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Laser Radial Worlds at California Yacht Club - Overall

by Rich Roberts 5 Aug 2006 07:26 BST 28 July - 4 August 2004

Xu cruises to victory; a final blow for Railey

Lijia Xu said, modestly, that her victory in the women's Laser Radial Worlds is not the first world sailing championship for a citizen of the Peoples Republic of China.

A girl much younger than her 19 years won back-to-back Optimist class titles at Qingdao, China in 2001 and Houston, Tex. in 2002. A girl named Lijia Xu.

But, she added, "Maybe it's the first in an Olympic class," which the Radial will be when Xu's career comes full circle to her native country for the 2008 Olympics.

This may not make her another Yao Ming back home---"Oh, he's the most famous athlete in China," she said of the NBA Houston Rockets' center---but her English is much better than his.

"I just learned it myself," she said, "watching American movies [and TV] like Prison Break and Desperate Housewives. It's a good way to learn English."

Xu was hardly desperate as she sailed into the last 2 of 12 races with a 12-point lead over Germany's Petra Niemann and 25 on Belgium's Evi Van Acker, this year's European champion. Mexico's Tania Elias Calles Wolf won the first race in 9 knots of fairly steady wind to score second overall. Xu finished fourth for a mathematical wrap-up and called it a regatta.

Niemann won the second race to finish second overall. It was her third victory of the week to match the performance by sixth-place Sarah Steyaert of France.

No. 2-ranked Anna Tunnicliffe, 23, of Florida, led the event at mid-week until she nosedived to sixth Thursday. She said before Friday's racing, "There are still two races to go and I'm already concentrating on turning on a better performance."

Sure enough, she bounced back with two third places to finish in fourth place as the top American.

Meanwhile, Xu sailed back to the host California Yacht Club, and Paige Railey didn't last that long.

The struggling 19-year-old star of the class from Florida---defending champion and No. 1 rank in the world---drew her third yellow flag of the week from on-water judges for violating Rule 42, which concerns three basic types of kinetics to propel the boat: pumping the sail, sculling the rudder and---appropriately, the way her week had gone---rocking the boat.

When she was yellow-flagged for the latter on the first upwind leg of the first race, giving her a sweep of Rule 42 for the week, she was compelled to drop out, a stunning end to what may have been the toughest week of her young career.

Technically, with the Big DSQ, she wound up last among 45 Gold class finalists with all of her results purged from the scoring. Altogether, including the Silver fleet won by Hanne Hansch of Germany, there were 89 women from 31 countries.

Xu felt for Railey. "She didn't have much luck this year," she said. "I have regarded her as my idol since I began to sail Radials. She is still the best, and there are still some good things I need to learn from here. I'm just a beginner."

Xu, a former Europe dinghy sailor, has been sailing Radials only eight months. At 75 centimeters (5-foot-9) and 68 kilos (150 pounds) she doesn't measure up to Yao but is about optimum size for a Radial in a range of conditions.

"But for the Olympics I may want to be lighter," she said, because she expects light wind at Qingdao.

Her plan for the week was not primarily to win but to improve her ability. "I was just trying to tell myself to have more stability to the boat, and trying to tell myself the only opponent is just myself," she said.

Railey never really got going. A second in the week's first race was her best finish, although she was in contention until the next-to-last day. The final blow was her third yellow flag, which she did not dispute.

"Moving her body," her mother, Ann Railey, said. "That's the way the judges saw it, [so] that's how it is."

There were only two third yellows waved in the regatta, the other directed at another American sailor, Brian Cottrel in the men's class. In all, there were 62 yellow flags, including 14 seconds.

Jury chairman Paul Withers of Great Britain was one of two judges on the boat that made Friday's call. He dismissed any notions that Railey was targeted because of her prominence---and, in fact, said he didn't know it was Railey until later.

"I know the name," Withers said. "I know she's a brilliant sailor, and I didn't know her sail number. My partner said, 'Oh, look at this one.' There was a boat to leeward of the others and the sailor was doing this [Withers leans back and forward repeatedly]. You could see the mast moving to windward in time with the body."

The Laser Radial Worlds were supported by sponsors Nestlé, producer of Arrowhead Water and PowerBar©; Vanguard Boats, Sailing World Magazine, Body Glove and the John B. and Nelly Llanos Kilroy Foundation. Their Web sites may be accessed through the logos in this release.

Women's Results Overall:

Gold Fleet
1. Lijia Xu, China, 6-4-6-(33)-3-2-3-3-11-1-4-(DNS), 42pts
2. Petra Niemann, Germany, 5-1-4-(25)-1-(16)-16-6-2-5-5-1, 44pts
3. Tania Elias Calles Wolf, Mexico, 8-8-8-3-9-(23)-1-(26)-6-1-8, 61pts
4. Anna Tunnicliffe, Florida, 2-1-3-7-7-(8)-23-5-(32)-9-3-3, 63pts
5. Evi Van Acker, Belgium, 2-3-(25)-20-10-5-(23)-9-14-5, 72pts

Silver Fleet
1. Hanne Jansch, Germany, 14-27-31-(36)-(44)-3-2-8-8-7-2-3, 102pts
2. Maria Elin Samdal, Norway, (33)-20-(26)-26-26-7-20-6-4-2-5-4, 119pts
3. Olivia Powrie, New Zealand, 9-(36)-(34)-25-10-26-11-5-5-3-24-6, 126pts
4. Alberte Holm Lindberg, Denmark, 28-(31)-(33)-15-20-13-16-2-13-11-12, 136pts
5. Nathalie Brugger, Switzerland, 18-(32)-19-16-22-(37)-7-16-1-9-15-(DNF), 155pts

Men's Results Overall:

1. Fabio Pillar, Brazil, 16-12-5-1-4-9-(30)-(27)-2-4-1-2, 56pts
2. Steven Le Fevre, The Netherlands, 4-4-1-(41)-15-2-4-(31)-17-1-3-10, 61pts
3. Steven Krol, The Netherlands, 2-1-(20)-15-3-(19)-7-20-14-7-10-1, 78pts
4. Jon Emmett, Great Britain, 18-2-(25)-16-6-1-5-7-11-(23)-8-4, 78pts
5. Ryan Seaton, Ireland, 5-25-9-(46)-13-7-2-10-16-12-(32)-19, 117pts

Complete results and more information at www.calyachtclub.com

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