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French team captures Osprey Cup

Claire Leroy of St. Quinton, France, and her crew won the Rolex Osprey Cup of match-racing Sunday over eight other teams.

Leroy is ranked 13th on the women's world circuit.

Rhode Island's Hannah Swett also was in the final, losing to the experienced French racer. Swett is the Olympic Yngling class world champion and is training for the Olympics.

Christine Briand, La Rochelle, France, competed in the Petit final against Carol Cronin of Rhode Island. Cronin took the match for third place in the regatta.

To get to the Petit final, Cronin survived a three-way tie for fourth in round-robin racing.

"It was so close that another method of tiebreaking would have produced a different finalist," Cronin said.

"We sail this regatta for boat interaction practice. The starts are so different that they are not a training help."

Briand plans to pursue the match-racing circuit, a change of course from being a driver and tactician aboard Team EF Education in the 1997 Whitbread Round the World Race.

The Rolex Osprey Cup is among only two Grade 1 match-race events in the United States.

In addition to Cronin, Wisconsin's Sally Barkow and Elizabeth Kratzig of Texas used the regatta as training for the Yngling class in the Athens Games trials.

Sailboat racing usually involves all of the vessels lining up for a timed start, but match racing has two boats vying for the victory _ America's Cup style. The prestart maneuvering and positioning are the most important parts.

The team that has the best start can control the other boat's wind for the first upwind portion of the race. Some advantage swings to the closely trailing boat after the upwind turning mark, as it then can blanket the wind of the vessel ahead.

A win garners a point. The team with the most points matches with the next-highest points for the final, with the next two finishers vying for the Petit final.

Twenty-three-foot Sonar sloops at the St. Petersburg Sailing Center were carefully prepared to make racing a true test of the sailors' skills.

Each team races every other team. Two full round robins were contested close to the municipal pier in ideal winds of 8-20 knots.

St. Petersburg sailor Rachael Silverstein, 14, with a local crew, was invited to compete and gained valuable experience.