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Preview of April events // YACHTING

Date and site of trials: April 20-28, Savannah, Ga.

TV info: May 26, ESPN, 12:30-1:30 a.m. (tape); May 30, ESPN2, 9:30-10:30 p.m. (tape).

Who qualifies: One boat in Finn and two in Star.

Courses: Courses will vary depending on weather. The trials will begin with four days of racing (two races a day) followed by an idle day, then another four days of racing (two races a day).

Fun fact: The United States is the undisputed leader in Olympic yachting, with a total medal record of 48. Twenty-one of the U.S. medals have been won over the past three Olympiads.

The FINN: Designed by Swedish sailor Rickard Sarby in 1949, the boat was the winner of a design competition to provide the best possible single-handed boat for the 1952 Olympics in Finland. The Finn measures 14 feet, 9 inches long, has a beam (width) of 4 feet, 10 inches and displacement of 278 pounds. In Olympic competition, the boats are supplied by the host country, and the competitor brings their own rig, including the spars and sails.

The sailor: Competitors in this class need to be strong, fit and tolerant of long periods of physical exertion. Averaging more than 6 feet in height, Finn sailors weigh in at 175 pounds or more and are unusually tough.

Tactics: Since each rig is tailored to each individual's style, sailing ability is key and the superior tactician wins. Sailing the Finn is probably the purest athletic experience in world class sailing today, equaled perhaps by only the wind surfer. Because the 115-square-foot sail is fully adjustable, and its shape bears directly on performance and boat speed, the Finn is extremely responsive. Mastery of the craft is never quite fully achieved.

Best U.S. chance for a medal: Sam Kerner, Honolulu (ranked No. 1 on the U.S. sailing team)

Dark horse: Brian Ledbetter, Bellevue, Wash., 1992 Olympic silver medalist.

The STAR: The Star's 1910 design by American Francis Sweiguth responded to the need to create a bigger, more comfortable and drier "Bug," which was a popular 17-foot craft at the time. With a length of 22 feet, 8 inches and beam of 5 feet, 8 inches, this 1,480-pound two-handed keelboat is the oldest one-design craft.

The sailor: The Star is often called "the torture rack" because of its enormous 285-square-foot sail area, long boom and narrow waterline. As a result, the skipper and crew must be big (average combined weight of 420 pounds), very fit, and strong to sail this challenging boat in heavy seas.

Tactics: The first one-design class, the Star revolutionized construction and racing rules. But much of the Star's success lies in the philosophy of keeping young while growing old. Using the same basic boat requires innovation by the crews to stay competitive.

Best U.S. chance for a medal: 1992 Olympic gold medalists Mark Reynolds and Hal Haenel (San Diego/Los Angeles). The skipper and crew finished first in a field of 48 in January's Miami Olympic Class Regatta.

Dark horse: 1987 Pan Am Games gold medalist Vince Brun (skipper), the top-ranked Star sailor on the U.S. sailing team. But Brun's crew, Mike Dorgan, recently underwent knee surgery and his status is undetermined.

Sailors with Florida connections: Augie Diaz, Miami (finished eighth in the Miami Olympic Class Regatta).

_ TERRY TOMALIN

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