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Olympic sailing news from Canada and the USA

by David Schmidt 27 Aug 08:00 PDT August 27, 2019
U.S. Men's 470, Stu McNay and Dave Hughes - Ready Steady Tokyo, day 4 © US Sailing

The final dog days of August are howling for fans of Olympic sailing as two critical regattas— Ready Steady Tokyo-Sailing (August 15-22), which served as the official test event before next summer's Tokyo 2020 Olympics (July 24-August 9, 2020), and the Hempel World Cup Series Enoshima (August 25-September 1)—took place (or are taking place) on the waters off of Enoshima, Japan in rapid-fire succession. Unfortunately, for fans of American- and Canadian-flagged Olympic sailing, Ready Steady Tokyo failed to deliver the kind of results that either team was hoping to achieve less than a year ahead of the next Olympic regatta.

As of this writing, no individual U.S.-flagged sailor has yet to qualify for early or middle selections, however the USA has now earned six (Laser, Laser Radial, Men's 470, Finn, 49erFX, Nacra 17) of ten country spots for the 2020 Games.

(To learn more about the U.S. selection process, point your browser at www.ussailing.org/olympics/selection/olympic-games/2020trials)

While there's still time on the clock before next summer's Olympics, it's fair to say that the available runway for improvement is also starting to grow uncomfortably short.

All told, the USA managed three top-ten finishes at Ready Steady Tokyo, with Stu McNay and David Hughes finishing in fourth place in the Men's 470, Erika Reineke finishing in eighth place in the Laser Radials, and Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea crossing the line in tenth place in the 49er FX.

Peering north of the border, Canadian Laser Radial sailor Sarah Douglas finished in seventh place, beating out Reineke by a two-point delta. This was Canada's only top-ten finish at this regatta, as Tom Ramshaw, sailing in the Finn class, finished in 17th place, and Ali Ten Hove and Mariah Millen, sailing in the 49er FX class, finished in 18th place to represent Canada's top-three regatta finishers.

These were clearly not the results that either of these teams wanted, but to be fair, conditions at Ready Steady Tokyo were hot (reports exist of teams employing air-conditioned containers to help their sailors cool-off, and the rules regarding the use of lifejackets were eased to help combat dangerously high core temperatures) and at times both super windy and frustratingly calm. But, also to be fair, this adversity affected all teams equally.

"I'm really sad to say that none of our athletes have achieved early or middle selection thus far, so that is disappointing," said Malcom Page, US Sailing's chief of Olympic sailing, in an exclusive Sail-World interview. "Statistically, those who win World Championship medals often have good chance at winning Olympic medal as well. Of the Rio 2016 Gold Medalists, 100 percent had won a World Championship medal as well. Seventy-three percent of the Silver and Bronze Medalists in Rio had one World Championship medals as well. Early selection supports people who consistently medal at big events."

Olympic class racing resumes with this week's Hempel World Cup Series Enoshima, where 19 sailors will be representing U.S. interests. Critically, this will be the last high-level Olympic-class regatta for several months, so all sailors understand the importance of a strong showing, especially on the heels of a disappointing Ready Steady Tokyo.

"Our next big event after this week is the Hempel World Cup Series Miami, in January," said U.S. Women's 470 skipper Atlantic Brugman, who is competing alongside her sister, Nora. "Until then, it's preseason training, so we're looking forward to continuing to train in a racing setting. We're also really excited to get another opportunity to sail at the Olympic venue to learn more and get more practice in racing scenarios here."

Sail-World wishes all competing athletes the best of luck at this week's Hempel World Cup Series Enoshima, and we have candles lit that the pendulum of Olympic fortunes will soon swing for these two great sailing nations.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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