The 2006 Laser Radial World Championship has come to a close with an American sweep in the youth classes.

Ranging from 15 to 18 years old, 182 young sailors from all over the world were competing in this highly prestigious event and the U.S. contingent was expected to bode well since nearly half the pack were American sailors.

On the heels of the disappointing attempt by the world’s number-one-ranked Laser Radial sailor, American Paige Railey, at defending her World Champion title in the woman’s class, an American youth stepped up big.

Fifteen-year-old Claire Dennis from San Francisco was nothing short of dominant throughout the course of the week, racking up four firsts, one second, a third and a fourth (she threw out a seventh and 11th) in the 39-boat fleet.

It’s possible that Dennis did so well because she was in Los Angeles for a good amount of time before her competition began, adjusting to the conditions and even competing in the adult fleet during that time. Amazingly, Dennis was able to make the Gold Fleet amongst the best sailors the world had to offer. With these kinds of performances, the word “Olympics” rushes to the tongue.

“I’m going to be a sophomore in high school,” Dennis said of her Olympic expectations. “Maybe in 2012.”

In the male Gold Fleet, Kyle Rogachenko, 18, of Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and Barbosa Lima from Brazil were locked in a battle throughout the week. Both sailors had their ups and downs, but remained in or near the top ten over the course of the regatta. It all came down to who would best handle the pressure of a final race that would decide the world championship.

“I still had a drop left so I wasn’t too worried,” Rogachenko said calmly of the final race, referring to the fact that each sailor can throw out two of the worst performances. “It came down to whoever finished ahead of the other one in the last race.”

Lima got into trouble at the start line of the final contest and was forced to go in a direction he didn’t want to head. After the turbulent start, he was never able to get back in the race and finished 24th in the 70-boat group.

“I screwed it up,” said Lima. “I had a bad start when another sailor hit my boat. Then the wind was better to the right but I had to go left with so many boats on top of me. I should have stayed closer to [Rogachenko].

“Small mistakes made a big difference. He deserved it. I’m mad, not because I lost, but because I didn’t sail as well as I can.”

On the local front, Marina del Rey’s own Bill Petersen in the boys Silver Fleet made the best of his home-court advantage and came out on top of the pack — hitting his stride in the latter part of the regatta, winning three out of the last four races.

It was an up-and-down affair for Petersen through the week, falling as low as 44th in the 63-boat fleet during one of the races, but he turned a corner in the last two days and became very difficult for the competition to handle.

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