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Three American Olympic reps determined, SailGP news, RORC's Caribbean 600

by David Schmidt 3 Mar 2020 08:00 PST March 3, 2020
Paige Railey at the 2020 ILCA Women's Laser Radial World Championships © Jon West Photography

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics may still feel like a long way over the horizon, but for the athletes that are seeking to represent their country's colors at this once-a-quadrennial event, these are critical days. For U.S. sailors, three important qualifications recently unfurled at the 2020 Laser Radial World Championships (February 21-28) and the 2020 RS:X World Championships (February 23-29), both of which took place on the waters off of Melbourne, Australia. In addition to serving as important training and speed benchmarks going into this summer's Games, these events also solidified the USA's Laser Radial representative, as well as the country's Men's and Women's RS:X reps.

Four American women competed at the Laser Radial Worlds, but after ten races Paige Railey (32) secured 14th overall, beating out Erika Reineke (26th place), Charlotte Rose (36th place) and Hanne Weaver (77th place) to earn a berth to the 2020 Games. Railey's results included five top-ten finishes, including ninth place in the regatta's final test; her best result was a fourth place in the regatta's second race.

"It has been a hell of a road to get here," said Railey in an official US Sailing communication following her successful qualification. "I've been working really hard over the last five months after I pretty much started from rock bottom with my body because of health issues," she continued. "I knew coming into this event that Australia was going to be windy and it turned out to also be really shifty. So, going into our trials sitting in second place and expecting conditions that I wasn't necessarily 100 percent ready for was definitely stressful."

Interestingly, the 2020 Games represent a unique approach for U.S. Laser Radial sailors, who worked as a team to help all sailors improve while also helping to cement the fastest sailor's path to the Olympics. "Historically, a team approach hasn't been the case in a lot of classes in the U.S., but we've really tried to make that a feature of the Radial team," said Steve Mitchell (GBR) who serves as the US Sailing Team Laser Radial coach, in the same official team communication. "Paige, Erika, and Charlotte have come such a long way in the last while and they've all had really great results at international events. They can all be really proud of what they've done."

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics (July 24-August 9) will be Railey's third Olympic Games. To date, her best Olympic performance was a sixth-place finish at the London 2012 Olympics.

Meanwhile, at the RS:X Worlds, Farrah Hall and Pedro Pascual both earned their qualification to this summer's Games despite posting rather disappointing results in their respective Worlds.

Hall (38) was the sole American woman competing at the 2020 Women's RS:X Worlds and her final result - 35th out of 46 sailors - shows that while she will be going to the Games, she has a lot of work left to do in a short amount of time if she hopes to be competitive on the waters off of Enoshima, Japan, this summer.

"I'm really happy I have stayed in it for so long and keep fighting," said Hall in an official team communication. "Sometimes I surprise myself when I think about how long I've been dedicated to this. In that respect, I'm proud of myself. I've sacrificed a lot of certainty and stability to pursue this goal, but the tradeoff has been worth it."

Hall made her Olympic debut at the London 2012 Olympics, where she finished in 20th place. This summer's Games will be her second time representing the USA at the Olympics.

Pascual finished the 2020 Men's RS:X Worlds in 33rd place out of 35 sailors, beating out his fellow countryman Geronimo Nores by five points and a single position on the results sheet amongst Gold fleet sailors. Like Hall, Pascual didn't qualify for the event's Medal Race fleet, but his performance was good enough to solidify his ticket to this summer's Games.

"I don't know what to feel, I haven't really swallowed it yet," said Pascual in a team communication. "I still can't believe I'm going to my second Olympics. I was 20-years-old in Rio, the youngest on the US Sailing Team. I really didn't know what to expect and found it to be overwhelming - exciting to the point that I didn't know how to control those feelings. So now that I know what to expect, I know how to handle the pressure and nerves."

Pascual finished in 28th place at the Rio 2016 Olympics out of a field of 36 Men's RS:X sailors. Like Hall, he is now facing a steep uphill climb in a short amount of time if he hopes to hear the Star Spangled Banner played at this summer's awards ceremony for the Men's RS:X class.

Sail-World wishes all of these athletes good luck as they prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and we certainly hope that the now widely circulating COVID-19 virus will not disrupt this year's Games (but stay tuned for more updates on this, as they become known).

Meanwhile, in high-performance multihull news, Sir Ben Ainslie and his Great Britain SailGP Team took top honors on the waters off of Sydney, Australia in the first regatta of SailGP's second season of racing ultra-high-performance F50 catamarans. Australia SailGP Team took second place while Japan SailGP Team secured third place; American interests were represented by skipper Rome Kirby and his United States SailGP Team, which took fifth place in this seven-boat regatta.

Impressively, Great Britain SailGP tagged 49.1 knots of boatspeed at this regatta to deliver the fastest speed run of the event, in addition to collecting four fleet-racing bullets and winning the match-racing final against skipper Tom Slingsby's Australia SailGP Team.

The next SailGP event is slated for May 2-3, 2020, and will take place on the waters off of San Francisco - a place that's well-known to Ainslie, Slingsby and Kirby, who successfully defended the 34th America's Cup on those same waters in 2013 as part of Oracle Team USA's stunning juggernaut win.

Finally, in offshore-sailing news, Tilmar Hansen and his crew aboard his TP52 Outsider earned top IRC honors in the RORC's annual Caribbean 600 (February 21-28), to win the Caribbean 600 Trophy.

"This is a great race, one of the greatest experiences in my 38 years with this team," said Hansen in an official race communication. "We kept going and that is down to excellent teamwork and a well-prepared boat. Outsider is not just a German boat, the team is also from Australia, Denmark, USA, Poland, Netherlands and Austria. Congratulations to the RORC for their meticulous organization and also to Antigua for the fantastic welcome."

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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