Paine Is Back in the Saddle and Loving It
The first regatta of Caleb Paine’s push for a gold medal in the Finn class at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics got off to a fairly pedestrian start. And he’s just fine with that. After taking all of 2017 off, and then not sailing on Day 1 of the 2018 World Series Cup Miami, USA due to light winds, Paine (San Diego, Calif.) was tickled to be back on the water and back on the Olympic campaign trail.
“It’s great [to be campaigning again],” said Paine (right), who won a bronze medal in the Finn in the 2016 Rio Olympics. “I have Luke Muller (Ft. Pierce, Fla.) here and we have a great program, and not being by myself is quite a great thing. We’re making great progress when we sail together and I’m just looking forward to sailing. It’s an awesome sport, I’m honored and blessed to do it, and look forward to doing it a little bit more.”
Paine walked away from the first three races of his first major Finn regatta in more than a year with a third, a fifth and a seventh, leaving him sixth, of 26, in the overall standings, but just four points off the lead. Muller worked in the opposite direction, starting with a 20th and a 19th before closing the day with a 10th. But there’s plenty of racing left over the next three days before Sunday’s Medal Race for the top 10 in the overall standings. Ioannis Matikis (GRE) is the overall leader with Alican Kaynar (TUR) in second.
“It was a very tricky day of sailing,” said Paine. “It was oscillating back and forth and had different pressure differences. The downwinds were quite tough as well, just trying to stay in the pressure, which was fairly difficult to see. I had some pretty mediocre starts but was able to adjust through the shifts to get back into the race and had an okay day. [For tomorrow], just kind of cleaning up my racing and not making stupid mistakes around the race course. Focusing more on getting off the line for sure would help out my sailing.”
In contrast to Paine’s ability to jump back into the sharp end of the Finn fleet, the Olympic campaign treadmill generally doesn’t look too favorably on extended breaks. The pace of development—in the gear, the technique and the fitness—is unrelenting. So when American 470 crew David Hughes (Miami, Fla.) went down with an injury last fall, skipper and three-time Olympian Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) immediately started looking how to turn this unfortunate situation into a positive. The solution was to pull in a familiar face.
“Dave got injured, and we were brainstorming ways to push the ball forward for our program this month,” said McNay. “When discussion of me possibly sailing and Dave in a coach boat came up, it was really a no brainer who the first choice was, and that was Graham Biehl (San Francisco, Calif).”
McNay and Biehl (at left, USA 1) sailed together in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
“It’s super fun to be back in the boat,” said Biehl. “I haven’t set foot in a 470 for five and a half years. And it’s great to be back in the boat with Stu. You know, things are right back from what I remember. It’s really nice to still be competitive and still racing against the best in the world in the Olympic fleet. The fleet is really close racing and it’s just so much fun to sail the boats. They’re so dynamic, and that’s what makes them so great.”
After four races, McNay and Biehl are ninth, which is a bit below McNay’s recent standard. He and Hughes won this event in 2013, 2016 and 2017. McNay and Biehl were fourth in 2012. But the success of each regatta on the campaign isn’t always measured on the scoreboard. The primary goal for McNay and Hughes is to carry forward important lessons from this event, regardless of the final result.
Naoki Ichino and Hasegawa Takashi (JPN) are winning the Men’s 470 class, with Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergström (SWE) in second.
The Women’s RS:X fleet got in three races today to add to the one it completed yesterday in very light wind. Israel’s Noga Geller won all three and has a five-point lead over Stefania Elfutina (RUS). Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.), who sailed in the 2012 Olympics, is the top American, siting 18th.
The Men’s RS:X was the final fleet to start its first race of the regatta, doing so around 1:45 p.m. on Day 2 of the regatta. Matteo Sanz Lanz (SUI) won that race, and the next one for good measure. He leads the regatta by two points over Pawel Tarnoski (POL). 2016 Olympian Pedro Pascual (West Palm Beach, Fla.) is 29th and the best-placed of four Americans in the field.
As a team the U.S. contingent in the Nacra 17 class had a solid day and now has three teams in the top 10 of the 19-boat class. Bora Gulari and Helena Scutt lead the way in sixth, with 34 points. Ravi Parent and Christina Persson are a point behind in seventh and Riley Gibbs and Louisa Chaffee are ninth. Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) blitzed the fleet today, winning all three races to build a 9-point lead over John Gimson and Anna Burnet (GBR). Reigning gold medalists Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG) has a much better Day 2 of the regatta and moved up to fourth. With the Nacra 17 fleet less than a year into the transition to the lifting foils, this class, as a whole, is on a steep learning curve.
Tom Burton (AUS) shows no signs of losing any of the speed that earning him a gold medal in the Laser class in the Rio 2016 Olympics. He’s currenly the only sailor in the 70-boat fleet with three single-digit finishes, after four races. Burton has a four-point lead over two-time world champion Nick Thompson (GBR). Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) is eighth while Christopher Barnard is 12th and rising star Henry Marshall is 18th.
A fourth and three firsts has put Victoria Jurczok and Anika Lorenz (GER) into the lead in the 49erFX class. Sisters Ragna and Maia Agerup (NOR) are second, sixth points behind. The top two U.S. teams are closely grouped in 10th and 11th, with Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) three points ahead of 2016 Olympian Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) and 2008 Olympic gold medalists Anna Tunnicliffe Tobias (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who are sailing their first regatta together.
Day 1 leaders in the 49er class, Sime and Mihovil Fantela (CRO) have maintained their overall lead after six races, despite getting tagged with a Black Flag Disqualification in Race 6 for being over the starting line before the gun. The reigning 49er World Champions, Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stuart Bithell (GBR), who were also a victim of an early start in Race 6, are tied on points for second with Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl (AUT). Judge Ryan (San Diego, Calif.) is sailing this regatta with Alain Sign (GBR), a substitute crew as his normal crew Hans Henken (Coronado, Calif.) is out with an injury. Ryan/Sign sit 11th with Chris Rast (Holland, Mich.) and Trevor Burd in 14th after two top-five finishes to close out the day.
Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoskioka (JPN) have won two of the four races sailed by the Women’s 470 fleet and lead the regatta by a point over Bàrbara Cornudella Ravetllat and Sara López Ravetllat (ESP) who themselves are just a point in front of third place Silva Mas Depares and Patricia Cantero Reina (ESP). Atlantic and Nora Lucia Brugman have separated themselves slightly from a pack of young, but enthusiastic, American women’s 470 teams. They are 23rd of 33.
Three sailors are tied on points at the top of the Laser Radial fleet. Viktorija Andrulyte (LTU), Vasileia Karachaliou (GRE) and Valentian Balbi (ITA) each have 10 points after three races. Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla., at right), the top American, is eighth, but just nine points off the overall lead.
All photos: © Richard Langdon & Jesus Renedo/Sailing Energy/World Sailing