ST. MARY'S CITY -- There was a run on pantyhose throughout the Southern Maryland counties earlier this week.
Some 80 sailing athletes, representing six states and three foreign countries were competing in the regatta segment of the Special Olympics World Summer Games at St. Mary's College of Maryland and, well, jellyfish showed up en masse.
"The pantyhose does a good job of protecting your legs from the stings," said Mike Ironmonger, director of the Teddy Turner Sailing Center at the college. "But even if we didn't go out and buy about a hundred pair, I don't think the athletes would have begged off.
"I can't remember seeing such courage. Besides as many jellyfish as I've ever seen around here -- and they were huge -- we had gusty winds the first day or two and there was a lot of capsizing."
The race committee had hoped to give the two-person boats seven races in single-hull and catamaran boats. The number was up to nine and they had to beg the competitors to come off the water for lunch yesterday.
The victors in the Hobie-16 Catamarans was the team of Tom Bayne of nearby Ridge and his partner Dan Flanigan of Towson, who doubles as the director of sailing overseeing Maryland's eight training centers for its mentally retarded sailors.
"Sailing became a medal sport at the World Games three years ago, and it's as popular as anything," Flanigan said.
It's easy to see why. In addition to the physical aspect, the competition tests the participants with constant changes in strategy.
"We have three levels of competition in the cats," said Flanigan. "Level 1 is when the athlete just works the jibs. Level 2, where Tommy and I compete, the athlete steers the boat at least 50 percent of the time. Level 3 is where two athletes make up the team, no partners are involved.
"Tommy Bayne has been sailing with me for six years now and he takes care of the steering 90 percent of the time. He has become so good, we compete together in regular regattas."
To win the gold medal, the Bayne-Flanigan had to defeat fellow Marylanders Drew White of Rockville (athlete) and Ben Ackerman of St. Mary's City (partner) three straight times in the final session of races.
"We were fortunate," said Flanigan. "We had enough races, so teams could throw out the worst performance. It helped us because in one race we sailed the wrong course."
Teacher and partner were asked who caused the team to sail a faulty course. Flanigan fell silent. Bayne raised a hand and pointed down at his buddy with a grin.
"That's all right, Dan, we all make mistakes," he said.