Who will represent the United States in the Laser class at the Olympics in England next year?
Regular readers of this blog will recall that the 2007 Laser US Olympic Trials were held just down the road from me, at Third Beach Newport, and were eventually decided by a tie-breaker which gave the 2008 Olympics slot to Andrew Campbell over Brad Funk.
Geeze. You train hard for years, you're leading the regatta after ten races, and then you lose it on a tie-breaker! I don't know what I would do if that happened to me. Smash up my Laser with a sledgehammer? Fly off to St. Somewhere and drown my sorrows in rum? Take up butterfly collecting?
What a dilemma!
Editor's note. We apologize to readers for the title of this post. As far as is know to the editorial staff at Proper Course, nobody calls Mr. Funk by the nickname "Funky" or even characterizes him as "funky". However, Tillerman appears to be on a run of choosing titles for every post which are titles of Simon and Garfunkel songs, lines from Simon and Garfunkel songs, or bad puns on lines or titles from Simon and Garfunkel songs. It is not clear to us why Tillerman is doing this or whether he will ever cease this annoying practice, but we have been unable to persuade him to desist.
Anyway, Brad didn't give up Laser sailing or take up butterfly collecting (as far as I know.) He carried on racing his Laser at major regattas. He was 2nd in the Laser Radial Worlds in 2008, and 3rd in the Lasers at Miami OCR in 2009. He's also been doing some Moth sailing and was 3rd (and top USA sailor) at the 2010 Moth Worlds in Dubai.
Now US Sailing does its bit to support and train the US Olympic hopefuls by selecting the top contenders to be members of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG). In 2010 the USSTAG Laser Sailor Team Members (USSTAGLSTM) were Kyle Rogachenko and Rob Crane. And in 2011 the USSTAGLSTM are Rob Crane and Clay Johnson.
There's another twist on this story. The US Laser Olympic spot has always in the past been decided at a single Olympic Trials Regatta held somewhere in the US. Not any more. This time around, the US Sailing Olympic Sailing Committee (USSOSC) has decided that the selection will be based on the best performer at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, in Weymouth/Portland, England, (SSFGRWPE) scheduled for June 5-11, 2011, and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Championship, in Perth, Australia, (ISAFSWCPA) scheduled for December 3-18, 2011.
So any US Laser sailor hoping to qualify for the Olympics has to be racing regularly on the international circuit and familiarizing themselves with the locations and levels of competition at events like SSFGRWPE and ISAFSWCPA. As USSOSC Chairman (USSOSCC) Dean Brenner recently said, "The days of somebody training in a remote domestic location, winning the Trials and then medaling at the Olympic Games are long, long gone."
So who is going to win the single US Laser spot at the 2012 Olympics? The casual observer might assume that the 2012 Olympic place would probably go to one of these elite sailors anointed by US Sailing as USSTAGLSTM, Messrs. Crane, Johnson and Rogachenko.
It could be. At the recent 2011 Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta (RMOCR) Clay Jonson was the top US sailor in 9th place with Rob Crane only 3 points behind him in 10th. Kyle Rogachenko was 16th.
But wait. After coming a disappointing 36th in Miami, Brad Funk went off to Mexico for nine days to train with some of the best Laser sailors in the world including Paul Goodison and Nick Thompson from England. Then he trained in Florida with Matias Del Solar from Chile for four days and showed up at the Midwinters East in Clearwater and won the regatta, handily defeating all the USSTAGLSTM hopefuls.
Woo hoo. Brad Funk is back. This is going to be interesting. I love a good comeback story.
I think I will go and watch Rocky II now.