Bring on Pusan The U.S. should come close to repeating its great '84 success

September 13, 1988

HIGH WINDS. STRONG TIDES. A Gulf Stream-like current that changes
course like a wriggling eel. That's what Olympic sailors likely will
face at Pusan, the yachting venue, 200 miles southeast of Seoul. As
Bill Shore, one of the U.S. coaches, says, ''The big thing is going
to be the current. It's there one hour, not there the next.''
When the world's best sailors tested the waters off Pusan at last
year's pre-Olympic regatta, they discovered that strong winds were
not just a convenience; they were an imperative for racing to take
place. In a Finn-class race, for instance, the sailors had winds of
10 to 12 knots, but many boats had so much trouble fighting the
current, they still couldn't get across the starting line.
The U.S. won three golds and four silvers in the seven yachting
events in '84, and it should be the strongest team this time, too.
But the Americans do best under fast conditions. ''We want to see
drag races in Pusan,'' says U.S. Olympic Yachting Committee chairman
Andy Kostanecki. ''We don't want it to be a crapshoot.''
A new event, the women's 470, has been added to these Games, but
it lost - some luster when Great Britain's Cathy Foster, the only
woman to race in the 470 in L.A., failed to make her country's team
because of a technical infraction. That should boost the chances of
skipper Allison Jolly and crew Lynne Jewell, who beat Yachtswoman of
the Year Susan Dierdorff Taylor and Cory Fischer to make the U.S.
team. Some other performers worth watching are:
-- Robert Nagy, France, sailboards. ''He's sort of the Pele of
boardsailing in a country that absolutely owns the category,'' says
-- Mark Reynolds, U.S., Star class. To win his Olympic berth,
Reynolds and crew Hal Haenel outraced four world champions, including
'84 gold medalist Bill Buchan.
-- John Kostecki, U.S., Soling class. Kostecki, who has won two of
the last three world championships, secured his spot on the U.S. team
despite a freak accident at the trials -- a towrope snagged and the
boat was swamped -- that seriously endangered him and his crew.
In the Finn class, light air figures to favor the Danes and heavy
air the Spaniards, but U.S. skipper Brian Ledbetter should be a
factor in any conditions. John Shadden, captain of the U.S. men's 470
entry, should also do well. The Flying Dutchman is normally dominated
by European teams, with pressure from New Zealand. But the U.S. won
the gold medal in '84, and American skipper Paul Foerster improved
his prospects when he won this year's European championship. Finally,
the favorite in the Tornado class is New Zealand, with '84 gold
medalist Rex Sellers at the helm.
All in all, despite the unpredictable conditions, U.S. sailors
should win more medals at Pusan than the six that the entire U.S.
Olympic team won at the Winter Games in Calgary.