Wednesday's designation of Annapolitan Jim Brady and Courtnay Becker of Rye, N.Y., as the 1990 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the year, gave U.S. Olympic sailing an important boost.
Brady is a J/24 and J/22 World Champion and rising star on the World Match Racing circuit. He competes with Texan Doug Kern as part of Maine skipper Kevin Mahaney's No. 1-ranked U.S. Soling team, which also was named 1990's Olympic Yachting Male Athletes of the Year.
Becker is the nation's top-ranked competitor in the single-handedwomen's Europe Dinghy class as well as a member of the Women's Lechner Sailboard squad on the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team.
Both sailors are widely considered to be athletes of great promise for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
"It is particularly noteworthy that our two 1990 Rolex Award winners are both focused on Olympic campaigns," said U.S. Yacht Racing Union President Bill Martin. "The award is ameaningful acknowledgment of the outstanding levels of accomplishment achieved by members of the U.S. Sailing Team."
Martin's sentiments Wednesday were echoed by Michael B. Schoettle, chairman of USYRU'sOlympic Yachting Committee, which directs the selection and trainingof the U.S. Sailing Team.
"We're very pleased. Throughout 1990, Courtnay and Jim excelled as athletes and sailors as well as representatives of our nation at regattas around the world."
Brady is not the only Annapolis-area sailor with serious prospects for Olympic goldin '92, however. Champion sailboarding veteran Scott Steele, who recently returned to his home base in Annapolis after several years in Florida, also is back on track for Olympic competition. He has shiftedhis attention away from coaching to undertake another campaign of his own.
Steele earned the Silver Medal in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles in sailboarding -- the first year the class was included in the Games. He was not ranked by the USYRU OYC in 1990, because his focus had only recently moved back into all-out competition.
Steele has been making a strong showing in competition since the rankings were published last spring, however, and is regarded as a serious challenger for one of the men's sailboarding slots on the U.S. team this year.
A number of other sailors with ties to Maryland waters also are making strong showings in Olympic sailing campaigns.
Among the top Soling contenders are Annapolitans Paul Murphy, part of Marblehead, Mass., skipper Dave Curtis' team; and Peter Gleitz and Steve Schult, sailing with Severn Sailing Association's Sam Merrick, who now lives in New Jersey. Former Olympic medalist and SSA member Don Cohan, ofPennsylvania, also is skippering one of 1990s top five teams in thisclass.
Other Soling class regulars and potential contenders include Stuart Walker, of Annapolis, and Naval Academy graduate Gerard Coleman and his brothers, who based a 1988 Olympic campaign out of Annapolis.
The strength exhibited by the U.S. Naval Academy's Dinghy Team over the past few years also is reflected in other classes of pre-Olympic competition.
Two Naval Academy All-Americans made the U.S.Sailing Team in the single-handed Finn class: 1988 graduate Alec Cutler, from Madison, Conn., who was 1989 Armed Forces Athlete of the Year, and 1989 graduate Charlie Pucciarello of Pensacola, Fla. Mary Brigden, a 1987 graduate not currently ranked on the team but still a counted as strong contender, may repeat her 1988 run at the Trials in the Women's 470 class.
Top-ranked in the 1990 Women's 470 standingswas the New York-based team of Jody Swanson and Cory Fischer Sertl. Sertl, a former Annapolitan now living in Rochester, N.Y., was the other half of Annapolis sailor Susan Dierdorff Taylor's 1988 Women's 470 campaign. They fell short at the trials by an agonizingly close margin to Californians Allison Jolly and Lynn Jewell Shore, who went on to win the gold in this first-ever women's Olympic sailing event.
In the high-speed Flying Dutchman class, local sailor Adam Werblow and two-time Collegiate Sailor of the Year Terry Hutchinson, a native of Harwood, are heading up strong teams with great potential. Werblow was part of the 1990 team, while Hutchinson was concentrating on collegiate competition and on finishing his studies at Old Dominion University, but both can be expected to perform very well on this year's circuit.
Former Annapolitan Charlie Ogletree also has recently initiated an Olympic campaign in the Men's 470 class, and is regarded as another strong competitor by his Olympic class representatives. Annapolis sailor Diane Burton is continuing her quest in the Europe Dinghyclass, and former Annapolitan Kathy Chapin is again making her presence felt in Women's Sailboarding.
New Jersey sailor Andrew Menkart, whose racing base is Galesville's West River Sailing Club, also is on the list of strong contenders for his work in the Star class, in which he and Florida teammate Chris Rogers ranked fourth last year.
Mounting an Olympic campaign in any of the 10 yachting classes is a major undertaking, and requires a level of commitment unsurpassed in sailing. A serious campaign often begins eight or even 12 years before a target Olympiad, said Jonathan Harley, director of USYRU's Olympic Yachting Committee.
"In real terms, becoming an Olympian takes years of dedication, sacrifice, commitment, strategy, frustration and loneliness," Harley said.
On the positive side, he added, are "great fun, excitement, challenge, opportunity, and travel, travel, travel."
Beyond the more obvious costs of boats, equipment, time and training, travel takes up one of the largest chunks of any Olympic hopeful's budget. With qualifying events in locations from Eastern Canadato Southern California, Barcelona to Brazil, across the country and around the world, the expenses involved in a serious challenge mount up at a dizzying rate.
Of course, the U.S. Olympic Committee, the OYC, and USYRU, as well as organizations such as the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association, help make money available for Olympic yachting campaigns. These funds and grants, however, barely dent annual expenses, estimated by the OYC at $50,000 to $60,000 per sailor. Multiply that by the number of crew on each boat's team, and it becomes obvious why corporate sponsorship and private donations remain essential elements of a successful Olympic campaign.
"The United States is the undisputed leader in Olympic sailing, having earned 12 medals in the last two Olympiads," Harley said. "We are the nation to beat, and our competitors all over the world are training smart and hard."
U.S. sailors are also training "smart and hard," but will need the continued support of the American sailing community if they are to maintain the high standards which have been set in U.S. Olympic yachting.
To find out more about how you can help bring home the gold from Barcelona next year, contact the Fund for Chesapeake Sailors, c/o CBYRA, 612 Third St., Annapolis 21403 (phone 269-1194), or the U.S. Olympic Yachting Committee, c/o USYRU, Box 209, Newport, R.I. 02840 (phone401/849-5200).