Pictured: 49er sailors Thomas Barrows (St. Thomas, U.S.V.I) and Joe Morris (Annapolis, Md.) US Sailing Team Sperry
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
USA’s High-Performance Sailors Ready in 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17
February 8, 2016
Clearwater, Fla. – With just under six months left to go until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, American sailors have gathered for the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships, the final U.S. Olympic Team selection event for athletes competing in these three types of fast, technically sophisticated and highly athletic boats.
For some U.S. sailors with Olympic dreams, this event will represent the end of a journey. For those who earn selection to Team USA, the challenge and honor of representing their country, along with their US Sailing Team Sperry teammates, will fall on worthy shoulders. However, until the final race is completed here in Clearwater, the shared mentality around the boat park is that of “Game On.”
The previous Olympic Games is long in the past for many, but for US Sailing Team Sperry athletes consumed with the perpetual cycle of training and competition, there is a sense that the months and years of this Olympic quadrennium have passed quickly.
“I don’t know where the time has gone,” said Helena Scutt (Kirkland, Wash), who with teammate Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) is ahead in the 49erFX selection series by a single point. “I think back to all the mornings at the gym, followed by long sailing sessions and debriefs, and I know that it’s been a long road. We’ve fought through injuries, school pressures, changing coaches, and more.”
All of that preparation and sacrifice has led to this moment, and the next few days will see the last chapters of the Olympic selection series unfold. “Leaving my house and getting on the plane to [the first selection event at] Sailing World Cup Miami a month ago was surreal,” said Scutt. “It hit me that the next time I came home, after the Clearwater Worlds, I would know if I was going to the Olympics.”
49er (Men’s Two-Person High Performance Skiff)
In the men’s 49er, the battle for the Olympic berth is hotly contested in the aftermath of the first section event, Sailing World Cup Miami, Presented by Sunbrella (Jan. 25-30, 2016). Defending a five-point lead over the closest U.S. boat will be Thomas Barrows (St. Thomas, U.S.V.I) and Joe Morris (Annapolis, Md.) of the US Sailing Team Sperry. The pair have been together the longest among the American 49er teams, and that experience has been a significant asset for the former university teammates.
“That familiarity is our greatest strength,” said Morris. “Thomas and I are extremely close, and that’s both a challenge and a strength at different times. In the long run, it’s our relationship as friends and teammates that will get us to where we want to be.”
With the weather forecast in Clearwater promising to serve up a wide variety of conditions, competitors will have to be prepared for anything. “We’re looking forward to both the competition and the challenging conditions,” said Morris. “Both provide a chance to get better. We have spent a lot of time in Clearwater and feel comfortable here. We’re paying attention to the forecast, but not putting too much emphasis on it. We will be excited for any condition that this great venue has to offer.”
Pictured: 49er sailors Brad Funk (Clearwater, Fla.) and Trevor Burd (Marblehead, Mass.), US Sailing Team Sperry
Sitting just behind Barrows and Morris in the selection standings are Brad Funk (Clearwater, Fla.) and Trevor Burd (Marblehead, Mass.), the hometown favorites. “We do have more time here [in Clearwater] than the other teams, but we’ve had a lot of weird weather here in the last few weeks, so it will be tricky for everyone.” Funk says that he and Burd, the US Sailing Team Sperry’s top-performing team since 2014, are entering the event with confidence. “We’ve come a long way, and we have a good team around us. We just have to do what we do best, and stay aware.”
49erFX (Women’s Two-Person High Performance Skiff)
Pictured: 49erFX sailors Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) and Helena Scutt (Kirkland, Wash.), US Sailing Team Sperry.
The 49erFX class features the closest of the three U.S. Olympic Team selection battles concluding at this event, with Henken and Scutt ahead of Emily Dellenbaugh (Easton, Conn.) and Elizabeth Barry (Riverside, Conn.) by just one point after Sailing World Cup Miami. Miami was a mostly light air affair, while Clearwater could feature strong winds at the beginning of the regatta.
“Some breeze would be fun, especially because in Clearwater that usually brings some waves to play in,” said Scutt. “We sailed really well in the breeziest race in Miami, but honestly we’d be happy with any condition that allows for lots of racing. Miami showed me that we are a stronger team than ever, and my faith in Paris has never been more concrete.”
Pictured: 49erFX sailors Emily Dellenbaugh (Easton, Conn.) and Elizabeth Barry (Riverside, Conn.), US Sailing Team Sperry, during a training run.
Nacra 17 (Mixed Two-Person Multihull)
The story of Sailing World Cup Miami in the Nacra 17 class was the quick rise of Bora Gulari (Detroit, Mich.) and Louisa Chafee (Warwick, R.I.), who started sailing together just weeks before the first selection event, though both bring significant high-performance experience to the table. Heading into Clearwater, Gulari and Chafee enter as the team to beat, with an eight point lead over second place Mark Mendelblatt and Carolina Mendelblatt (Miami, Fla.).
Pictured: Nacra 17 sailors Bora Gulari (Detroit, Mich.) and Louisa Chafee (Warwick, R.I.), US Sailing Team Sperry, during a training run.
The husband-and-wife Mendelblatt pair has vast experience in Olympic-class racing, with three Olympic games in three different classes between them, in addition to three years of competing in the Nacra 17.
Nevertheless, Gulari says that the only thing that matters heading it the Worlds is a clear focus on the task at hand. “We are confident in all conditions,” said the two-time Moth World Champion and US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman of the Year. Gulari previously campaigned for the Games in the 49er, but said this is a totally new, and more competitive, experience. “This time around, it’s totally different,” said Gulari. “It’s good to be a real player [in terms of earning Olympic selection], and not living in my van.”
*NOTE: All athletes selected by US Sailing for the Rio 2016 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team will be subject to approval by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC).
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About US Sailing
The United States Sailing Association (US Sailing), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership, integrity, and growth for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US Sailing is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. US Sailing offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country, including National Championships and the US Sailing Team Sperry. For more information, please visit www.ussailing.org
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Press Contact: Will Ricketson, Olympic Communications Manager, US Sailing. firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 (978) 697-2384.