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US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics’ Szabo and Peters Win Star World Championship
Portsmouth, R.I. (August 8, 2009) – It was quite a comeback for US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics’ (USSTAG) George Szabo (San Diego, Calif.) and Rick Peters (Barrington, R.I./Venice, Calif.), who, after finishing 54th out of 86 boats in the first race, climbed their way to the top to become the new Star World Champions today. For some sailors, knowing the first race would become their drop score can wreak havoc on their mental endurance, but Szabo and Peters persevered and grabbed a bullet in the second race of the 2009 Star World Championship in Varberg, Sweden.
“Back on the dock after that first race, we joked that we could still win the regatta,” said Szabo. “But we just wanted to finish in the top ten.” Szabo and Peters hadn’t finished in the top ten since their first World Championship together in 1994 when they finished seventh. “We just kept plugging away,” he said.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s a real treat to be on that trophy with the names of other World Champions, like [Sweden’s Fredrik] Lööf, [USA’s Mark] Reynolds and [USA’s] Magnus Liljedahl.” Reynolds and Liljedahl won the Star World Championship nine years ago in 2000, and an American has not won the title since. The last time an American medaled was in 2001 when Vince Brun and Mike Dorgan finished third.
This week, patience was their virtue: Szabo said he and Peters just focused on trying to sail well every day and didn’t focus on where they were in the standings. Since it wasn’t very windy, Szabo said they focused on their boat speed and tactics. After the first two races, they grabbed three third places and a 20th. Peters described racing as the “Varberg International Speedway,” because they tacked in the same direction every race.
“They never gave up,” said Coach Mark Ivey (Tiburon, Calif.) “Their good decision-making in the first beats of the races put them in single digits this week. They didn’t have to battle back from a deep place in the fleet, except for the first race.”
USSTAG’s Andrew Campbell (San Diego, Calif), a new Star sailor this year, teamed up with Liljedahl (Miami, Fla.), an Olympic gold medalist and Star World Champion, and finished in fifth place. This result was particularly impressive because it was the first time they had sailed together and it was in a borrowed boat with one set of sails. Their goal was “to be in the hunt on the last day of the regatta,” when the top boats would need to start taking risks, Campbell wrote in his newsletter. Liljedahl described Campbell, who was USA’s Laser representative at the 2008 Olympic Games, as being calm and level-headed on the race course.
Andy MacDonald (Laguna Beach, Calif.) and Brian Fatih (Miami, Fla.) finished 14th and Kiel Week Gold Medalists Mark Mendelblatt (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Mark Strube (West Palm Beach, Fla.) followed in 15th place. “Our teams are all professionals in the industry, so we were able to harness each other’s experiences,” said Ivey. “All four boats were in the top 15, which was fantastic.”
Every morning before racing, the American boats left the docks together to tune up and check currents and wind speed, which worked to their advantage.
“In the Star Class, the U.S. has teams with different sails and different hulls, and yet we all work together,” said High Performance Director Kenneth Andreasen (Tampa, Fla.). “Our boats lined up to speed test before every start, which shows great teamwork. That’s the way we’re going to win medals.”
For complete results of the Star World Championship, as well as daily news reports, please visit the event website at http://www.giveandgo.se/vss/index.asp. For a photo slideshow of pictures from the event, please visit: http://sailingteams.ussailing.org/Multimedia/2009_Star_World_Championship_in_Varberg__Sweden.htm
About the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics
The US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG) is managed by the United States Sailing Association (US SAILING), the national governing body for the sport of sailing and sailboat racing. The top three boats in each Olympic and Paralympic class are selected annually to be members of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. US SAILING supports these elite athletes with funding, coaching and training. The title sponsor of the team is AlphaGraphics; other sponsors include Rolex, Atlantis WeatherGear, Sperry Top-Sider, LaserPerformance, Harken, Team McLube, Bow Down Training, and New England Ropes. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US SAILING is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country. For more information about US SAILING, please visit: www.ussailing.org. For more information about the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, please visit: http://sailingteams.ussailing.org.