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Team USA at Tokyo 2020 Olympics Day 8: US Nacra 17 qualifies for medal race

by US Sailing Team 1 Aug 14:15 BST July 25 - August 4, 2021
Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) - Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Day 8 © Sailing Energy / US Sailing

On day eight of racing off Enoshima, US Sailing Team athletes qualified for the Tokyo 2020 medal race in the Mixed Nacra 17 event and exited the regatta in the Men's Heavyweight Finn class.

Team USA also continued qualifying action in the Men's and Women's 470 events, where the fight for medal race berths will be the team's primary focus tomorrow.

In the mixed Nacra 17 foiling multihull, Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) entered their final day of full-fleet action in a close battle for medal race qualification. The first-time Olympians rose to the occasion and delivered scores of 13, 4, 5, punching their ticket into the final round. Gibbs and Weis are mathematically eliminated from medal contention, but getting into the medal race is a signifiant milestone for the team. They are currently in 9th overall, and could advance as high as seventh during Tuesday's double-points contest.

"Making the medal race here is really cool because we've made one other medal race at a big event, the Pan American Games," said Weis, who won gold at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games with Gibbs. "The whole fleet wasn't there [in Lima], so with the entire international fleet in attendance here, it's a big stepping stone for our team and it's nice that we can advance."

Gibbs added that a strength today was the early stages of each race. "Fortunately, we've been starting quite well, so that gave us options from beginning," said Gibbs. "This fleet is really, really good. You get punished for any little mistake, or for not sailing or executing something well. We made a couple of mistakes and had to do some turns today. But we were happy to get back into it and and capitalize on the second and third races. [Those scores] show that we are capable of battling it out at the top of the fleet. It was a really nice way to end the day."

Finn sailor Luke Muller (Ft. Pierce, Fla.) spent much of the week in the top-10 overall, and demonstrated daily that he had the speed, fitness and racing acumen to be fully competitive in the men's heavyweight event. Muller, who finished 6th overall at the 2021 Finn Gold Cup (world championship) rounded top-5 at various stages of most of the races this week. Nevertheless, scores of 12, 17 during the final two races of the qualifying series off Enoshima resulted in a 13th overall position in the Finn fleet, and the end of his event.

"I gave this event my all, I put my heart into it, and it's unfortunate that I didn't have great finishes, but I was definitely in the fight at the top for a lot of those races," said Muller. "The margins for error were super small and little mistakes had big consequences. I think everyone participating was at their best and giving their all. It's very humbling to be a part of such an amazing fleet of exceptional humans. I'm really proud of the work I've done and that my team has done and all the people around me. I didn't achieve my goals, but it wasn't a failure by any means."

For Team USA's Women's 470, it was a tale of two races on day eight. Nikole Barnes (St. Thomas, USVI) and Lara Dallman-Weiss (Shoreview, Minn.) rolled a 19 in the first race before bouncing back with a second. This was their best finish of the event to date, and the first-time Olympians now sit in 9th overall.

"It's all really hot and light [in terms of weather conditions], and it's very much about the first beat," said Dallman-Weiss. "In our first race today, we didn't happen to have the best first beat and we weren't able to come back after that. In the second race we had an "O flag" (a signal from the race commute to indicate that pumping the sails is allowed during racing] up the whole race. And I had a fire lit in me after the first race. In the second race, we worked really well together and it was a constant negotiation between working on height, speed, and being physical."

In the Men's 470, Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.) recorded a solid 7,9 today, which was also McNay's 40th birthday. McNay and Hughes, who finished 4th at Rio 2016, have sailed with consistency all week and have only recorded two scores of 10 points or greater. Nevertheless, in a mercilessly deep fleet, McNay and Hughes stand in 11th overall and 22 points from 3rd.

"Today it was complicated sailing, and at any moment where there seemed to be a roadmap, things would change," said McNay, a four-time Olympian. "It was a challenge to get one's bearings, but it was within our grasp to do so. It's a bit frustrating to not have walked away with finishes equal to our best positions in each race. There are multiple races left and we will fight with everything we have."

With the final two qualifying races scheduled for tomorrow, and potentially a medal race after that, opportunities for advancement remain for McNay and Hughes.

"The knife fight at the front of our fleet, in the mid-field, and even in the back is just awesome racing," said Hughes, who has reached the podium at major events with McNay over two dozen times since they teamed up in 2012. "Today Stu and I noted how this is such a rewarding and fun style of racing. But on the flip side, it is a game of inches. And there are times where you get rewarded for fantastic decisions and there are times where you get destroyed for fantastic decisions. It's hard in the moment to calibrate which decisions are really getting you up the coursshime when everyone is so close and battling at such a high level."

Completed Racing for Team USA:

  • Women's 49erFX - Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.) Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) - 11th Overall - Final Recap
  • Women's Laser Radial - Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) - 37th Overall, Final Recap
  • Men's Laser - Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) - 13th Overall - Final Recap
  • Women's RS:X - Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.) - 15th Overall - Final Recap
  • Men's RS:X - Pedro Pascual (Miami, Fla.) - 9th Overall, Final Recap
  • Men's Finn - Luke Muller (Ft. Pierce, Fla.) - 13th Overall

NBC Olympics Sailing Broadcast:

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.

More information at tokyo2020.sailing.org

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