by Dana Paxton
This week US Sailing’s representatives on the Pan American Games Team head to Mexico to compete in the XVI Pan American Games. The sailing competition will be hosted at the Vallarta Yacht Club in Puerto Vallarta from Oct. 17-23, and will feature nine events, including four Olympic classes - Laser (Men), Laser Radial (Women) and RS:X (Men and Women) - and five non-Olympic, open classes - Hobie 16, J/24, Lightning, Snipe and Sunfish.
Clayton Johnson - USA (Laser)2009 Sail Melbourne regatta ISAF Sailing World Cup
Sailing is one of 36 sports to be contested from October 14-30 and the 16 U.S. sailors are members of Team USA, which currently consists of 627 athletes, including 346 men and 281 women. US Sailing’s members of the 2011 U.S. Pan American Games Team:
Four-time Olympian Paul Foerster (Heath, Texas) – Sunfish (Singlehanded Dinghy Open): One of the USA’s most decorated sailors of all time, four-time Olympian Paul Foerster is the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist (Men’s 470), 2000 Olympic Silver Medalist (Men’s 470) and 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist (Flying Dutchman). Since retiring from full-time Olympic campaigning, Foerster has continued to compete in regattas during his vacation time from work. In addition to his Olympic class success, Foerster won a bronze medal at the 2007 Pan American Games in the Sunfish and a gold medal at the 1995 Pan American Games in the J/24.
US Sailing’s 2004 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, Foerster was the winner of the Pan American Games - Sunfish Trials, held October 8-10, 2010 at the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club in Bay St Louis, Miss.
Clay Johnson (Toms River, N.J.) – Laser (Singlehanded Dinghy Men): Since 2007, Clay Johnson has pursued an Olympic campaign in the Laser. Upon graduating from Harvard University where he was a three-time All American, he went to the 2007 Olympic Trials and finished a respectable third place despite combining sailing with a full-time job. Shortly after the Trials, he devoted himself full-time in pursuit of an Olympic berth. Laser North American Champion Clay Johnson is ranked number eighteen on the ISAF world rankings and is a member of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics.
Clay Johnson: 'I came into this year with two goals in mind: to qualify for the Pan American Games and to qualify for the Olympics. I'm excited that I met one of my goals, and I'm looking forward to heading down to beautiful Puerto Vallarta to compete with the rest of the team. Representing the U.S. at the Pan Am Games will likely be one of the highlights of my sailing career. I'll get to live in an ‘athlete village,’ wear the team uniform, and be the only one racing with USA on my sail; it's a tremendous honor.'
Johnson is the 2011 Laser North American champion and he qualified for the Pan American Games as the top performing American in the Laser class at US Sailing’s 2011 Rolex Miami OCR.
Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) – Laser Radial (Singlehanded Dinghy Women): Paige Railey is no stranger to the fierce competition of the international Olympic Laser Radial class, and she is determined to defend her 2007 Pan American Games gold medal. After taking most of 2008 off to attend college, she jumped back into the Laser Radial, the singlehanded dinghy selected for the 2012 Games. She tried new techniques and took new risks, but also trusted her instincts when to hold back and sail consistently.
Since then, she has dominated the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup series, consistently finishing in third place overall for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons. US Sailing’s 2006 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, Railey is currently ranked number five on the ISAF world rankings and is a member of US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics.
Paige Railey: 'I have always said that I represent myself, family, sponsors, yacht club, federation and most importantly my country. To go to the Pan American Games defending my title is something I have been working toward this past year. I want the USA to hold onto the gold medal for another four years. At the Pan American Games I will represent my country to the upmost degree so when I return home they can be proud of me. I believe strongly in being an American and yes, we can bring some major game!'
Railey qualified for the Pan American Games as the top performing American in the Laser Radial class at US Sailing’s 2011 Rolex Miami OCR.
Bob Willis (Chicago, Ill.) – RS:X Men (Windsurfer Men): Chicago native Bob Willis learned to sail when he was 8-years-old at the Columbia Yacht Club (in downtown Chicago). During his years at Francis W. Parker High School he began to windsurf and shortly after graduation he qualified for the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics.
Bob Willis: 'I am very pleased to be representing the United States at the 2011 Pan American Games. I always consider my qualification for this event as somewhat of a turning point in my athletic career. This will be my first games event and it is truly an honor to be alongside some amazing athletes (sailors and others) at one of the most highly recognized sporting events in the Americas. The 2011 Pan American Games will be an ideal lead up event before I head to Australia, immediately after the event, to train and compete in the 2011 ISAF World Championships.'
Ranked number seventy-five on the ISAF world rankings, Willis qualified for the Pan American Games as the top performing American in the Men’s RS:X class at US Sailing’s 2011 Rolex Miami OCR.
Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.) – RS:X Women (Windsurfer Women): Farrah Hall counts as her most memorable moment the day that American windsurfing Olympic medalist Michael Gebhardt spoke to her at St. Mary’s College of Md. about the Olympics. Up until that point she didn’t know that windsurfing was an Olympic sport. From that moment on, she began her campaign to help continue the U.S.’s strength in the discipline.
Hall qualified for the Pan American Games as the top performing American in the Women’s RS:X class at US Sailing’s 2011 Rolex Miami OCR. A member of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, Hall is currently ranked number fifty-one on the ISAF world rankings.
Augie Diaz (Miami, Fla.) and Kathleen Tocke (Miami, Fla.) – Snipe (Doublehanded Dinghy Open):
Augie Diaz returns to the Pan American Games with a goal of improving on his fourth overall in 2007. With new crew Kathleen Tocke with whom he has won four Snipe national championships, Diaz is the 2003 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, a U.S. Snipe national champion and counts among his many achievements a Snipe world championship win.
Greg Thomas (San Diego, Calif.) and John Williams (Long Beach, Calif.) – Hobie 16 (Multihull Open): As the top-ranked Hobie 16 team in North America, Thomas and Williams both list impressive multihull results including winning the U.S. Multihull Championship (2009) and the F18 North Americans.
Greg Thomas: 'Having the chance to represent the USA at a large event such as this has always been a goal of mine. I’ve done two Olympic campaigns on the Tornado with the goal of going to the Olympics, but fell short in each of those ventures. Winning this event will now give John and me the opportunity to go to the Pan Am Games and see if we can come away with a medal.'
As the top scoring U.S. team at the 2011 Hobie North Americans, in Lake Mohave, Nev., Thomas and Williams secured the Pan Am Games Hobie 16 berth. Read an interview with Greg Thomas.
John Mollicone (Newport, R.I.), Geoffrey Becker (Arnold, Md.), Daniel Rabin (Boston, Mass.) and Paul Abdullah (Jacksonville, Fla.) – J/24 (Keelboat Open)
John Mollicone: 'The J/24 team of John Mollicone, Geoff Becker, Paul Abdullah and Dan Rabin could not be more excited to represent the United States at this year's Pan American Games. We worked really hard to qualify and have done a number of top J/24 events to prepare for the Games. We are really looking forward to getting to Mexico, and being a part of the U.S. team with great coaching and support. Our expectations are very high; we hope to stay in the hunt until the end and get on the podium.'
The team won the U.S. J/24 Pan Am Trials, held February 9-11, 2011 at the Davis Island Yacht Club, Tampa, Florida.
Jody Lutz (Brick, N.J.), Jay Lutz (Houston, Texas) and Derek Gauger (Ann Arbor, Mich.) – Lightning (Multi-crewed Dinghy Open): Jody Lutz: 'It’s always a thrill to be able to represent our country in a major event and this one takes specific importance as you are not only representing the country but also the Lightning Class. The Lightning Class and the people of the Class have been very good to us and we are lucky to have the Class represented in the Pan Am Games.'
The team won the US Lightning Pan Am Trials held October 24-26, 2010, at the Davis Island Yacht Club, Tampa, Florida. Read an interview with Jody Lutz.
Joining the team in Puerto Vallarta: Head Coach Leandro Spina (Miami, Fla.), Team Coach Greg Wilkinson (Rockport, Mass.) Team Manager Dave Johnson (Pawtucket, R.I.) and Team Physical Therapist/Athletic Trainer, Dr. Scott Weiss (New York, N.Y.).
The 16 athletes qualified for the US Sailing 2011 Pan American Games Team after winning a select regatta previously determined as a qualifying event for each class. US SAILING’s Olympic Sailing Committee then submitted its team to the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) for inclusion on the 2011 U.S. Pan American Games Team. Athletes must be U.S. citizens to qualify for the team, members of US Sailing and the classes in which they compete.
Since sailing was included in the Pan American Games in 1955, USA has won 72 medals in sailing: 33 gold, 23 silver and 16 bronze.
2011 Pan American Games website