Jim Brady of Annapolis has earned the right to sail for the United States at the upcoming Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Sailing as bow man with skipper Kevin Mahaney of Bangor, Maine, and middleman Doug Kern of Austin, Texas, he won a tough match-racing final against California sailors Jeff Madrigali, Chris Perkins and Jim Barton to take the top spot at the Soling Olympic Trials at the Platinum Point Yacht Club in Punta Gorda, Fla.
The Mahaney/Brady/Kern team, also known as Team Exxon, topped a fleet of 22 starters in an eight-race fleet racing regatta that ran from April 26 through May 1.
Their victory was so substantial with finishes of 2-1-1-2-3-1-5-1 that it was not even necessary to sail the final two races to win, Brady said, although Team Exxon did compete and won the final contest after taking a more relaxed fifth-place finish in the seventh.
In Olympic scoring, a first-place finish earns no points and a second-place finish is worth three points.
Team Exxon's finishes, deducting the two throwouts, the seventh-race fifth and the fifth-race third, left it with a mere six points, while the Madrigali team in second overall had 19.4.
Also qualifying for the semifinal series of five round-robin match races among the top three teams from the fleet, or a total of 10 races altogether, was fleet third-placer Dave Curtis of Marblehead, Mass., and crew Brad Dellenbaugh of Fairfield, Conn., and Canadian Steve Calder, with 41.7 after finishes of 4-3-2-4-9-5-2-17.
The Coleman brothers' team, made up of former Annapolitans Peter and Paul with Naval Academy graduate Gerard at the helm, started the regatta strongly with a first and a second. It was tied with Mahaney/Brady/Kern for first at the end of the first day's two races, but subsequent finishes of 6-5-2-14-8-19 left it in fourth overall, three points behind Curtis' team.
Annapolitans Peter Gleitz and Paul Murphy, in a team also including Mark Fischer of Baltimore, finished 10th in the fleet.
The semifinal round was not so easy for Mahaney, Brady and Kern, in part because the air was light at first.
"It was tough, and it was nerve-wracking at times," Brady said. "In the first race of the first round-robin, for example, when we lost to Madrigali, we were leading at the last weather mark in very light air, but he passed us on the run to the finish and beat us by three feet. We were 0-4 in the first two rounds of the semifinal, but we came back and won six straight. Madrigali had five wins, and Curtis was eliminated with four and six."
In the final best-of-nine round, the first to reach five wins would go on to Barcelona.
Six races were completed on Tuesday, in which Madrigali's team won the first two, and Team Exxon won the final four.
The excitement and stress of the final contest Wednesday was
heightened when a total lack of wind in the morning, followed by a big storm around noon, delayed racing until 3 p.m.
Team Exxon started prematurely, but made a quick recovery, found a favorable wind shift, and caught up with Madrigali within the first five minutes of the race. They were so close, in fact, that when the two boats crossed for the first time, Madrigali fouled Team Exxon and had to do a penalty turn.
Less than a minute later, the same thing happened again, and Madrigali's second penalty turn put him far enough behind Team Exxon that, as Brady put it, "the race was essentially over at that point."
So was the regatta, and more than two years of concentrated effort, planning and organization for Mahaney, Brady and Kern had come to an important stage near its hoped-for culmination.
"If we don't win a medal in the Olympic Games, we'll be really disappointed," Brady said. "The U.S. has just about always been the medal round in Solings, won a silver in '88, gold in '84, a silver in '76, and on back."
New for the 1992 Games, the Soling class is the only one in which fleet racing is capped off with a match-racing final, in both Olympic Trials and the Games themselves.
Bright, sunny skies, good wind and first-class race managemenadded up to another successful Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association Olympic Classes Regatta last weekend, even if the turnout was down a bit from expectations.
"We've had a cold spring, and it is an Olympic year," said event chairman Dina Kowalyshyn of the turnout, 73 boats in nine classes sailing on three courses off Annapolis and West River, plus 51 sailboarders up at West Potomac Park in D.C. in two major divisions.
"We had beautiful weather, though, and you couldn't ask for a better day Saturday, or a better day Sunday. People were definitely tired on Sunday -- you could tell it's still early in the season."
Kowalyshyn said that even though the turnout was somewhat lower than expected, she was "encouraged by the fact that the Race Committee work was championship quality, some of the best we've seen," and said the responses from the competitors all had been very positive.