Infraction drops crew to 12th place
ATHENS, Greece -- Three, two, one ... uh-oh.
Tim Wadlow powered up his 49er skiff and pointed it toward the starting line, thinking he'd hit it just as the clocked ticked to :00.
"You've got to be in the front row or it's going to be a long race," Wadlow said.
But he overshot the line by a tick of the clock, and it was race over. He and crew Pete Spaulding were notified of their infraction by officials at the top mark and they peeled out of the fleet.
Their disqualification in the fourth race of a 16-race series came on a day when American crews generally didn't help themselves, even though the Olympic sailing regatta finally got better wind.
Being disqualified on the heels of eighth- and fifth-place finishes dropped Wadlow and Spaulding from seventh into a tie for 12th in the 19-boat fleet.
In sailing terms, it's called being "on course side," or OCS.
"We almost had a solid day going but the OCS didn't help us," Wadlow said. "But you've got to stay aggressive on the starting line. We pushed it just a bit too hard today."
Three other 49er crews were disqualified for being over early as well. Had they known for sure they were over, Wadlow, of Boston, and Spaulding, of Miami, could have turned around and restarted. But with a fast class of skiffs like the 49ers -- named for their 4.99-meter length -- it's doubtful they would have finished in the top 10.
"If you're 70 percent sure, you go back," Wadlow said. "But if you're only 20 percent sure, you don't.
"We were in a tight group that was obviously pushing the line hard. As the gun went off we heard it was an individual recall. We were pushing it but we thought some other guys in our group were pushing it harder and maybe we were covered. But we all have big flags [on the mainsail] so you can see us pretty easily."
Boats from Japan, Poland and Norway were also over early.
"Some of our good regattas this year we've been OCS," Wadlow said. "It's part of the game. We've got to keep plugging away, maybe back off just a hair."
Since the 49ers have 16 races, crews get to drop their worst two finishes.
"That's what they're for," Wadlow said. "We're using our throwouts wisely. We're going to get our money's worth."
The top three boats in the 49er class are from Germany, Great Britain and Spain.
A day after light, patchy winds made for tough sailing, a moderate sea breeze built on the Saronic Gulf.
"It was a little more normal but still very challenging because you're still not sure what the wind was going to do," said American 470-class skipper Paul Foerster. "It wasn't like yesterday when there was no wind at times. We had wind and it wasn't too strange."
Foerster and crew Kevin Burnham remained in second place but dropped to six points behind Great Britain's Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield with three races to go. Foerster, of Rockwall, Texas, and Burnham, of Miami, were third and seventh in the day's two races.
Foerster and Burnham, both former silver medalists, came into the day just two points behind the British boat.
Laser sailor Mark Mendelblatt of St. Petersburg, Fla., dropped from third to fifth overall after finishing sixth and 10th. He had been one point out of the bronze medal but is now nine points out of third with five races left.
Yngling skipper Carol Cronin of Jamestown, R.I., won the seventh race of her 11-race series, but then finished next-to-last in the 16-boat fleet to drop into 12th overall.
On the Europe course, Meg Galliard of Pelham, N.Y., also had a good-bad day, finishing third then 13th. After six of 11 races, she's eighth overall.
Kevin Hall of Bowie, Md., was 13th and ninth in the Finn class to drop to 15th.
Finn leader Ben Ainslie of Great Britain continued his comeback from a protest loss in race two by finishing second and third to open an eight-point advantage with three races left. Ainslie switched to the Finn after winning the gold medal in the Laser class in 2000 and the silver in 1996.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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