For U.S. 470 boat, experience is golden

Veterans Foerster, Burnham earn first American sailing win

Sailing

Athens 2004

August 22, 2004|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

ATHENS -- Experience triumphed over youth yesterday as the U.S. team of Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham won the gold medal in the 470 class over a British crew in a sparkling display of match racing.

The gold was the first for American sailors in these Summer Games.

"Absolutely unbelievable," said Burnham, 47, of Miami. "When I saw finish line and Brits behind us and I knew they couldn't win ... I was just so happy. I wanted the gold."

Burnham, the oldest member of the U.S. sailing team, celebrated with a back- flip into the Saronic Gulf. He is older than the father of the British 470 skipper, Nick Rogers.

To win, Foerster and Burnham ignored the rest of the fleet and concentrated on staying between the British team and the mark and denying Rogers and Joe Glanfield any chance to pass.

Rogers, 27, and Glanfield, 25, were caught flatfooted at the start. They tried to time the gun, but the Americans anticipated their move, got on top of them and crossed the line first.

That, it turns out, was the race.

"There were a couple of places where they pulled even, but then we'd just concentrate on our boat speed and pull ahead," Foerster said. "Speed kills."

Kazuto Seki and Kenjiro Todoroki of Japan got the bronze.

Burnham, a three-time Olympian, won the silver in the 470 in 1992. He has competed in every Olympic trials since 1980. Foerster, 40, is in his fourth Olympics. The Rockwall, Texas, resident has two silver medals, in the 470 in 2000 and the Flying Dutchman in 1992.

"You always think, well, you won the silver, but it's kind of a letdown not winning the regatta," Foerster said.

He acknowledged with a grin that they didn't really have a strategy entering the race.

"It was like, `They made a mistake, let's jump on it and see if we can capitalize on it,'" Foerster said.

Burnham said he's not ready to call it a career. "I really don't want to stop," he said, laughing.

American Yngling sailors Carol Cronin, Liz Filter and Nancy Haberland went into their 11th and final race with the memory of a win in Race 10 the previous day still fresh on their minds.

But they crossed the line early and were forced from the race.

"To win two races, we did have all the tools we needed. We just didn't put them all together," said Filter, of Stevensville.

The Yngling class was clinched Thursday by Britain's Shirley Robertson, Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton. The silver yesterday went to Ukraine's Ruslana Taran, Ganna Kalinina and Svitlana Matevusheva. Dorte Jensen, Helle Jespersen and Christina Borregaard Otzen of Denmark took the bronze.

The American boat finished 10th.

In the final race of the Finn class, gold medalist Ben Ainslie of Britain finished 14th, but his dominating performance over the previous 10 races enabled him to sail a conservative, mistake-free race.

Ainslie, winner of the past three world championships, was considered the heavy favorite entering racing last week. He won four races and finished second twice, more than enough to overcome a disqualification in the second race.

Rafael Trujillo of Spain won the silver, and Mateusz Kusznierewicz of Poland took the bronze.

Ainslie hasn't been beaten in a major regatta since switching to the Finn class after winning the gold medal in Sydney in the Laser class.

Cancer survivor Kevin Hall of Bowie never got untracked. With only one year of Finn experience, the America's Cup veteran never finished higher than sixth, and several races where he led early were recalled. He finished the regatta in 11th place.

"My goal was to sail well," said Hall, "and I didn't achieve that this week. Maybe there's lots of different reasons why, but that doesn't matter."

Parity in sailing has never been more evident. In one stretch of 26 races in eight classes, 22 sailors from 20 different countries won. Eight of the 61 nations in the regatta fielded 10 or more boats.

"When you see that, I think it's overall good for sailing," said Gary Jobson, sailing author and television analyst. "But it means the U.S. needs to reorder its priorities and do better recruiting. Ben Ainslie is a perfect example of someone targeted early who came up through the system. "

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