Big Breeze a Challenging, But Necessary, Test for Two-Time Olympian Railey
After 18 months away from a physically demanding sailboat such as the Laser Radial, a windy day like Day 3 of the 2018 World Cup Series Miami, USA, can be a rude awakening. But if two-time Olympian Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) is going to get back into world-class sailing shape in time to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, there’s no time to waste.
“I haven’t sailed since the [Rio Olympic] Games, and coming into this event we’re extremely underweight and obviously not in the best of shape,” she said. “So, what [a windy day] does for the long term goal is that it really shows you how hard you can push yourself. It also forces you to be really good with all of your boat handling. I think events like this, too, when they’re windy day after day, it’s good mentally. The Games is always a tough mental event. If you can start early on in the quad where you start pushing yourself mentally, I think it’s good training for the big events.”
Railey’s first day back was workmanlike, two 10ths and a 13th. Today was less successful with a mid-fleet finish and a black-flag disqualification for being over the starting line early. She’s 15th overall, but within striking distance of the top 10, and Sunday’s Medal Race. Emma Plasschaert (BEL) is walking away with the competition. Her 20-point total is 22 points less than Manami Doi (JPN) who is second. But Plasschaert has a large number for her throwout, which means this regatta just one mistake from being completely wide open again.
With more than a decade of campaign experience under her belt, Railey is pragmatic about the path to her third Olympic team. The key to campaigning as a veteran is to be as efficient as possible with your time and energy. That means embracing whatever conditions come her way.
“I have a bucket list [of things to work on this event],” she said. “But honestly it’s getting off the line, and since it’s so windy—and I’m sitting under 135 pounds—it’s really getting off the start and then just focusing on trying to hike as hard as I can. I’m literally in the phase right now where I’m just trying to get my legs and everything back which is obviously brutal, but whatever, it’s life.”
While many might find that level of physical exertion unappetizing, for Railey it’s a welcome change after a year and a half in the business world.
“There’s nothing like going out and physically pushing yourself,” she said. “You know, you go to the brink of ‘I don’t even know if I can continue doing this.’ It starts turning into mind over matter. In the working world, a lot of it’s just mental, mental, mental, and then you’re lacking the physical exertion. What’s fun for me is being out on the water and actually feeling the fatigue. People would say that’s crazy, but I actually like to be able to push myself physically.”
Railey is the top-placed American in the fleet by a 18-points. But with the strong winds expected to continue through the weekend, a good result will require her to push herself back into the pain cave time and time again. And while rising stars Erika Reineke, Haddon Hughes and Christina Sakellaris, among others, are not having great regattas, each has shown the potential to place in this very competitive fleet. The race for the U.S. Laser Radial berth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has only just begun.
It was a wild and wooly day for the 49er fleet with a number of teams not finishing or even not starting races. Day 2 leaders Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stuart Bithell (GBR) kept themselves in the pole position with a solid day, including a win and a third. In second and third, after nine races, are a pair of Spanish teams, Diego Botín le Chever and Iago López Marra (ESP) and brothers Federico and Arturo Alonso Tellechea (ESP).
Judge Ryan (San Diego, Calif.) continued his consistent sailing with fill-in crew Alain Sighn (GBR). They are eighth in the overall standings. The full-fleet portion of the regatta will wrap up tomorrow with three more races, with the top 10 moving on to Saturday’s Medal Race.
“Today, we had some pretty epic breeze on the 49er course, about 18 to 20 knots with some gusts in the 23 range,” said Ryan (at right). “The goal of the day, and actually the goal of our regatta, has been to just try and keep getting around the top mark in the top 15 and pick away from there. Sort of our scoreline reflects that from today. It wasn’t really a superb day, but we did what we needed to do and actually, because of our consistency, we moved up a spot. That’s always pretty rewarding on the big breeze days.”
Capsizes were plentiful today and Ryan noted that they can have a lasting impact.
“As our coach says, ‘You’ve got to use the K.I.S.S approach. Keep it simple, stupid,’” Ryan said. “Basically, minimize maneuvers, don’t capsize, and make your life easy. On a four-race day, if you have a few capsizes, your energy gets zapped. It just gets worse and worse, and obviously your performance suffers.”
With nine full-fleet races in the books, and just three remaining, for the Nacra 17 class at the 2018 World Cup Series Miami, USA, this much is clear: anyone hoping for a place on the podium in this coed class is going to have to knock a defending Olympic medalist down a peg. Five of the six sailors that won medals in the 2016 Rio Olympics are sailing in the class this week, and showing little willingness to share the wealth, so to speak.
Rio 2016 silver medalists Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) have done their homework when it comes to the lifting foils that were introduced to the class less than a year ago. Whether in near-drifting conditions on Day 1 and Day 2 or the full-on breeze of Day 3, they have been extremely hard to beat, winning five races and posting just one finish outside the top four.
“Today was great, quite fresh, which is tricky on a foiling boat,” said Waterhouse. “We scored a three, two, one but we threw away a few points in the first race due an equipment malfunction, which was quite disappointing.”
With a 17-point lead, Waterhouse and Darmanin have a few points to burn. And, he added, there is an upside to the malfunction.
“We are trialing a lot of new systems and we had an issue where something got caught and we couldn’t get the spinnaker up,” he said. “We are actually pleased that happened because we can learn from it. Imagine if that happened at the World Championships or the Olympics.”
The reigning gold medalists in the class, Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG) are second, though they have nearly matched the Australian team over the last five races. The bronze medal skipper from 2016, Thomas Zajac (AUT) is sailing with a new crew in this Olympic cycle, Barbara Matz (AUT).
The top three American teams are grouped within six points of one another, between ninth and 11th place. Bora Gulari (Detroit, Mich.) and Helena Scutt (Kirkland, Wash.) (at left) lead the trio, with Ravi Parent and Christina Persson in 10th and Sarah Newberry and David Liebenberg in 11th. All three teams are new partnerships for this Olympic cycle and face the double challenge of learning a new boat and meshing with a new teammate.
Giles Scott (GBR) and Caleb Paine (San Diego, Calif.), both whom who won medals in the Finn class in the Rio 2016 Olympics, are in familiar territory after six races, with Paine in third and Scott tied on points for the lead with Alican Kaynar (TUR). The top 10 is tightly packed, however, with 13 points separating fourth from 10th, which should make for an exciting conclusion to the full-fleet portion of the regatta.
For a team that had not sailed together for five-plus years before reuniting during the lead-up to this regatta, Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Graham Biehl (San Francisco, Calif.) have shown a remarkable ability to pick up where they left off. A sixth and a ninth today, in the sort of punchy conditions that would expose any rust or lack of cohesion, puts them in sixth place overall, with four races remaining before Sunday’s Medal Race. Getting onto the podium, which is currently occupied by Luke Patience and Chris Grube (GBR) in first with 16 points, Kevin Peponnet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) in second with 22 points, and Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergström (SWE) in third with 26 points, will likely require some help. But getting as high as fourth is very realistic for the American team. Young guns Wiley Rogers and Jack Parkin, who won the 2016 Youth World Championships in the International 420, are 26th.
Afrodite Zeggers and Anneloes Van Veen (NED) showed their skill in the wind and waves today, scoring a first and a second in two races in the Women’s 470 division. That moved them up to second place. Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshikoa (JPN) hung on to the overall lead despite a 17th in today’s final race. But the margin between first and sixth is just 10 points, with four full-fleet races remaining before Sunday’s Medal Race. Atlantic and Nora Brugman (Miami, Fla.) are the top-ranked American team in 24th.
The dramatic shift in the wind conditions, from 6 to 8 knots for races 1 through 4 of the RS:X Women’s regatta to 18 to 25 knots for races 4 through 8, did a number on the results. Noga Geller (ISR) who was so dominant in the light air, struggled to break into the top 20 in the breeze and dropped from first to sixth. Hélène Noesmoen (FRA) on the other hand, sparkled in the fresh breeze, picking up two firsts and a third and vaulting up to fourth place. Consistency across a range of conditions is the key to long-term success and Stefania Elfutina (RUS) showed today that she can handle high winds almost as well as the lightest edges of the wind window. She leads the regatta with 33 points. Blanca Mancon (ESP) is second. Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.), is 25th.
After a tough start to the regatta, Louis Giard (FRA) has been nearly unbeatable, with two first and two thirds in his last four races in the Men’s RS:X division. With no one else in the fleet able to match that level of consistency, Giard has staked himself to a 12-point lead after six races. Teammate Pierre Le Coq (FRA), the bronze medalist in the class from the Rio 2016 Olympics is second with Kiran Badloe (NED) in third. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the regatta has been the performance of double gold medalist Dorian Van Rijsselberghe, who is returning to competition after a long layoff. He’s in 10th place, with just one single-digit result to this point in the regatta. The class has just three full-fleet races remaining before Saturday’s Medal Race. 2016 Rio Olympian Pedro Pascual (West Palm Beach, Fla.) struggled in today’s windy conditions and dropped to 35th overall.
For the Women’s 49erFX fleet, which didn’t start a race until 2:40 p.m., the conditions proved to be too much for most of the 21-boat fleet. Many of those who survived the windward mark found turning back upwind to be too great of a challenge and only seven boats finished the race, after which the race committee sent them in for the day. Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz (GER) extended their win streak to four races and pushed their lead to 10 points over Ragna and Maia Agerup (NOR) who are in turn 10 points ahead of Tanja Frank and Lorena Abicht (AUT). No American teams finished the race. Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) are the best-placed U.S. team in ninth place in the overall standings while Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) and Anna Tunnicliffe Tobias (Pittsburgh, Pa.) are 13th in their first regatta together.
In the 70-boat Laser fleet, anything in the top 10 is a very good result. String together a few of them and you could well find yourself in the lead. That;s been Tom Burton’s (AUS) experience so far in this regatta. He’s had one bad race, and five no worse than seventh, and is currently leading by 10 points from Philipp Buhl (GER). Nick Thompson (GBR) is third, three points further back. 2016 Rio Olympian Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) hasn’t been able to replicate his first race, a second, but he’s sailed well enough to be inside the top 10 with four races to go before the fleet is thinned out for the Medal Race. Given how quickly points can add up in this fleet, Christopher Barnard, currently 17th, is within striking distance of the top 10. Erik Bowers (at right) is 58th.