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Team USA top-10 in four classes; Big waves and wind for NBC TV audiences

by US Sailing Team 28 Jul 14:48 BST 25 July - 4 August, 2021
Nikki Barnes (St. Thomas, USVI) and Lara Dallman-Weiss (Shoreview, Minn.) battle it out on their first day of racing. © Sailing Energy / US Sailing

Four days into the 11-day Tokyo 2020 Olympic sailing regatta, all US Sailing Team athletes competing across nine classes have now logged at least two races in their event.

Americans finished the day in the top 10 overall in four events as large swells and varied winds from 5-15 knots returned to Enoshima.

In the 49erFX, Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) entered the day in 2nd overall and fell to 8th after a scoreline of 7, 10, (16). "Today had some gnarly conditions, big waves, big breeze, but was really fun," said Roble, a two-time collegiate All-American. "We've been training a lot in these conditions and we've improved a lot as a team. We're proud of that, and we put up two keeper scores, but had a bit of a digger in the third race. We had an unfortunate capsize coming into the finish line, but was a fun day overall. We're looking forward to 'resetting' on our day off tomorrow and coming back recharged on Friday."

While the capsize was a setback, Shea noted that being prepared to overcome with such events is an essential part of campaigning for the Olympics. "When in doubt, we fall back on the routines that we've developed, and we're really disciplined about that," said Shea, a two-time U.S. Match Racing Champion. "After today, I'd rather go home and curl up with [a movie], but we're going to go back and check the mast because that's part of the process. And these routines help us in moments where we get nervous, when there are helicopters, when there's a lot going on, and when it's chaotic. We take a step back to help bring us back to the moment."

RS:X board sailor Pedro Pascual (Miami, Fla.) retained his position in the standings with scores of 7, 5, (14), and sits in 9th overall. Pascual reported that maintaining solid upwind speed in the big waves was key to competing with the leaders, along with pumping technique. "With heavier winds and especially with the waves, you're pumping with the legs the whole time, unlike in the light air,' said Pascual. "You're trying to absorb the shock of every wave, and trying to take pressure off the fin so that you don't spin out or stop accelerating. My goal for tomorrow is just to focus on the starts. I just need to be able to have a clear lane after the start and build the speed that I'm capable of."

In the Women's 470, Nikole Barnes (St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.) and Lara Dallman-Weiss (Shoreview, Minn.) made their Olympic debuts with a 14, 7 scoreline and are in 10th overall. "We've gotten the first two races under our belt, and we're just excited for the rest of the regatta," said Barnes, who won bronze in the I420 at the Youth Worlds in 2011. "There's always something to improve on, and it's easy to make mistakes. So with that, you're just finding ways to make the boat faster and push harder."

Barnes said that her first day of Olympic competition elicited a wide range of emotions, and that part of the day's challenge was managing the culmination of years of hard work. "I was a bit nervous going into the first race, and tried to fool my coach into thinking I wasn't," said Barnes. "We just kept it light on the coach boat though. We just tried to have fun with it and performed better in the second race. We're happy when we sail happy, and when you're on a sweet wave it's awesome to remember that 'this is my job, and it's awesome.'"

Nacra 17 sailors Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, FL) also experienced their first Olympic races on Wednesday. Gibbs and Weis consistently battled in the front half of the foiling multihull fleet on their way to a 9, 7, 12 scoreline and a 9th overall ranking. Four-time Olympian Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and two-time Team USA athlete Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.) finished 8, 12 on their first day of racing, which places them in 11th overall. In the Finn, Luke Muller (Ft. Pierce, Fla.) finished 12, 15 in two races and fell to 12th overall. RS:X board sailor and two-time Olympian Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.) went 16, 15, 8 in her three races, and is in 15th overall.

Racing will continue on Thursday, July 29, with all classes competing except for the 49er and 49erFX fleets, which will have an off day. The NBC Olympics website is hosting the Tokyo 2020 sailing event for U.S. audiences starting at 11:00 PM EDT (8:00 PM PDT) during the event. There are two televised race areas per day, the "Enoshima" and "Kamakura" courses. As the classes rotate through each course daily, different athletes will be featured on the broadcast.

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