medaled in 4 or 5 classes, that would be the best for any nation, by far. That whole thing being in (Long Beach) last time was a big edge we don't have here."
Three U.S. boats won in the second round--world champion John Kostecki of San Francisco, with crew Will Baylis of Carmel and Bob Billingham of Greenbrae, Calif., in Soling; Allison Jolly of Valencia, with crew Lynne Jewell of Newport, R.I., in women's 470, a new Olympic class, and Mike Gebhardt of Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. in sailboard.
Kostecki and Gebhardt lead their classes. Jolly and men's 470 sailor John Shadden of Long Beach, with crew Charlie McKee of Seattle, are second after placing second by a boat-length Tuesday.
Other Americans were struggling. Brian Ledbetter of San Diego was 14th in Finn; Pete Melvin of Long Beach, and crew Pat Muglia of San Diego, were eighth in Tornado catamaran; Paul Foerster of Corpus Christi, Tex., and crew Andrew Goldman of Greenwich, Conn., were 16th in Flying Dutchman, and Mark Reynolds of San Diego, with crew Hal Haenel of Hollywood, was sixth in Star.
Ullman said the conditions were identical the first 2 days. The moderate 12- to 14-knot winds weren't as strong as anticipated since the wild Olympic practice regatta a year ago, but the currents were churning up Suyong Bay to a chop "about double what you'd expect from the wind we had," Ullman said.
The currents often oppose the wind, creating turbulence, but haven't been strong enough to influence tactics.
"Only about a half-knot," Ullman said. "The big current of 2 1/2 knots is farther out, 7 or 8 miles off the race course. It hasn't come in yet."
Ullman thought that Foerster, Reynolds and Melvin might be more competitive in lighter wind.
"We've sailed only 2 races," Ullman said. "It's too early to give up on people. Ledbetter should be good in a breeze, but he's had boat speed problems."
Foerster won the European title in Flying Dutchman this year. "But that was in real light air," Ullman said. "And the trials were lighter than these conditions."
Gebhardt, 22, may be the surprise of the event. France's 3-time world champion, Robert Nagy, was expected to sail away from his rivals but ranks only 16th.
"Gebhardt's the best thing on our team, a real free spirit," Ullman said.