Hall gets back in flow in Miami OCR regatta

THE BALTIMORE SUN

For some sailors, the Miami OCR regatta is a way to get known. For others, it's a way to stay in the international nautical spotlight.

The five-day event, which will begin tomorrow, is the first of three regattas that will determine the U.S. sailing team. It is a time to test new boats, cement partnerships and forge new ones.

In the case of Kevin Hall of Bowie, it means a fresh start after his disappointing 11th-place finish in the Finn class at the Athens Olympics.

"I'm pretty optimistic about next time," said Hall, a cancer survivor who battled International Olympic Committee bureaucracy and personal setbacks during the Summer Games.

The Miami regatta will include the eight classes of boats that will be used at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and two that will be used at the Paralympics. About 200 competitors, including 17 from Maryland, are expected. Registration will end tomorrow.

Two members of Team Atkins, the U.S. Yngling-entry in Athens, will be competing against each other this time. Maryland-born skipper Carol Cronin has signed up Kate Fears of Washington and Jaime Haines of Newport, R.I.

Cronin's former crew member, Naval Academy sailing coach Nancy Haberland, is working with two Californians: skipper Liz Baylis and Katie Pettibone. Baylis has chartered the back-up Team Atkins sloop for this regatta.

Liz Filter, the third member of the 10th-place Atkins team, has retired from high-level competition to be with her young family.

Baylis, the 2002 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, said the regatta is a "trial balloon" to determine if they like sailing the Yngling enough to spend the next three years training for Beijing.

Another sailor familiar in Annapolis, Sally Barkow, also is in the hunt in the eight-boat Yngling field. Barkow, of Nashotah, Wis., will sail with her veteran team of Carrie Howe and Deborah Capozzi.

Barkow won two Chesapeake Bay events, the 2004 ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship and the 2003 Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship.

The two-man Star class is loaded with local talent, all trying to beat skipper Mark Reynolds, a three-time Olympic medalist from San Diego, who is teamed with Phil Trinter. Trinter and racing legend Paul Cayard finished fifth in Athens.

One man to watch is Annapolitan Geoff Ewenson, who finished second to Hall in the U.S. Olympic Trials last year. This time, he is paired with Skip Dieball of Toledo, Ohio, in the 40-boat field.

Hall, who was hired to be navigator for the Emirates Team New Zealand America's Cup campaign, said he wasn't sure whether he wanted to sail the Finn again.

"The nice thing about sailing in Annapolis is I went out and enjoyed it. I sort of expected I'd want to burn the thing. But I loved it. I thought it was a good sign for wanting to do it again in four years," Hall said.

A survivor of testicular cancer, Hall had to fight for a waiver to receive testosterone injections to replace what his body no longer produces. Bureaucracy slowed approval and forced him to spend preparation time in Athens tracking down doctors to give him his shots.

Now, he said, he feels ready for the challenge of another campaign.

"I was still making changes and learning in the weeks leading up to Athens," said Hall, who only took up competitive Finn sailing a year before the Summer Games.

"Probably at the Games I was just at the point in the learning cycle where I wasn't doing what I used to do well and I wasn't doing the new stuff well, either. But if you look at it with an eye toward Beijing, everything we did last year was right."

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