USA Clinches Radial Medal Race Berth, Shines In 49erFX
Day 6 Report from Rio 2016.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Sunshine and a consistent easterly breeze descended on Rio de Janeiro Saturday, and gave over three hundred Olympic sailors superb racing conditions on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games sailing competition. Saturday saw the final full-fleet races in the Laser and Laser Radial classes, and dramatic finishes for Team USA sailors competing in both fleets. After six days of racing, the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team is in the top ten in five of ten classes.
Laser Radial sailor Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) entered Saturday's racing with a battle on her hands for a medal race berth, and the result came down to the final leg of Race 10. Heading into that race, Railey needed to make up at least 12 points and pass the three boats immediately ahead of her in the overall standings. This was a tall order, but Railey's deep experience gave her a considerable boost. Opting for a conservative mid-line start, Railey calmly identified beneficial wind shifts, leaned on her superb downwind speed, and finished 4th. After all the points were tallied, Railey had improved from 14th to 10th, and earned a place in the medal race.
Pictured: Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) submitted a clutch 4th place in Race 10 in the Laser Radial.
"It's a shock," said Railey, who explained that after three consecutive tough races on Friday and Saturday, hope for a medal race appearance seemed nearly lost. While Railey has been mathematically eliminated from medal contention, the five-time World Championship medalist said she would compete as hard as possible in Monday's final contest, in the spirit of the Olympic Games. "I'm happy for the team, and my coach, and that the American flag will be in the medal race. I probably have the least pressure on me of anybody [who qualified]. I'm going to go out there and see if I can climb a few places."
Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) submitted two excellent scores in the Men's Laser fleet on Saturday, with a 10, 6, the latter race being his best of the regatta. However, the two-time College Sailor of the Year for Georgetown University and Laser North American Champion finished Race 10 tied on points for 10th place overall with Dutch athlete Rutger van Schaardenburg, and Buckingham came out on the wrong side of the tiebreaker scoring system. By finishing 11th, Buckingham will miss the medal race, which is reserved for the top ten sailors overall. "I didn't start great in [either] of the races, but felt like I sailed pretty well and put up good scores," said Buckingham. "I did what I could, and it turned out I was close making the medal race."
"The level in the Laser class is unbelievably high," continued Buckingham. "It was fun mixing it up with some of the best sailors in the world. I think there are just so many guys fighting at the top of the leaderboard that you had to take opportunities to have good races [when they appeared]. I think that early in the regatta, I missed a couple of opportunities that would have been valuable points, but towards the end of the week I did a better job of having more consistent top finishes." Buckingham said that his first career U.S. Olympic Team appearance was a positive experience overall. "I was proud to represent Team USA, and be out there flying the American flag. I ended on a good note, and I'm looking forward to cheering on my team for the rest of the week."
Caleb Paine (San Diego, Calif.) finished 17, 7 on Saturday in the Finn class, and also successfully overturned his Race 6 disqualification in a re-hearing of an earlier protest. Paine submitted new evidence, and the jury decision was reversed. The 2012 Sailing World Cup Series Champion now sits in 7th overall, and is once again in position to battle the current regatta leaders.
Pictured: Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) and Helena Scutt (Kirkland, Wash.), had a scoreline of 14, 5, 1, 4 in the 49erFX.
Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) and Helena Scutt (Kirkland, Wash.) had a standout day in the high-performance 49erFX Women's Skiff, with scores of 14, 5, 1, 4 over four races. "We wanted to be in the top ten after today, and we hope to just keep moving up from here," said Henken. Greatly aiding in that effort was a win in Race 5, which was broadcast live on NBC Olympics. "We had a pretty good start, and had good boatspeed," said Henken. "We were punched out from the start [of the race], and from there it was pretty simple." Henken and Scutt are now in 9th overall.
Nacra 17 sailors Bora Gulari (Detroit, Mich.) and Louisa Chafee also enjoyed their best day yet at Rio 2016, securing three single-digit scores of 9, 2, 8 to move up to 12th, and within just one point of 10th and medal race position. "We had really good starts, and I'd say that in general our speed was on par with the top teams," said Chafee. "Today we had some stronger breeze, over 15 knots, which has not been our strongest condition in the past. It was exciting to see a situation where in the past we struggled become something where we excelled."
Men's 49er sailors Thomas Barrows (St. Thomas, U.S.V.I) and Joe Morris (Annapolis, Md.) had a breakthrough in Race 5, where they crossed the finish line in 4th. However, the pair was disqualified in that race due to a protest by the Swiss team stemming from a right-of-way rules dispute. Nevertheless, Barrows and Morris improved their overall position by virtue of their 14, 11 scores in the other two races. The collegiate and Olympic-class teammates are now in 19th overall.
Racing will continue on Saturday, August 14, as 470 athletes Annie Haeger (East Troy, Wisc.), Briana Provancha (San Diego, Calif.), Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.) will return to action after a reserve day. The two American 470's are fighting in the top ten, with five more races scheduled for each class before the medal race. Marion Lepert (Belmont, Calif.) and Pedro Pascual (West Palm Beach, Fla.) have concluded racing in the Men's and Women's RS:X classes.