Americans Outwit Brits to Win Sailing Gold

Saturday, August 21st 2004, 9:33 am
By: News On 6

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Americans Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham won the first Olympic titles of their long careers Saturday, dominating their British rivals in a brilliant match race in the 470 class. It was as thrilling as sailing gets, as Foerster and Burnham gained control over Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield during pre-start maneuvers and never let up.

The veterans followed the basic rule of match racing by keeping their boat between the much-younger British crew and each mark.

Rogers, 27, and Glanfield, 25, got the silver, and Kazuto Seki and Kenjiro Todoroki of Japan got the bronze.

Also on Saturday, Britain's Ben Ainsley completed a remarkable comeback from a protest lodged in race two a week earlier to win the gold medal in the Finn class. Silver went to Rafael Trujillo of Spain, while Mateusz Kusznierewicz of Poland took bronze.

Ainsley is unbeaten in major regattas since switching to the Finn class, following his gold medal performance in the Laser class in Sydney.

In the 470, Natalia Via Dufresne and Sandra Azon of Spain took the silver medal and Sweden's Therese Torgersson and Vendela Zachrisson took bronze. The gold had already been clinched by Sofia Bekatorou and Aimilia Tsoulfa of Greece.

In the Yngling class, Ruslana Taran, Ganna Kalinina and Svitlana Matevusheva of Ukraine took the silver medal. The Danish crew of Dorte Jensen, Helle Jespersen and Christina Borregaard Otzen took bronze. The gold had already been clinched by Britain's Shirley Robertson, Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton on Thursday.

Burnham, normally pretty low-key, celebrated his gold medal by doing a back flip into the Saronic Gulf just after they crossed the finish line, leaving Foerster to control the 15-foot boat in the spectator fleet.

Ignoring the rest of the 27-boat fleet, Foerster and Burnham got on top of the British before the race, sat on them, matched them tack for tack during a fierce duel and let the rest of the fleet get away.

The boats tacked 12 times in the final minutes before the starting gun, then tacked an exhausting 22 more time on the windward first leg.

The Americans were ahead the first time the boats converged on opposite tacks, and rounded the first mark in front of the British en route to the first U.S. sailing medal of these games.

By controlling the race and letting the fleet get away, Foerster and Burnham denied the British one of their few chances of winning the gold. The Americans led by two points going into the race, meaning the British needed to get two boats between them and the Americans, and finish 15th.

The Americans were ahead the first time the boats converged on opposite tacks, and rounded the first mark in front of the British.

Foerster, 40, is in his fourth Olympics. He won the 470 silver in 2000 and the Flying Dutchman silver in 1992. Burnham, a three-time Olympian, won the silver in the 470 in 1992, crewing for Morgan Reeser. Burnham and Reeser finished second to Foerster and Bob Merrick in the 2000 trials.

At 47, Burnham is the oldest member of the U.S. sailing team. He competed in every Olympic trials since 1980.