Small mistakes cost U.S. Yngling team

Success proved to be too much yesterday for the U.S. Yngling team.

Skipper Carol Cronin, Liz Filter and Nancy Haberland put together a perfect first race, never losing the lead and cruising across the finish line 37 seconds ahead of Ukraine's Ruslana Taran.

But when it came time for a repeat performance, they not only lost the magic, but they also seemed to become the victims of voodoo.

Cronin got off cleanly and reached the first mark just 41 seconds off the lead Russian boat. Getting to the second mark in calm seas and 14-knot winds was not a problem, either.

On the run to the third mark, however, a series of small mistakes cost Cronin almost four minutes, and she never recovered.

Earlier in the week, the all-Maryland crew had been visibly bothered by the howling, 25-knot Meltemi wind, acknowledging afterward it was the stiffest breeze they had ever encountered in race conditions.

Tuesday was a rest day for both the Yngling sailors and the wind. By the time racing resumed yesterday afternoon, conditions were more familiar to the crew. When they lined up for yesterday's first race, they made the most of it.

"We knew the left side was going to pay," said Cronin. "We got a really good start. All of the sudden, we're in front of the group. We were set up well and had a little bit of boat speed advantage on the group. We got there first and tacked, and that was the race."

The feel-good moment didn't linger long.

"It fell apart," said Cronin of the second race. "It's a good example of how with just a couple of small mistakes, all of the sudden you're in the back. In this fleet, that's really easy. The thing about our fleet is that it's just as tough whether you're fighting for first or last."

Cronin dropped to 12th overall with three races to go. Shirley Robertson of Great Britain is in first place, seven points ahead of Dorte Jensen of Denmark, ranked No. 1 in the world.

Finn racer Kevin Hall of Bowie had finishes of 13th and ninth to drop to 15th overall. Leader Ben Ainslie of Great Britain holds an eight-point advantage with three races left. Ainslie switched to the Finn after winning the gold medal in the Laser class in 2000 and the silver in 1996.

With eight races in, the 470 team of Paul Foerster of Rockwall, Texas, and Kevin Burnham of Miami, are in second place overall, just six points behind Great Britain and 23 points ahead of Japan with three races to go.

"Our starts weren't the best, but amazingly we were able to come back and have good finishes," said Foerster. "We were very happy with the way we finished but not happy with the way we started. We were just being cautious. Our speed's good; we just need to work on starts a little bit."

In the Laser class, Mark Mendelblatt of St. Petersburg, Fla., lost ground in his medal quest by dropping from third to fifth overall after finishing sixth and 10th. He had been one point out of the bronze medal but is now nine points out of third with five races left.

Katie McDowell of Barrington, R.I., and Isabelle Kinsolving of New York had two 18th-place finishes and are 11th overall in the women's 470.

The 49er team of Tim Wadlow and Pete Spaulding probably wished they could have come back to the dock early. After slow starts, they sailed two strong races to take fifth position overall.

But the third race proved costly. The childhood friends who sailed against each other in college pushed the start line, as did the crews from Poland, Norway and Japan. They miscalculated and were over by a half boat length.

"We were in a tight group. As the gun went off, we heard an individual recall. We were pushing it, but we thought other guys were pushing harder," said Wadlow, the skipper.

The penalty pushed them to 13th place overall in the 19-boat fleet. But the team will most likely use one of its two throwouts.

"It's part of the game. We'll keep plugging away and maybe back off a hair," said Spaulding. "But there are two throwouts and that's what they're for."