The No. 1-ranked U.S. Soling team of Kevin Mahaney, Doug Kern and Jim Brady of Annapolis, got back into heavy pre-Olympic campaigning with the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta.
The event, which took place Jan. 30 through Feb. 2, out of the U.S. Sailing Center in Miami, Fla.,drew 529 competitors in 326 boats and 10 classes from 22 nations. With the Summer Olympics in Barcelona now only a few months away, competition was fierce.
Over the past few years, the Miami OCR has developed into one of the premier sailing events in the world. It is now a stop on the International Yacht Racing Union's World Cup series, and is a qualifier for the Canadian and British Olympic Sailing Teams. It also is the first stop of the four-part Can-Am Series, which was created two years ago to foster international competition in this hemisphere.
In the Soling class particularly, racing in varied conditions ranging from blustery 28-knot winds on the second day to light air the third day was extremely close.
"It was a fairly competitive fleet, especially considering that it was part of the Canadian Olympic Trials, and all of the best Canadians were there," Brady said. "We were leading goinginto the last day. But we had a bad race, and finished 12th in a real light northwesterly, which put us in third overall."
Winning thetightly grouped class was the team of brothers Gerard, Peter and Paul Coleman, with the British team headed by Lawrie Smith in second, a single point ahead of Mahaney's team.
Gerard Coleman, a graduate of the Naval Academy, and his brothers based their operations in Annapolis while practicing for the 1988 Olympic Trials, in which they finished second.
Although the trio is no longer seen on the waters of Spa Creek maneuvering through intense boat-handling drills regardlessof the weather, many of the friends they made here four years ago are still actively interested in their renewed campaign.
"It was thefirst major regatta the Colemans have won, and the first time they've beaten us," Brady said.
Brady, Mahaney, of Bangor, Maine, and Kern, of Austin, Texas, have been concentrating intensely on match-racing events to hone the skills they will need for the final rounds of the U.S. Olympic Trials and, if all goes well, the games themselves.
The Soling class has departed from past regatta formats by adding amatch-racing final among the leaders of the fleet-racing portion of its competition to determine the final winner.
"We spent most of last fall away from the Soling, doing the match racing that we did," Brady said. "This was our first regatta back in Solings since the Worlds in August. We were a little out of practice, but we're very happy with where we are in the match racing."
Brady said that he and histeammates felt it was important not to peak too soon before the trials, set for April in Florida. Only the top three teams from the fleetracing at the U.S. trials will go into the match-racing finals to compete for the right to represent the United States in Barcelona.
"At the Olympics it will be the top six from the fleet, but the feeling here is that if you're sixth in the U.S. fleet, you probably can't get into the finals at the Olympics," Brady said.
Brady said that he believes there are four U.S. teams that clearly have the potentialto get into the three-team, match-race finals at the Trials: his ownteam; the Coleman brothers; a team headed by Larry Klein, of San Diego; and a team led by Soling veteran Dave Curtis of Marblehead, Mass.
To help ensure that his is one of the three, and can go on to winthe finals, Brady is off to England next week to pick up a new boat.He will drive it to Spain for some intense international competitions, including two Spanish regattas this month, Genoa Race Week in Italy beginning March 2, and the Soling World Championships in Cadiz, Spain, March 19-28.
"We're going to be doing nothing but Solings the next seven weeks," he said.
In other action at the Miami OCR, U.S.sailors won all but the windsurfing classes, which were dominated bythe French and Canadians.
Second place in the Women's 470s was won by the New York team of Jody Swanson and former Annapolitan Cory Sertl.
Nancy Noyes is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association and has been racing on the bay for about five years. Her Sailing column appears every Wednesday and Sunday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.