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US Sailing Team at the 49er, 49er FX & Nacra 17 2020 World Championships - Day 3

by Brittney Manning 12 Feb 06:55 PST
Women's 49erFX Fleet at the 2020 World Championships © Jesus Renedo / Sailing Energy

Melbourne continues to greet the 2020 Olympic class World Championship competitors with a wide array of conditions. Today's races featured everything from rain and low visibility to clear skies and sunshine.

The most consistent thing on the water was the breeze, and even that swung through 20-degree shifts in the morning races. In the face of Melbourne's consistently inconsistent weather, the US Sailing Team has found success in simplifying the approach and focusing on what each athlete can control.

The first fleet to hit the water was the Men's 49ers. Racing in what remained of the morning's less stable breeze, several U.S. athletes continued to demonstrate their ability to fight at the front of the pack.

Andrew Mollerus (Larchmont, N.Y.) and Ian MacDiarmid (Delray Beach, Fla.) continue to lead the Americans in the Men's 49er fleet. The pair have been performing incredibly consistently this week. They have finished all but two races outside the top five and both of those results were still in the top ten. The duo will begin the final series ranked in seventh overall.

Similarly, Ian Barrows (Miami, Fla.) and Mitchell Kiss (Holland, Mich.) finished all three of today's races in the top ten. Their solid performance allowed them to move up 14 positions into 15th place.

"The guys played a very low-risk day, apart from one gybe set that got my heart rate up," said their coach Mark Asquith (GBR). "They knew they had to go out and execute today and that was all going to begin with being on top of what the breeze was trying to do and getting away from the start on the lifted tack. From there, they focused on looking for easy lanes that would give them a chance to keep the boat rumbling with a bit of space and the rest of the race would sort itself out."

It seems the simplified approach is working for several of the U.S. 49er athletes. Asquith is "very proud of the whole U.S. squad." He has plenty to be pleased with, as four of the five American 49ers will race the remainder of the event in gold fleet and each of the pairs has finished multiple races in the top 10.

Later in the day, as the rain cleared out, the athletes and coaches were surprised by some glamour conditions on Port Phillip. The southerly breeze became more consistent as velocity built from the low teens to 18-19 knots by the end of the day.

49erFX athletes Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) and Anna Tobias (Pittsburgh, Penn.) welcomed the afternoon's breezy conditions and excelled. The pair delivered solid boat handling and smart tactical decisions to move up to seventh overall, one position ahead of fellow US Sailing Team athletes Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wisc.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.).

Henken and Tobais' coach, Willie McBride (Santa Barbara, Calif.) isn't surprised that the pair took well to the breeze. "We've changed the tuning on the boat a lot since we've been here to optimize the speed in the flat water, and the girls have been a rocket ship all month," he said.

"With less seaweed on the course today, Paris and Anna were able to really let the ponies out. Our training for the last year has really been focused on refining the fundamentals, and today was all about getting the details right: mainsheet, tacks, gybes - even at this level, it's about solid foundations. Right now we're in regatta mode, just taking things one race at a time and trying to laugh a lot."

The team's focus on the basics seems to have worked. Henken and Tobias won two of the three races today. With big breeze looking like it could be on the menu for tomorrow, they're excited to build on what they have already learned about this new flat water tuning to see if they can be even faster tomorrow.

The Nacra fleet also had the fortunate circumstance of racing later in the afternoon, largely in the steadier seabreeze. Rather than tackling the morning's oscillating shifts, good starts with solid speed proved to be successful when athletes stuck to playing a side.

"Reading the course was a bit more straightforward today," said Sally Barkow, US Sailing's Olympic performance Manager and Coach. "There's no hope in tacking up the middle, trying to be the hero. That doesn't pay. You have to make it work on an edge and if you are winning a side, you're probably faster than everyone else over there, so it's a bit like drag racing."

The American Nacra competitors had an easier time working with this trend as the day went on. Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) particularly progressed throughout the day. The pair finished the three races in 21st, 13th and third, and now lead the American competitors, standing in 15th overall.

"You want to go out, nail it and keep nailing it, but we saw progress as the day went on," Barkow continued. "Riley and Anna for sure found their legs in the pressure. Sarah [Newberry] and David [Liebenberg] did a good job keeping it simple, but one or two slow leaking losses put them back a bit. Ravi [Parent] and Caroline [Atwood] also did a good job improving throughout the day, they were U flagged in the last race, but rounded the top mark in 15th and hung on from there."

Progression was also the name of the game for US Sailing Team Men's Laser athlete, Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.). At the start of his first race, Buckingham got off the line in a less than desirable position and as a result, had a tough first beat to the windward mark.

However, he was able to climb back to 17th and regroup with his coach Mark Ivey (San Francisco, Calif.), before finishing the second race in third place.

"He sailed a brilliant second race with the best guys near him around the whole course," said Ivey. Buckingham had a similar pattern yesterday and continues to demonstrate his mental resilience at a major international event. "We're just trying to keep positive and keep him able to focus on that and let go of all negativity, just keep grinding. There are still four long days ahead, so we're approaching it with the mentality of not getting too high or too low."

Also representing the U.S. on the other side of the bay are Men's Laser athletes Chris Barnard (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Leo Boucher (West River, Md.). Barnard finished today's first race in the top five and held his overall position of 27th. Boucher is currently 105th.

Tomorrow, racing begins at the 2020 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships in Geelong at 10:55 a.m., local time. In Sandringham, the 2020 Laser World Championships will start again at 2:00 p.m., local time. Tomorrow, the worlds in Geelong will also be broadcast live. Streaming is available here.

US Results after Day 3:

49er - view full results

  • Andrew Mollerus and Ian MacDiarmid, 7th
  • Ian Barrows and Mitchell Kiss, 15th
  • Harry Melges IV and Finn Rowe, 17th
  • Nevin Snow and Dane Wilson, 24th
  • Judge Ryan and Hans Henken, 37th
49erFX - view full results
  • Paris Henken and Anna Tobias, 7th
  • Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea, 8th
Nacra 17 - view full results
  • Riley Gibbs and Anna Weis, 15th
  • Sarah Newberry and David Liebenberg, 17th
  • Ravi Parent and Caroline Atwood, 27th
Laser - view full results
  • Charlie Buckingham, 18th
  • Chris Barnard, 27th
  • Leo Boucher, 105th

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