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Team USA at Tokyo 2020 Olympics Day 6: Roble & Shea move up, Buckingham near-misses medal race

by US Sailing Team 30 Jul 15:55 BST July 25 - August 4, 2021
Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) running downwind at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition © Sailing Energy / US Sailing

Very light winds descended on Enoshima for day six of the Tokyo 2020 sailing events, providing a tense and unforgiving field of play for the US Sailing Team in several key races.

In the 49erFX, Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) scored 5, 9, 13 in today's races and moved up to 6th overall. Now 15 points out of 3rd, the Americans have one more day of full-fleet racing before the medal race field will be set.

"I think we started well and had pretty good boat speed," said Shea. "It was very hard to predict what was going to happen on the racecourse, so we found ourselves in the middle of the course more often than we would have liked. There was a bit of randomness downwind, and sometimes we got lucky, sometimes we got unlucky. But overall, we're happy to make it out alive on a crazy day and still be in the hunt tomorrow."

In the Laser, two-time Olympian Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) entered the day in 8th overall, poised to fight for a medal race berth during races 9 and 10. The previous day, Buckingham had orchestrated one of the best days of his sailing career, earning a 3, 2 to vault himself back up into the top 10. However, a treacherously light air day on the "Enoshima" course led to two races where many top Laser athletes found themselves deep in the pack. Unfortunately, Buckingham's 16, 23 scoreline on Friday left him in 13th overall, just shy of the medal race field, and ended his regatta.

Buckingham finished 11th in Rio 2016, but his progress in the famously deep Laser class during the Tokyo 2020 campaign was tangible. The 2019 Pan Am Games bronze medalist placed highly at several top-level events in 2020, including winning the Italian Olympic Class Championship, taking 6th at the 2020 Laser European Championship, and 4th at Kieler Woche. Nevertheless, Buckingham's 10-race series in Enoshima, half of which were impressive single-digit finishes, highlights the unforgiving nature of Olympic competition.

In the Women's 470, Nikole Barnes (St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.) and Lara Dallman-Weiss (Shoreview, Minn.) had the best day of any American team in action on Friday, recording scores of 6, 5 and moving up to 9th overall.

"Today felt like we got into our groove and it felt very familiar," said Dallman-Weiss. "It was really choppy, on the lighter side, and I was marginally trapeze-ing. We spent a lot of time working on similar condition over the past five years. It feels like it paid off." Barnes also credited their U.S. training partners for helping them excel today. "We've really struggled in light air and we learned a lot during the campaign from our US Sailing Team 470 teammates, [2-time Youth World Champions] Carmen and Emma Cowles. It was awesome that we were able to put that into practice."

In the Men's 470, Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.) finished 8, 8 in two races, which places them in 11th overall at the midpoint of their event. The veteran pair, who have competed at six Olympics between them, are 16 points from 3rd position in a notably deep field.

"Well, I'm proud of us for fighting hard whenever things haven't gone well," said McNay. "We had a couple of critical moments today where we passed a bunch of boats. That being said, we are failing to convert our good positions [mid race] to good finishes at this stage of the event, and we need to turn that around going forward. We've had some inconsistencies in boat speed, and that's where we'll put our focus, at least at this stage."

In the Laser Radial, Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) completed her final races of Tokyo 2020 and finished in 37th overall. Describing this regatta as one of the toughest moments of her career, the three-time Olympian, five-time world championship medalist and 2006 World Sailor of the Year said it would take time to fully process and evaluate why reaching the Olympic podium was out of reach this week.

"It's heartbreaking. I mean, I won't lie, I'm devastated, but this is how it goes sometimes," said Railey. "Honestly, I feel like it was just one of those weeks where nothing I did seemed to work out. I need to go decompress after this, and I feel like I'll have a lot of emotions coming up soon. My whole family's been really supportive. They know how hard this road's been for me with my health, and then to come here and not have things work out is pretty rough. I'm not going to beat myself up over it, and I'm going to go forward loving the sport."

US Sailing Team racing at Tokyo 2020 will continue on Saturday, July 31 with the RS:X medal race featuring board sailor Pedro Pascual (Miami, Fla.), who sits in 9th overall.

In the men's heavyweight Finn class, Luke Muller (Ft. Pierce, Fla.) resumes racing midway through his series, and is in 12th overall. In the Nacra 17, Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) have completed six of 12 races of their series, and stand in 10th overall.

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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