Enoshima, Japan – With the addition of the 49erFX skiff and Finn heavyweight dinghy fleets to the sailing action off Enoshima, Japan, American sailing fans were able to watch three additional U.S. athletes competing near the front of their fleets at Tokyo 2020.
Stephanie Roble (East Troy, Wis.) and Maggie Shea (Wilmette, Ill.) opened their Olympic careers in the 49erFX in solid fashion, earning scores of 3, 2, (14) to end the day in second overall. The pair started cleanly in each of their races and demonstrated both speed and control despite the heavy winds present during the first two races.
“It was definitely a tricky day out there,” said Roble, the 2014 US Sailing Yachtswoman of the Year. “We just really focused on having our heads on a swivel to see the pressure as best we could, to stay on the lifted tack and in the most pressure on the racecourse.”
Tokyo 2020 is the second Olympic regatta fearing the women’s skiff class. Despite facing other strong teams who have the benefit of experience from Rio 2016, Roble and Shea expressed confidence in their five-year campaign and in their Tokyo 2020 event preparations.
“I think we did a good job of taking advantage of the extra year [of the Games delay], just keeping the pedal down, really pushing hard and taking advantage of the few racing opportunities we had, said Roble. “We’re really grateful for the team behind our team to keep pushing us hard.”
The U.S. 49erFX team nearly won the second race of the day, but a small boat handling error on the final leg allowed the British overall leaders to get around them. Despite this, Roble and Shea said that they were encouraged about their day, and that managing the unexpected was all part of the game. “We kind of knew everyone was going to have those [unexpected] moments at some point today, so we didn’t get too frustrated,” said Shea, who finished 3rd with Roble at the 2019 Worlds. “We even laughed a little bit, and just moved on.”
In the Finn, Luke Muller (Ft. Pierce, Fla.) also made his Olympic Games debut. Muller is coming off a strong performance at the Finn Gold Cup (world championship) earlier in 2021, where he placed 6th. Scores of 6, 11 on his first day of racing in Enoshima have him sitting in 7th overall.
“The breeze was offshore, puffy and shifty,” said Muller. “We had a lot of lead changes and there were big holes, so sometimes you’d be motoring across the fleet and other times you’d be fully stopped. It was all about connecting pressure and being really observant and opportunistic.”
When asked if Olympic racing felt any different from competing at a Worlds or other top-level event, Muller said that an extra level of energy was tangible. “The racing is really tight, and when you lose 4 or 5 boats, because the fleet is so small, it’s a big portion of the fleet. Every boat counts.”
In the Laser, Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) logged two solid single-digit scores, with a 5, (26), 9 in three races. The two-time Olympian now sits in 16th overall with six races completed, and the Lasers will get a rest day on day four. Laser Radial athlete Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) continued a run of tough scores, with a 25 in the first race of the day, and a UFD penalty wiping out a strong tactical performance in Race 6. Railey sits in 39th overall.
RS:X athletes Pedro Pascual (Miami, Fla.) and Farrah Hall (Annapolis, MD) had a rest day on day three, and will return to action on day four. Also entering the fray will be Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.), Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.), Nikole Barnes (St. Thomas, USVI) and Lara Dallman-Weiss (Shoreview, Minn.), who will compete in the opening races of the Men’s and Women’s 470 events. Riley Gibbs (Long Beach, Calif.) and Anna Weis (Fort Lauderdale, FL) will represent Team USA in the Nacra 17 foiling multihull.
The NBC Olympics website is hosting the Tokyo 2020 sailing events for U.S. audiences starting at 11:00 PM EDT (8:00 PM PDT). There are two televised race areas per day, the “Enoshima” and “Kamakura” courses. As the classes rotate through each course daily, different athletes will be featured on the broadcast.