For most sailors, teams are formed because personalities click - a synergy exists between personality types, skills, attitudes and ambitions. There’s hardly anything new about a team that forms in this organic manner. But when individual athletes are 'grafted' together in a selected, composite manner, however, things typically either go extremely well or extremely poorly.
Here at the 2012 London Olympics, the sailing world is being presented with a glimpse of a 'composite' team that’s proving to be seriously quick, despite the synthetic nature of the crew’s line-up. Australia’s Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty were selected to sail together in the Women’s Match Racing (WMR) event by the powers that be within the governing body of Australia’s sailing federation, and the results have been nothing shy of magnificent.
Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty match racing - Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships - Richard Langdon -Perth
While the team of young women are barely old enough to order a drink stronger than a Coca-Cola in my home country (Price is 20, Whitty is 21 and Curtis is the 'den mother' at 23), there’s no shortage of talent aboard their Elliott 6 Meter. The trio of 'Sheilas' (read: women in Aussie speak) currently remains undefeated after eight races, placing them solidly in first place. The Russian-flagged team of Ekaterina Skudina, Elena Siuzeva and Elana Oblova are currently sitting in second place, while the Spanish team of Tamara Echegoyen Dominguez, Sofia Toro Prieto Puga and Angela Pumariega Menendez are occupying third place.
'It was an awesome last race with the Australians,' said American Anna Tunnicliffe, the 2011 ISAF World Champion skipper in the WMR event, after Tuesday’s racing. 'It came down to a half-a-foot difference. The close racing is making it fun… In the next couple of days we will start seeing who the leaders are.' Currently, Tunnicliffe, Debbie Capozzi and Molly Vandemoer are in fourth place.
Tunnicliffe’s words rang clearer after today’s racing. First up, Price, Curtis and Whitty faced the Swedish team of Anna Kjellberg, Malin Kallstrom and Lotta Harrysson, resulting in a win for the ladies from Down Under. Next, the Aussies faced the Dutch team of Renee Groeneveld, Annemieke Bes and Marcelien Bos-de Koning. Again, the Australians took the bullet to maintain their perfect picket fence. It looks something like this: 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1.
While some 'composite' teams might struggle to get along and to excel, it’s more than fair to say that the Australian WMR sailors do not suffer from this ailment. Still, given the long and extensive nature of the WMR event, it will be really interesting to see if they are able to maintain this impressive picket fence as the regatta continues.
Racing resumes tomorrow in the WMR class, with Price and company set to face the Spanish- and the Danish-flagged teams. The WMR medal race is scheduled for August 11 (the last sailing medal race of this Olympic Games), so please stay tuned to www.sail-wold.com for more information, as it becomes known.
Quotes from Australia’s Women’s Match Racers:
Nina Price, on the final downwind against the Swedes: We rounded the top mark in a nice big hole but managed to get her on the downwind which was good. We caught a couple of lengths with speed but then Lucinda picked a strong good shift on the boat end with a bit of bias and it got us over the line.
Olivia Price, on the race against the Netherlands: We’ve done quite a bit of training against the Dutch and we knew it was going to be a tough race, we knew we had to keep making decisions, we took each puff as it came and tried to consolidate on what we had. There were a couple of penalties throughout it, one for a port-starboard incident and then one for a windward-leeward incident where she received both and then on the downwind she received another penalty when she was behind for pumping. We were expecting a fun and interesting race against them, it’s always really tight racing.
by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor
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4:08 PM Wed 1 Aug 2012GMT
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