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USSTAG Wins Two Medals at Sail Melbourne

Strong showing at first stop on the ISAF Sailing World Cup circuit

McNay Biehl podium SM11Portsmouth, R.I. (November 13, 2011) – The first stop on the International Sailing Federation’s (ISAF) 2011-12 Sailing World Cup series concluded Friday in Melbourne, Australia, and US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG)members took two medals, gold and bronze. Stuart McNay (Boston, Mass.) and Graham Biehl (San Diego, Calif.) won a gold medal in the Men’s 470, while Amanda Clark (Shelter Island, N.Y.) and Sarah Lihan (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) won bronze in the Women’s 470 class.

More than 300 Olympic and Paralympic class sailors from over 30 countries competed in the first event of the series. Hosted by Sandringham Yacht Club, the event was held November 6-11, 2011.

Winning two medals in Melbourne is a great start to the 2011-12 Sailing World Cup season, and I am very pleased with how our team performed in the varying conditions,” said USSTAG’s High Performance Director/Head Coach Kenneth Andreasen (Tampa, Fla.). For Amanda and Sarah to win a medal in the 470 is a huge step forward for them and it really shows that the plan of training hard is working. Stu and Graham won a gold medal and showed they are contenders in the 470 class. With three weeks until the ISAF Combined World Championships, the entire Team is on the way to Perth to begin training for our second Olympic Team Selection event.”

The Men’s 470 is always one of the closest classes and the medal race delivered excitement.  USSTAG’s Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl were in the lead going into the medal race, but knew they would face competition from 2008 world champions Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS), along with Sam Kivell and Will Ryan (AUS).

“For the medal race we had talked about a few different scenarios prior to the start, but decided that the best strategy was to sail our own race focusing on technique and tactics.” explained Biehl after the regatta. “In the pre-start Belcher/Page came after us pretty hard trying to draw fouls and maybe get us flustered. With Stu's world class abilities in Team Racing it wasn’t too much of a sweat and we focused on getting a good start.”

Although the fleet was smaller than most World Cup events, the level of competition was as tough as it gets on the international stage.

“Just before the start the second place boat of Kivell/Ryan were flagged for kinetics and were forced to spin a penalty turn just before go.” said Biehl. “We found ourselves with a pretty good start near the pin end and immediately locked into boat-speed mode. Belcher/Page had a not-so-good start and they were flushed early. We had an opportunity to tack on them and push them back, but our focus was on the race course instead.

“The next time we crossed with Belcher/Page they had us by just a bit and they started a tacking duel. We worked what marginal lanes they gave us and were able to round in 4th. We passed a boat on the set and continued our race as planned.

“On the second upwind we got into a little bit of trouble when we were caught right in a new left wind shift. We covered as best we could and found ourselves covering Kivell/Ryan to push them back before the next leg. We were temporarily pulled back and faced a late charge by the Japanese, but had great boat speed downwind to both pass a boat and hold off the Japanese.”

At the last leeward mark McNay made the decision to tack. “Later he told me it looked ugly ahead with not much wind and lots of chop from the spectator and media boats,” explained Biehl. “We patiently sailed our right and got a small enough shift to take back. When we converged back on the fleet we crossed into 2nd and defended our position to the last mark. We extended out on the run and when nearing the finish saw the Belcher/Page had dropped their kite in an attempt to possibly draw a foul and maybe put some boats between us. But it was too late and the damage already done. We were too far away from other boats for it to make a difference. We crossed the line in 2nd to take the GOLD!”

This is the first time McNay and Biehl have defeated 2008 Olympic Gold Medalists Matthew Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS). A strong series of three bullets and a string of top-four finishes combined with a 2nd in the medal race gives the duo a big jump going into the ISAF Combined Worlds next month.

“It feels fantastic to finally get one off of them,” said Biehl. “As happy as we are about our finish, our ultimate goal is a medal at the Olympic Games next year. To come away with a win lets us know that our hard work on and off the water has not gone unrewarded in the time between events. We have another warm-up event in Perth next week, which we are definitely looking forward to. Taking some of our lessons learned forward into Perth, we need to sail to our personal standard and focus on the race, and not always who we have to beat. If the time is right we'll know what to do, but until then we have a World Championship to sail and we're not about to give up a good result just to make sure we beat one boat with regards to the US Trials. We have a 14 point lead which is a comfortable enough margin that will allow us to race the way we need to.”

USSTAG’s Adam Roberts and Nick Martin (both San Diego, Calif.) finished 4th, and Roberts echoed the idea of this event being a warm up for Perth, “The racing was up and down for us, but we certainly had our moments. A few races that we did not do well in ended up being the difference between going for a podium position in the medal race and what we had to do, which was just hold on to 4th.

“We just needed to get back into race mode, because we have been doing so much training over the last few months. In Perth, we will need to find our speed quickly, and sail smart. I think we can do it. This week was proof that we are close, even if it is lighter air. We like the breeze, and are hoping to find it in Fremantle!”

Clark Lihan podium SM11Going into the medal race in the Women’s 470 class, Clark and Lihan stood in third overall and a very good chanced at a podium finish. An unfortunate error in the start may have deterred other teams, but not Clark and Lihan.

“Lucky for us, sometimes it is better to be behind on the first lap of the race,” explained Clark. “We were able to stay out of the pack and find some space to sneak back into the group by the middle of the second upwind. Then with a little boat speed downwind we were able to catch two more boats in front of us to give us 3rd in the race and to secure our 3rd overall in the regatta.”

The two sailors have only been together as a team since January and explained that they have put in many hours of training in the gym and on the water. Sail Melbourne is one of two regattas in which they will compete to prepare for the ISAF Worlds.

“This event has been extremely valuable for us work together as a team to build confidence in our race strategy and to trust each other as a team,” said Clark. “This event for sure helped to build our confidence and we are looking forward to our next event, the Australian Nationals (in Perth), to continue to work on our heavy air sailing technique as we come into the homestretch of preparations for the world championships.”

The bronze medal finish is the first podium for Clark and Lihan in an ISAF Sailing World Cup.

Erin Maxwell (Wilton, Conn.) and Isabelle Kinsolving Farrar (Fishers Island, N.Y.) finished 4th.

Bob Willis (Chicago, Ill.) finished 8th in the Men’s RS:X.

For complete results from Sail Melbourne, please visit the event web site: http://www.sailmelbourne.com.au/
Sailors accrue points at each of the seven ISAF Sailing World Cup events to earn an overall Series Score. A first place win translates into 20 points, a second place earns 19 points and so on. (Twentieth place earns one point.)

The skipper/crew with the highest Series Score at the end of the inaugural season wins the ISAF Sailing World Cup Trophy. The next stop on the ISAF Sailing World Cup is US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR, scheduled for January 23-28, 2012, in Miami, Fla.

Find out more about the ISAF Sailing World Cup, overall standings, the scoring system and the Notice of Series at www.sailing.org/isafsailingworldcup.

Reports from the athletes:
Stuart McNay / Graham Biehl http://blog.teammb.org/
Adam Roberts / Nick Martin http://www.teamrobertsmartin.com/blog/post
Amanda Clark / Sarah Lihan http://www.teamgosail.org
Erin Maxwell / Isabelle Kinsolving Farrar http:// www.470teamusa.com
Bob Willis http:// www.bobsails.com

About 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 athletes 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, Trinity Yachts, New England Ropes, Group Experiential Learning and Bow Down Training. http://sailingteams.ussailing.org.

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Contact: Dana Paxton, US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, +1 401-683-0800, x615, mobile: +1 401-369-0490, danapaxton@ussailing.org