Irish boats comfortable with Miami placings


THE Miami Olympic classes regatta ended yesterday evening with a solid sixth place result from Mark Mansfield and David Burrows in the Star keelboat class after a seven race series. The 1992 gold medallist, Mark Reynolds, of the United States won the class.

Other Irish crews maintained their form during the event, most returning mid fleet positions in their respective classes.

Mansfield and Burrows had a particularly good weekend following a disappointing second day on Friday when they had to count a 20th place and a disqualification for a premature start (PMS).

However, the pair stormed back on Saturday to finish second in the first race and narrowly missed winning the second; They had led for 99 per cent of the course, but had to accept a third when a wind shift at the finished allowed two rivals ahead.

Yesterday's final race saw the Irish crew lead once again from the first windward mark, but having taken the right hand side of the course, were again overtaken by two other boats. By the finish, however, they had clawed by a place to add another second position to their score sheet.

Their top 10 result is particularly important for a number of reasons. On the final two days, completely contrasting conditions provided a real test of boat handling and tactics. Saturday saw light and fickle conditions, while yesterday's racing took place in up to 25 knots of wind. The Irish crew are currently 50 pounds below optimum crew weight and were pleased with their result in the heavier conditions.

The range of talent behind the Irish boat was also a source of quiet satisfaction. Notables such as past world champion Ross MacDonald, Olympic medallist John Kostecki, Whitbread skipper and silver medallist Lawrie Smith, America's Cup skipper Paul Cayard and former Star champion Augie Diaz were all in the top 15 slots behind Mansfield and Burrows.

The next test towards the Olympic sailing event at Savannah, Georgia, in July will be the Bacardi Cup at this same venue in March.

Meanwhile, the other Irish crews competing had a mixed event with results generally around mid fleet in four classes. With a larger turnout in this event than the games proper, valuable pointers to weak areas of performance will have been gained, even if results may not be in the upper echelons of their respective fleets.

"We're focusing firmly on the (European) qualification regatta in April," said Marshall King, helm of the Irish Soling keelboat that finished 22nd out of 46 boats.

"We've already achieved our A Card which means our funding is secured. We now have five regattas to sort out our problem areas.

The three man crew has identified mark roundings and heavy weather reaching as their weaknesses, but starting tactics and boatspeed are under control according to King. Norweigan Herman Johannessen won by a single point over Swede Magnus Holmberg.

Starting tactics will probably be under scrutiny for Belfast Finn single hander John Driscoll who had three PMS penalties in this regatta which only had one discard for the 11 races. He started the event well but slipped down the ranks over the four days to finish 37th out of a 62 boat fleet which was won by Philippe Presti of France.

Among the other singlehanders, Mark Lyttle had a disappointing 40th result in the elite gold fleet of the Laser class which was won by German Stefan Warkalla. Aishling Bowman never started in the Europe class due to an ear infection, but Baltimore's Maria Coleman had a good final day yesterday which brought her up to 33rd out of 57 boats. New Zealander Jenny Armstrong won this class.