When American sailors John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree came ashore yesterday, the tension of trying to win an Olympic medal was replaced by an easy feeling.

After sailing in the Tornado class for 11 years, they know they'll be standing on one of the top two spots on the podium.

"Obviously we want a gold," said Lovell, the skipper. But "now that we're guaranteed a silver, it's just a sense of relief. We feel loose and ready to go for the gold."

Lovell and Ogletree had finishes of first and second in their fast catamaran on the Saronic Gulf, putting them within three points of the defending Olympic champions from Austria. The gold and silver will be decided between those crews in Saturday's deciding 11th race.

"We've been doing it for so long and we were putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to win a medal," Ogletree said. "We've put a lot of money, time and effort into it over the years. We've been sailing the best we've ever sailed over the last year."

America's Cup star Paul Cayard wasn't quite as chipper. He and crew Phil Trinter are still in medal contention in the Star class, but they can't win the gold. That went to Brazil's Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira, who clinched it with one race left.

"I'm a little disappointed I didn't sail the regatta of my life," said Cayard, in his first Olympics at age 45. "Yeah, sure, I'd rather have a gold medal. It didn't happen."

John Lovell, rear, and Charlie Ogletree are assured of at least a silver medal.