Final Report: Buckingham Qualifies for Tokyo as Lasers Wrap Worlds
The first round of the 2020 World Championships come to a close with the conclusion of the 2020 ILCA Men’s Laser Standard World Championships. Today, athletes finished three fleet races in the final series to round out the week spent battling tricky conditions on the waters of Sandringham, Australia.
Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) closed out the last day with three impressive finishes of 9-2-12 in Gold fleet, solidifying himself as the highest-ranked American. Overall, he had an up and down week, and ultimately finished the event in 18th place. He admits that it’s lower than where he would have liked to be, but acknowledges that the event still has good highlights and takeaways. “I had an up and down week,” he said. “Honestly, it was kind of a tough performance for me but I finished the regatta with three good races, so I’m happy with that.”
As a U.S. Olympic trial event, this regatta was an even more important stop for American athletes on the road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Of the U.S. sailors, Buckingham emerged victorious, winning the trials over fellow competitor Chris Barnard (Newport Beach, Calif.).
This will be Buckingham’s second time representing Team USA at the Olympics. He also competed at the Rio 2016 Games, where he finished 11th. “I’m super happy and proud to be able to represent the U.S. again and honestly a bit relieved,” he said.
Buckingham entered this regatta with an 18-point lead in the trials over Barnard, thanks to their results at the 2019 World Championship. Still, despite the comfortable gap, he’s grateful to be officially through the selection process. He elaborated, “Olympic selection is a big step towards the main goal. Now that I’ve achieved that, I can focus on the real thing. So, I’m relieved I can start focusing on the Games”
With this event and Olympic selection under his belt, he’s looking forward to improving his lead-up and performance in Tokyo, “I feel way more prepared this time. I’ve been to one Olympics already and that experience counts for a lot. I also feel that I’ve improved a lot as a sailor over the past four years, so I’m super excited for this Olympics.”
As is the reality of all sports, for each selection winner there is at least one athlete that will miss out on the opportunity to go to the Games. Though Chris Barnard had some impressive highlights throughout the quadrennial, he fell short of where he needed to be to beat Buckingham for the Games spot and finished this event in 30th.
“It was a tough week overall. I had some really good moments, but I just couldn’t quite string the top scores together the way I wanted to,” he said, commenting on how this event went for him. “This event was always going to be an uphill battle with the deficit of the trials and just tried to give it my best effort. Unfortunately, the last two Worlds just didn’t go my way.”
Even though the two events that dictated selection weren’t Barnard’s strongest, he’s grateful to have some other notable accomplishments to look back on. “There is a lot to be proud of,” said Barnard. “I’ve come a long way. I had some other good World results and winning Palma has been a good trophy to have on my bookshelf. That win will always be something I’m really proud of, looking back. I wanted to punch that Olympic ticket and represent Team USA at the Games, but that’s sport.”
US Sailing’s Olympic Head Coach Luther Carpenter (Cypress, Texas) agrees that both athletes have a lot to be proud of, “Charlie and Chris have turned a real corner in performance this quad, honing the magical combination of fitness, technique, and racing savvy, in an incredibly difficult discipline. Both of these U.S. Laser sailors have finished top-ten in multiple events this quad and have shown to themselves and other Americans what can be done with hard work, focused training, and determination. The Olympic Laser fleet is surely the definition of dinghy sailor excellence, and I’m proud of the progress Charlie and Chris, along with their coaches Diego Romero (GUA) and John Bertrand (San Mateo, Calif.), have accomplished.”
Carpenter looks forward to watching and supporting Buckingham as he prepares for the Games, “This final road to Enoshima presents more opportunity for Charlie, and I know he’s focused on his goal and dream – to win a Medal at the Olympics.”
With the first round of selection in the books, the US Sailing Team will celebrate the victories of the newly qualified athletes and get to work preparing them as best as possible for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
In just one week, three more classes will face the final event of their trials. Racing at the ILCA Women’s Laser Radial World Championships will run February 23-28. Simultaneously, the Men’s and Women’s RS:X World Championships will run February 25-29.
U.S. Final Results – view full results
- Charlie Buckingham, 18th
- Chris Barnard, 30th
- Leo Boucher, 99th
Day Six: US Sailing Team Athletes Punch Their Tickets for Tokyo 2020 and Deliver World Championship Medal
The final day of the 2020 49er, 49erFX, and Nacra 17 World Championships was packed with excitement for the US Sailing Team. After a long series of challenging racing, the U.S. team has much to celebrate, including a medal and four athletes that have qualified to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
At the conclusion of the final two Nacra 17 fleet races, Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) rose to the occasion and were the first athletes to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team. US Sailing Team 49erFX athletes, Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wisc.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) followed shortly after, managing to simultaneously secure the Bronze Medal and the Olympic berth in a nail-biting Medal Race.
Gibbs and Weis began the event with a relatively comfortable, 12-point lead over fellow U.S. athletes Sarah Newberry (Miami, Fla.) and David Liebenberg (Livermore, Calif.). Though Newberry and Liebenberg delivered some solid races to close the gap, Gibbs and Weis answered back and wrapped up the event on a high, finishing the final gold fleet race in second place and securing their spot at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“It is seriously insane. This is something I’ve dreamed of for a long time and I just can’t believe it’s real. I can’t put this feeling into words. It’s unreal,” Weis said on qualifying. She and Gibbs have had quite a few highlights on their campaign together. Their accomplishments are especially impressive considering the pair only recently teamed up full-time.
Weis continued, “Riley and I have only been sailing together for a year but we’ve already been through so many ups and downs as a team, and this event was just another challenge along the way. We really put our minds to making the most of training and learning as much as we can because we know time isn’t our friend. It’s been a total whirlwind but also so rewarding.”
The team is looking forward to making the most of some brief downtime before they resume training for the Tokyo 2020 Games. “We are so pumped to continue training. We had so many learning moments and great takeaways this week that will really help us push and work hard all the way up to the Olympics. The real grind starts now!”
Today’s 49erFX fleet races ran simultaneously with the Nacra racing and were filled with exciting non-stop action. Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) and Anna Tobias (Pittsburgh, Penn.) won the first race of the day while Roble and Shea trailed in 17th, vaulting the Olympic veterans, up the scoreboard to reclaim the lead in the U.S. Olympic trials.
From that moment, it was clear to Roble and Shea that they had little leeway for error for the final fleet race. “After the first race today, we knew that we had used up all of our mistakes, so we had to execute solid races,” said Shea. “We also knew that Paris and Anna were sailing really well and that we had to be ready for a big push at the end.”
As they were able to tighten the gap in the final fleet race, the medal race was set to be the final test for the 49erFX spot on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team. After a false start and abandonment of the first medal race attempt, Henken and Tobias started off strong. However, Roble and Shea maximized the short course and good boat handling to make gains and pass them on the first run.
The tight point spread between the third to 10th place boats made for a constantly shuffling leaderboard, and as the two American teams rounded the gate, Henken and Tobais’ spinnaker made contact with Roble and Shea, instigating a penalty turn from Henken and Tobias (watch below). “From there, we just said let’s send it and try to win this race and see how the cookie crumbles,” said Roble.
Roble and Shea held on for the race win with just enough of a margin over Henken and Tobias to win a tiebreaker for the U.S. trials. “We had no idea—we crossed the line and were just really proud of how we sailed and said regardless of the outcome, that we were just really proud of how we rallied,” said Roble.
The pair also had no idea that they simultaneously secured the Bronze Medal. “It’s still totally surreal,” she continued. “Literally, it’s the best day of my life. We’re so happy. We’ve worked really hard to come to this point. We have a group of supporters that have made this dream possible for us. We wouldn’t be standing on this podium without anyone who’s been supporting us on and off the water. This is a massive team effort and we’re really proud of it.” Shea agreed, “Our progress and this entire journey, for that matter, would not have been possible without the amazing team behind us. We have such an army of supporters.”
This is the first World Championship medal won by an American 49erFX pair. Roble and Shea’s medal today isn’t just a victory for them, but for everyone who’s played a role in helping them get to this point. Roble added, “Paris and Anna also were obviously really, really good competitors. They’ve been pushing us absolutely to our limits to be better athletes every single day on and off the water.”
While two of the three classes at this event celebrate the newly selected Tokyo 2020 athletes, the U.S. Men’s 49er sailors will have to wait to find out if they’ll be sending a team to the Games. At the 2019 World Championships, U.S. 49ers unfortunately narrowly missed out on a berth for country representation at the Games.
Though the U.S. doesn’t currently have a berth, it is the first nation in line to receive a forfeited one from another country. Should that situation arise, Nevin Snow (San Diego, Calif.) and Dane Wilson (Ojai, Calif.) will be the U.S. representatives thanks to their finish at this event and the 2019 World Championships.
“We’re pretty stoked. Today was a tough day for us, so we have mixed emotions, but we’re excited,” said Snow. “This event has been a new experience because it felt like the first true trials for us. In Auckland, we were working on getting a spot for the US, which we still haven’t really gotten but we’re hoping it will come. In that respect, this is the first event where we’ve had the other Americans in the corner of our eye, even though no one wants to admit it. So, it has brought a different element for us.”
In addition to the trial elements at play, Snow and Wilson are still learning plenty about what it means to campaign for the Olympics. “We’re also still pretty new to the whole process. Dane and I only started sailing together in April of last year. From our perspective, the group we’ve got going is an exciting thing to be a part of, and a huge step up for U.S. 49er sailing, because it’s proving to be a super-fast way to get better. As you can tell, there were so many American sailors in gold fleet at this event. We weren’t even doing that at intermediate events a year ago. If that’s not evidence of improvement, I don’t know what is.”
After a challenging week battling tricky conditions and tight competition, all of the U.S. athletes will return to the states with plenty to be proud of.
U.S. Final Results
49erFX – view full results
- Stephanie Roble & Maggie Shea, 3rd
- Paris Henken & Anna Tobias, 7th
Nacra 17 – view full results
- Sarah Newberry & David Liebenberg, 14th
- Riley Gibbs & Anna Weis, 17th
- Ravi Parent & Caroline Atwood, 21st
49er – view full results
- Andrew Mollerus & Ian MacDiarmid, 14th
- Nevin Snow & Dane Wilson, 20th
- Ian Barrows & Mitchell Kiss, 21st
- Harry Melges IV & Finn Rowe, 25th
- Judge Ryan & Hans Henken, 26th
2020 ILCA Men’s Laser Standard World Championships
While the competitors in Geelong will finish packing the containers and prepare to get on their long flights back to the states tomorrow, the Laser sailors across the bay in Sandringham are preparing for the final races that will determine their U.S. Olympic trials.
To make up for lost time after yesterday’s postponement, the sailors had three races in pressure that built from 13-18 knots throughout the day. Today’s races featured the first round of the final series. In gold fleet, Chris Barnard (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) battled amongst the top 42 competitors.
While both sailors struggled a bit in the breezier conditions this afternoon, Barnard kicked off the day with an impressive seventh-place finish. His coach John Bertrand (San Mateo, Calif.) commented on the conditions
“Our guys aren’t necessarily the heaviest or tallest in the fleet and can be inconsistent in those conditions. When you have such a packed fleet, it’s also hard to start exactly where you want to. Frequently, you have to compromise and if you can’t hold a lane after the start, it can be really difficult to catch the first shift. That’s the reality when you’re sailing at this level.”
Buckingham began this event with a comfortable 18-point lead over Barnard in the trials. Since the beginning of the event, Barnard has closed the gap by seven positions and according to Bertrand, “Anything can happen as we saw from the FX sailors today. Chris is in really great spirits and is looking forward to the last day of racing. Either way, I’m really proud of the effort he has put in. It’s a big ask for him to overcome the deficit we came in with, but he’s put everything into it with no compromise. So regardless of the outcome at this point, he can be pretty proud of the effort he’s put in and I am too.”
Tomorrow’s three remaining gold fleet races will determine which athlete will be selected to represent the U.S. in the Men’s Laser at the 2020 Games. The first warning is scheduled for 11:00 a.m., local time.
Day Six Livestream
US Athletes Punch Their Tickets to Tokyo
— US Sailing Team (@USSailingTeam) February 15, 2020
— US Sailing Team (@USSailingTeam) February 15, 2020
Day Five: Final Countdown for Olympic Selection at the 2020 Worlds
No races took place on Friday, February 14 due to scattered summer storms that wreaked havoc on the breeze. While the 2020 ILCA Laser Men’s Standard World Championship competitors have two race days remaining, the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 2020 World Championship athletes will look forward to tomorrow’s final day of the event.
Tomorrow, the 49er, 49erFX, and Nacra 17 event will feature two fleet races followed by a top 10 medal race in each class. U.S. athletes will have a lot on the line as these three races will determine the athletes that have qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team.
For these classes, the U.S. Olympic Trials system is a two-event qualifier. The athletes with the lowest combined overall score from the 2019 and 2020 World Championships will qualify for a spot on Team USA for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The current leaders in the overall U.S. trials are Nevin Snow (San Diego, Calif.) and Dane Wilson (Ojai, Calif.) in the 49er, Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) and Anna Tobias (Pittsburgh, Penn.) in the 49erFX, and Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale Fla.) in the Nacra 17. While some pairs lead the trials by a greater margin than others, each of the spots is still up for grabs.
Racing in the 49erFX and Nacra 17 fleets is particularly tight. Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wisc.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) need to put one more team between them and fellow U.S. athletes Henken and Tobias to claim the 49erFX spot. Likewise, Sarah Newberry (Miami, Fla.) and David Liebenberg (Livermore, Calif.) need to do the same with Riley Gibbs and Anna Weis for the Nacra 17 berth.
Though Snow and Wilson have a more comfortable lead over their fellow American competitors, the U.S. has not earned Games representation in the 49er class and an upset is still possible internally. As there are more countries competing in these classes than there are spots at the Games, countries must qualify before athletes can be selected. Should another country forfeit their berth, the U.S. will select a representative based on the victor of these 2019 and 2020 World Championship trial events.
Despite the element of the trials at play, the athletes will hit the water with their eyes on the whole fleet, “I would anticipate our group going out and doing their best to get a good first race under their belt and deciphering where to go from there,” said Sally Barkow, US Sailing’s Olympic Performance Manager and Coach.
“It’s interesting, of course, we’re competing against other U.S. boats for selection, but the way the points are, everyone else is competing against the other countries for places in the standings. So it’s very much a mentality of getting to the top mark in the top 10 and going from there. If they put up two good scores tomorrow, there’s a good chance everything else falls into place.”
While some sailors will realize dreams tomorrow, others will face the reality that only one U.S. boat will have the chance to go to the Games in their class. “At the conclusion of trials, of the 40 athletes working towards a goal they set years ago, 25 will feel disappointed,” said Leandro Spina (Miami Fla.), US Sailing’s Olympic Development Director.
“My goal is to remind them that the formula for success includes multiple-quadrennium efforts and that they are right on track. The conclusion of the trials is a celebration for the new Olympian and the teammates that stand strongly behind their continuing efforts.”
As Spina said, tomorrow, the US Sailing Team will indeed be celebrating the individuals that will represent the country in Tokyo. However, it takes a village to get athletes to the highest level of performance in any sport. Tomorrow, the U.S. sailors will also be celebrating the years of hard work, improvement, and accomplishment that each of the athletes has dedicated to the betterment of their craft and the Olympic disciplines in America.
“The outlook is promising for another quad for most of our athletes, it doesn’t hinge on results tomorrow, which is just one day of one event,” said Barkow. “We have a lot of young athletes who are just getting their feet wet in this experience and we’re supporting them as much as we possibly can to carry on because we know the depth of the team and the reality of what it means to go to the Olympics is more than a few years of racing.”
The conditions for tomorrow’s penultimate day of racing look promising. The race committee is expecting wind out of the southwest building to the class’ upper limit of 25 knots and possible showers that hopefully will clear early and avoid hindering the breeze once again.
Day Five Live Feed
Day Four: US Athletes’ Solid Mindsets Battle Well in Gold Fleet Conditions
A glorious Melbourne day with clear blue skies and challenging wind from the east greeted the 2020 World Championship sailors on Port Phillip Bay. The Nacra and 49erFX fleets were the first to hit the water this morning in what remained of a shifty, dying easterly. Both fleets got two races off in the eight-knot breeze before rounding out the day once a 10-12 knot building seabreeze filled from the south.
Close to shore, US Sailing’s Olympic Performance Manager and Coach Sally Barkow (Park City, Utah) said the breeze coming around the point led to some geographical trends on the water. “It was hard to anticipate how far the breeze would shift one way or the other, but the right side was pretty favored, it was a pretty geographic day.”
U.S. Nacra 17 athlete Sarah Newberry (Miami, Fla.) and David Liebenberg (Livermore, Calif.) excelled in the shifty, geographic conditions. The pair finished two of the three races in the top five and moved up to 10th overall. Their advances through the fleet were due to a combination of several skills within their boat.
“Sarah and David had a great day,” Barkow continued. “They sailed really well tactically speaking and they managed to pull themselves out of some tough spots off the starts. They also transitioned their boat set up according to what we anticipated the breeze would do. As it got lighter, they made a really good adjustment and then when the seabreeze filled, we made an adjustment back. Having confidence in their speed and setup let them have more time to look out of the boat. Finally, their communication onboard has been great. Working together as a team, you can see their two minds trying to sail one boat instead of sailing as individuals.”
Good communication and a steady mindset prove to be successful for the US Sailing Team athletes in other fleets as well. 49erFX sailors Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wisc.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) have performed incredibly consistently this week. The pair is currently in 7th place overall. So far, they’ve also finished all but two races in the top ten.
Though their coach Giulia Conti (ITA) says their consistency is in part thanks to some awesome starts that have set them up in the front of the pack off the line, she also mentions that a “one step at a time” approach has worked well for the team. “They were trying to sail conservatively during the qualifying in order to get safely through the finals,” she said. “Now, they’re trying to be a little more aggressive in this next stage, all the time focusing on the present, leg by leg.”
The 49er men had a particularly challenging day. After a postponement spent waiting for the weather forecast to settle in, U.S. athletes Nevin Snow (San Diego, Calif.) and Dane Wilson (Ojai, Calif.) battled the tricky conditions to move up the ranks to 18th overall.
Snow and Wilson teamed up only just about a year ago, making their several top 10 finishes this week all the more impressive. The US Sailing Team Men’s 49er Coach, Mark Asquith (GBR) thinks that their rapid progress and consistent performance is thanks to their process between races. “Nevin and Dane were strong in what was a hugely challenging day. It’s not an easy ride for any team here in Melbourne,” he said. “One of their great stand out skills is their ability to talk through tough races and move fresh into the next one. It makes both of them much more coachable.”
Over the next two days, U.S. athletes will be lining up for the final races that will determine the 2020 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team. In Geelong, the athletes are looking forward to continuing the final series tomorrow. They will have a total of five more fleet races between tomorrow and Saturday to qualify for the final medal races scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile in Sandringham, the Men’s Laser sailors have just wrapped the final day of the qualifying series at the ILCA Laser Standard Men’s World Championship. All six races of the qualifying series have now been sailed and the fleets will be split into gold, silver, and bronze for the remaining three days of the championship, meaning the top 42 sailors will come together for the first time in the regatta. U.S. competitors Chris Barnard (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) have both qualified for gold fleet, and Leo Boucher (West River, Md.) will be competing in bronze fleet.
Barnard continues his slow and steady streak. He’s finished the bulk of his races around the top 10 and is sitting in 25th overall. Though he’s not necessarily dominating the leaderboard, his coach John Bertrand (San Mateo, Calif.) believes the slow and steady process will deliver over the next few days. “We’ve done exactly what we wanted to do for the qualification, which was a really solid series and a process we have confidence in,” he said. “It’s been pretty well planned in terms of executing a race that suits him really well, which also leads to what you’re seeing: a really consistent regatta. In gold fleet, there’s a lot more going on, people take more risk. I think if we remain consistent, over time that will pay off.”
“Chris is also a great starter and he is probably one of the best tactical sailors that I’ve coached. So even with his challenges, he still puts together really good races. So now that we’re going into the finals, we’re kind of ratcheting it up in terms of all the best sailors are consolidating into one fleet. So we’ll look each day and see if we need to continue what we’re doing or adjust our process in terms of taking more risk, or otherwise.”
Barnard’s fellow U.S. athlete Charlie Buckingham is also looking forward to starting the final series tomorrow. Though he had a difficult day on the water today and currently stands in 30th, he’s optimistic about the opportunities he has to move up through the fleet. “Even though his position overall isn’t great, the point total is still pretty tight so a few races in the gold fleet, positions will still change quite a bit,” said Buckingham’s coach, Mark Ivey (San Francisco, Calif.).
“I think Charlie’s been in the mix with a bunch of great sailors already, but it’s going to be great to see all of the big players in one fleet,” he continued. “The races they’ve gone through are definitely a test, but now we see more of what you expect at a worlds, the cream has risen to the top, they’re in the finals and you get to see how the fleets behave differently when you have a dense group of talent. We want to keep strong and keep fighting and grinding it out.”
Tomorrow, the 2020 Laser World Championships will start again at 2:00 p.m., local time. At the 2020 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships in Geelong, races will begin at 10:55 a.m., local time. The Worlds in Geelong will also be broadcast live. Streaming is available here.
Day Four Live Feed
49er, 49erFX, and Nacra 17 World Championships Information
The final three days of the World Championships will be broadcast live with coverage of the selected broadcast course area featuring 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 gold fleet racing, including each medal race.
The full results will be available on the event website.
Laser World Championships Information
Results will be available on the event website.
Day Three: Back to Basics, US Sailing Team Finds Success in Keeping Things Simple
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 of their races in the top ten and all but two in the top five. 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.
Day Two: U.S. Athletes Battle Fluky Conditions on Strong Opening Day of 2020 World Championships
Tuesday, February 11, 2020 (Melbourne, AUS) – As anticipated, the conditions at the 2020 World Championships on Port Phillip Bay, Australia are proving to be challenging and unstable. The Nacra and 49erFX classes were the first to race on what served as the opening day after yesterday’s postponement. The fleets arrived on the racecourse in a dying, unstable westerly breeze. While each was able to finish one race in about 5-6 knots featuring dramatic shifts that weren’t always easy to see on the water, everyone welcomed the more stable, south-southeasterly that eventually filled at about 8-10 knots in the afternoon.
Thanks to the challenging conditions, the U.S. Nacra 17 athletes hit the water today with a game plan of focusing on getting off the line well. US Sailing’s Olympic Performance Manager and Coach Sally Barkow (Park City, Utah) said, “All three teams are going really well on the downwind, so the major thing today was the starting line decision and getting away on the first shift.”
Sarah Newberry (Miami, Fla.) and David Liebenberg (Livermore, Calif.) did just that and currently lead the American competitors, standing in 11th overall. “They really prioritized their starts and just stuck to their game plan for the first beat. Their big focus for the day was to get clean off the starting line and not make it too complicated,” added Barkow. “In these unstable conditions, there’s a combination of having the ability to get your eyes out of the boat but keeping it simple. Three no space to make it complicated and try to catch every shift. The conditions are unstable enough that you have to go with what you see.”
The 49erFX women likewise faced the worst of the day’s unstable conditions. The fleet saw several general recalls thanks to the dramatic shifts in the morning. Despite the long day on the water, U.S. athletes Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wisc.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) had a consistent day at the front of the pack. In the first race of the day, they demonstrated an impressive comeback after rounding the first mark in 21st. The pair managed to grind back through the fleet and turn the race into a third-place finish.
Their coach Giulia Conti (ITA) attributes their impressive first race and two subsequent races (that were also top ten finishes) to their steady focus and mindset, “They were really good at being patient. Knowing that on a day like this there are a lot of ups and downs during the race, they took every opportunity to climb each and gain a few boats. They were just sticking to their process and their routine, like in every other regatta. They were focused on the present, race by race, leg by leg, meter by meter.”
With a later start time, the Men’s 49er sailors saw more consistent conditions on the west side of the bay, though that still proves to be a relative term on Port Phillip. By the time their fleet had begun racing, the breeze was significantly more stable in direction than the early morning and mid-day conditions, but the athletes still saw a broad range in velocity and had plenty of shifts to play with.
Today, the young American 49er squad demonstrated their depth ability to play at the front of the fleet. All of the U.S. 49er sailors finished at least one race in the top 10. As US Sailing Team 49er coach Mark Asquith (GBR) puts it, “Today was just about execution of a clean day. No OCS. No rules issues. All of the teams did a great job of fighting for every place right into the finish. They were all rolling with the punches and looking for the next opportunity to pass boats.”
“I’m expecting to see all five U.S. 49er teams doing absolutely everything they can to get to gold fleet. At this stage, they need to deliver on everything,” he continued. It seems the athletes are starting in a good place to achieve just that. All five are currently in the top half of the fleet and the U.S. has two boats sitting in the top ten. Andrew Mollerus (Larchmont, N.Y.) and Ian MacDiarmid (Delray Beach, Fla.) are currently ranked fifth after finishing today’s races in fifth, fifth, and first. Not far behind, Harry Melges IV (Lake Geneva, Wisc.) and Finn Rowe (Lake Forest, Ill.) are in seventh.
On the other side of Port Phillip, the Lasers likewise had the luck of beginning racing later in the afternoon in the slightly more stable conditions. After each of the three fleets finished two races, U.S. athletes Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Chris Barnard (Newport Beach, Calif.) began the event on solid footing. Buckingham currently leads the Americans in 20th, while Barnard trails closely in 27th.
Similar to his US Sailing Teammates in the 49erFX class, Buckingham also began the day with an impressive comeback in the first race of the event. He started on the wrong side of a significant right shift on the first beat and rounded the top mark deeper than he would have liked. Despite missing that first shift, he managed to climb back to 12th overall.
“Charlie had to battle all the way around and made a good comeback back to get to 12th. I think that was a good character test for him. For the first race of the regatta, not being in an awesome spot and getting back to a 12th was a really good result,” said his coach, Mark Ivey (San Francisco, Calif.). Buckingham’s second race was even stronger than the first. Battling with the top players all the way around the course, he finished fourth.
Tomorrow, all of the athletes are anticipating more challenging conditions. It seems that those who can stay sharp and adaptable to constant change will continue to prevail. 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.
Day One: Blown Out at 2020 Skiff and Nacra Worlds
Today turned out to be a dress rehearsal, all dressed up with nowhere to go for the sailors at the 2020 49er, 49erFX, and Nacra World Championships. A day of waiting, unfortunately, ended without any racing in Geelong, Victoria, Australia.
The Race Committee monitored conditions on Corio Bay from well before the morning session to late afternoon, 25-30 knots out of the east keeping 49er crews ashore all day playing pool and cards, one eye on the flagpole. Afternoon sessions for the 49erFX and Nacra 17 were abandoned early.
Though the U.S. athletes were excited to race, it’s a given that these days will happen. US Sailing Team 49erFX athletes, Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) and Anna Tobias (Pittsburgh, Penn.) said, “As a sport that relies heavily on mother nature, it happens.”
The racing schedule for Tuesday, February 11 remains as per the schedule which is 49erFX and Nacras up first and 49er men’s skiffs in the afternoon. The forecast is for lighter winds in the morning then 15-20 knots from the south-southwest in the afternoon with the chance of thunderstorms.
The Laser Men will also begin racing in Sandringham tomorrow, as planned.
Preview: US Sailing Team Has Eyes on Adaptability Ahead of 2020 Worlds
49er, 49erFX, and Nacra 17 World Championships
On Monday, February 10, athletes in the 49er, 49erFX, and Nacra 17 classes will line up for the last major class title before the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. 160 teams representing 32 nations will race on the waters of Port Phillip Bay for the 2020 49er, 49erFX, and Nacra 17 World Championship.
Competitors and race officials at the Royal Geelong Yacht Club are expecting fresh winds this week. According to U.S. Men’s 49er coach, Mark Asquith (GBR), they’re also anticipating constant change on the bay.
“Their biggest priority will be rolling with how fast the conditions and races changes here,” he said of the U.S. 49er sailors. “It’s gusty and shifty, leg by leg the racing is changing. So far it’s shown that there are opportunities to make gains all the way to the finish line. Hopefully that works for us.”
US Sailing’s Olympic Performance Manager and Coach, Sally Barkow (Park City, Utah) agreed that the conditions will require constant attention and adaptability this week. “We have now all spent three weeks training and a long weekend of racing, so Geelong is starting to feel like home for most of us,” she said.
“We’re settling into the dynamic wind patterns and going out each day with a big awareness that it won’t be like yesterday. We have a big focus on continuing to tackle our list of improvements and execute our strengths daily as an entire team. We’re looking forward to putting out best effort forward to compete against the best in the world.”
For the American athletes, this regatta will decide the winners of the 2020 U.S. Olympic trials. As a nation, the U.S. has earned a spot in the 49erFX and Nacra 17 classes and is first in line for a spot forfeited by another country in the 49er. When the event concludes, five athletes will have qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team.
49erFX athletes and Olympic veterans Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) and Anna Tobias (Pittsburgh, Penn.) lead the trials by four points over Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wisc.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.).
In the Nacra 17 class, Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) lead by nine points. The pair is looking forward to taking on the event, especially after delivering an impressive performance last week at the 2020 Oceania Championships.
Should the U.S. receive a spot in the Men’s 49er fleet, this regatta will likewise serve as an internal qualifier for the U.S. athletes. Nevin Snow (San Diego, Calif.) and Dane Wilson (Ojai, Calif.) had a strong showing at the 2019 Worlds and lead by five points over Ian Barrows (Miami, Fla.) and Mitchell Kiss (Holland, Mich.).
The first three days in Geelong will feature a qualifying series for the skiff athletes. The second three days for the skiffs constitute their final series while the Nacra 17s will race a single series. Racing is scheduled to begin at 10:55 a.m., local time.
Laser World Championships
Across the bay at the 2020 Laser World Championships, Sandringham Yacht Club will host the Men’s Laser fleet. Representing the U.S., Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.), Chris Barnard (Newport Beach, Calif.), and Leo Boucher (West River, Md.).
The U.S. has also confirmed a spot on the starting line of the Laser fleet at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Buckingham currently leads the domestic Laser trials by 18 finishing positions over Barnard.
According to Buckingham’s coach, Mark Ivey (San Francisco, Calif.), rather than focusing on the pressure of confirming his spot on Team USA for the Tokyo Games, he is working to have a consistent approach through the week. “Our focus is to keep mental and physical strength for the entire week of sailing against an elite international field,” said Ivey.
He also noted the constantly changing conditions they’re expecting this week, “Weather changes every few hours here in Melbourne so it’s difficult to predict too far out. Our first start is 2:00 p.m. each day, which should be in the heart of the build period for the southerly wind. That also usually brings great waves for downwind surfing.”
The 131 Laser athletes hailing from 45 countries will begin racing on Tuesday, February 11. Each day, racing in Sandringham will begin at 2:00 p.m., local time.
Kilroy Realty supports the US Sailing Team at all selection events, including the 2020 Olympic Class World Championships.