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Impressive Showing at Kiel Week: USSTAG, USSDT Members Win Four Medals, Two Medal Races
Kiel, Germany (June 23, 2010) – US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG) and US Sailing Development Team (USSDT) athletes wrapped up another successful day at Kiel Week, winning four medals and grabbing two bullets in the Medal Races. USSTAG’s Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) won gold in the Laser Radial for the second year in a row at Kiel Week, USSDT’s Clay Johnson (Toms River, N.J.) won silver in the Laser, Mark Mendelblatt (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Magnus Lilljedahl (Miami, Fla.) won bronze in the Star, and Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.), Molly Vandemoer (Redwood City, Calif.) and Deb Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.) won bronze in the Women’s Match Racing event.
Of the nine U.S. boats that qualified for today’s top-ten, double-point Medal Races, five medals were up for grabs. All three courses saw shifty, light air again today for the final day of Kiel Week, the sixth event in the 2009-2010 ISAF Sailing World Cup series. Despite the difficult conditions, Johnson also won today’s Medal Race, as did 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist Zach Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) in the Finn class.
“This is extremely exciting for our team,” said High Performance Director/Head Coach Kenneth Andreasen (Tampa, Fla.). “Our sailors’ hard work -- training and competing at all these events -- is clearly paying off. We had a great week here, and there has been some great camaraderie among the sailors.
“We have had some challenging conditions all spring, and our sailors are learning that consistency is important. We’re getting closer to where we want to be, and we’re still two years out from the Olympics,” added Andreasen. “You can count on our team to win medals.”
In a tight race on the Laser Radial course, Paige Railey sailed conservatively to finish third, securing her gold medal win for the second year in a row at Kiel Week. This was her third medal in the 2009-2010 Sailing World Cup series: She won silver at Sail Melbourne and gold at US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR. Going into to today’s Medal Race, only two points separated her from first, so she stayed focused on who she needed to beat. She started off strong in the middle of the line, went to the right and grabbed a clear lane, rounding in the top pack of boats at the first mark. “It was so shifty, so everyone started to catch up on the [first] downwind,” said Railey. “It was incredibly stressful all the way until the end. The last downwind was super crucial for me.
“I was more concerned about the girls I needed to beat, and I let the other ones go,” she said. “They were taking more high risks and staying alone, and I was more concerned with staying with the pack and making sure I could control the variables [in order to achieve] my main goal [of winning gold].”
In another nail-biter, USSDT’s Clay Johnson grabbed a bullet today in the Laser class, his first bullet in a Medal Race at an ISAF Sailing World Cup event, which secured him a silver medal behind Australia’s Tom Slingsby. This is only his second time competing in the Medal Race at an ISAF Sailing World Cup event; he also won a silver medal at Sail Melbourne in December, 2009. Johnson had a successful string of single digits this week, including a bullet in the fourth race and second in the fifth.
The Lasers sailed their Medal Race in an offshore, puffy 5-8 knot breeze, which was Johnson said was “similar to college sailing, which helped me out.” The Harvard University alumni had a strong start near the pin and played the middle, rounding the windward mark in second place behind Slingsby and trailing him downwind. On the upwind beat, Johnson said he “tap danced” with Slingsby and was able to pick up a couple shifts and get around him at the last weather mark. Johnson held on to the lead to win the race, moving him from fifth to second overall to ultimately secure silver.
“I’m really happy with how I sailed,” said Johnson. “I think I did a good job starting aggressively and getting to the front of the fleet. After the past few regattas in Europe, I analyzed and tweaked my strategy, and it worked out well.”
Finn sailor Zach Railey also grabbed a bullet today, which was his second Medal Race win; he also won the Medal Race at Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma, Spain, in April. His win today moved him up in the overall standings from seventh to fourth, missing the podium by only one point. “My goal today was to win the Medal Race and see where the points fell,” said Railey. “It was a short event: We only had five races and the conditions were tough. My regatta goal was top five, so overall it was a good week.”
It was an all-American petit finals in the Women’s Match Racing event, after two challenging, first-to-three semi-finals (Spithill vs. Tunnicliffe 3-2, Leroy vs. Tulloch 3-0) yesterday and today. In the end, Tunnicliffe/Vandemoer/Capozzi defeated USSTAG teammates Genny Tulloch (Tiburon, Calif.)/Alice Manard (Charleston, S.C.)/Jenn Chamberlain (Annapolis, Md.) 2-0 to win a bronze medal, rounding out a strong series for the two teams.
The Star team of Mark Mendelblatt and 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist Magnus Liljedahl finished off the event with a bronze medal, adding to Mendeblatt’s two other gold medals from Kiel Week over the last four years. The 22-boat fleet only sailed six races total this week -- three races on the first day, two yesterday, plus today’s Medal Race. “It was quick action at once, and a lot of waiting around,” said Mendelblatt. “It was a tough regatta: We saw a little bit of everything.”
Mendelblatt commented on how the USSTAG’s new team outlook is noticeable from top to bottom, especially at a big event like Kiel Week. “It’s totally different than it’s ever been before in the past,” he said. “The leadership has been fantastic. It’s a real team feeling, and we’ve got brand recognition. We’re doing well, and we’re getting results. I’m really happy to be a part of it.”
“It was a really good day for our team,” said Olympic Sailing Chairman Dean Brenner (Wallingford, Conn.). “It was also really great for me to be here in Kiel and see first-hand all the things we’re working on. All the teams are coming together and it’s working. The results are starting to validate the model. The results are starting to speak for themselves.”
Other notable performances this week were on the Men’s 470 course: 2008 Olympians Stu McNay (Boston, Mass.) and Graham Biehl (San Diego, Calif.) grabbed a third in the Medal Race today and a sixth place overall, while USSDT’s Adam Roberts (San Diego, Calif.) and Nick Martin (San Diego, Calif.) finished eighth in their first Medal Race at an ISAF Sailing World Cup event, ending the event in ninth overall.
A lack of suitable wind this week forced an abbreviated regatta, with most Olympic classes only getting in five or six races total. As a result, the strategy shifted to making every point count in order to be a medal contender. “In our team debriefs, we talked about possibly not getting a discard in this regatta, which means you can’t take as many risks in order to get a consistent string of scores,” said Andreasen.
The daily postponements also made it mentally tough for sailors to stay focused and energetic, but Kenneth said it was good training for 2012. “You wait and wait, and you have to be ready to go out at any moment,” he said. “It’s a balancing act with what you eat, and you have to stay hydrated. We are trying to win as many medals at the Olympic Games as we can, and the mental game is just as important.”
Team members set a record for this quadrennium yesterday when they achieved 19 single-digit scores in one day. More: http://sailingteams.ussailing.org/News/2010/Kiel_Week_Day_4.htm
Forty-four members of the USSTAG and USSDT competed at Kiel Week this week, among 5,000 competitors. For all the news, athlete reports and exclusive video interviews with the team, please visit the USSTAG event site. For Fried Elliott’s daily photos of the USSTAG, please visit http://photos.friedbits.com/2010kielweek. [Editors: To download high-resolution photos for editorial use, please contact Marni Lane for the coupon code.] For the latest USSTAG news and updates, please follow the team on Facebook and Twitter.
For the complete results, please visit the event web site: www.kieler-woche.de
USSTAG is made up of the United States’ top athletes in each of the 10 Olympic and three Paralympic classes who train together with the common goals of winning medals at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The next major event for the team is Sail for Gold, the seventh and final ISAF Sailing World Cup event in the 2009-2010 series, which is scheduled for August 8-14 in Weymouth/Portland, England, the venue of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
About the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics
The US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics is managed by the United States Sailing Association (US SAILING), the national governing body for the sport of sailing and sailboat racing. The top 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 Watch USA, Atlantis WeatherGear, Sperry Top-Sider, LaserPerformance, Harken, Team McLube, Bow Down Training, New England Ropes, Group Experiential Learning and Trinity Yachts. 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 Olympic Sailing Program and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, please visit: http://sailingteams.ussailing.org.