The start of the Olympic Games in Weymouth, England are only weeks away (July 27) and the sailing events in the Paralympics begin August 29. I’m happy to say that the USA will be sending strong teams to both, with a number of excellent medal opportunities.
While the USA continues to lead the world in Olympic sailing medals (59), the Brits have won more golds (23 vs. 19). The world of Olympic sailing has changed dramatically. More countries are sending better prepared teams than ever before, and money is the king. Who’s won the most sailing medals in the recent games? The UK. Which team has the most money? The UK. And this year they also have the advantage of sailing in their home waters.
Having co-chaired two fundraising events for the teams in the last nine months, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know the sailors, as well as their coaches and the management team led by US Olympic Sailing Chair Dean Brenner, from Wallingford, Connecticut. I can say without a moment’s hesitation that the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider (never knew there was a hyphen in Top-Sider) is composed of sailors we can be justifiably proud of. That they are great sailors is a given, but they are also a group of individuals that will represent the country with honor. You will not likely find any of these sailors jumping on a media boat and threatening a photographer, or using language that would make a marine blush. They are gentlemen and ladies to the core.
The US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider is one that is built for the long haul. The sailors have financial backing far in excess of what they have ever had before, although there is still a long way to go there. Equally important, there is now a development team (created in 2007), which is divided into two parts. First is the Olympic Development Team, whose sailors race Olympic classes (i.e. 49er, Finn, etc.). Then there is the Youth Development Team, whose sailors race boats used in the Youth Worlds (i.e. International 420). Planning for the future always pays off. Unlike professional sports, sailing can’t trade for big name athletes with other countries.
Leading the way this year is Team Maclaren’s match racing team of Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandemoer and Bayport, New York’s own Debbie Capozzi. Anna, Molly and Deb are currently ranked number one in the world in match racing and, in my opinion, are a shoe-in for a medal, most likely a gold.
WindCheck’s readership is also represented by other athletes. Noroton Yacht Club’s Rob Crane (Darien, CT) is getting better every day, and he secured a berth on the team by winning and finishing second in the last two races of the 2011 Laser Worlds (147 boats!) in Australia. One of the fittest sailors on the team, Rob will be one to watch if Weymouth delivers the heavy air in which he excels.
Shelter Island, New York’s Amanda Clark and crew Sarah Lihan (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) have been peaking at just the right time. They won the Women’s 470 silver medal at the recent Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth, winning two races including the all-important medal race. Amanda and Sarah have shown time and again that in a big breeze they can sail with anyone.
Then there is the 49er team of Eric Storck from Huntington, New York and crew Trevor Moore (Pomfret, VT), who has coached many local Opti kids. They too have improved in leaps and bounds, despite being hurt by injuries. Injuries in sailing? Try sailing a 49er in a heavy breeze. It’s not for the faint of heart or those long in the tooth, like me.
Leading the Paralympic team is the SKUD-18 team of Jen French and JP Creignou (both St. Petersburg, FL). Jen and JP have seemingly come out of nowhere to be major players on the world stage. They have been regulars on the podium, finishing fourth at Sail for Gold, just four points out of third. Before the throwout race, they had the third best score.
Now I’m going to take a chance at forecasting our medal winners – always a dangerous assignment. In no particular order, they are Team Maclaren in Women’s Match Racing, Amanda & Sarah in the Women’s 470, Zach Railey (Clearwater, FL) in the Finn, his sister Paige Railey (Clearwater) in the Laser Radial, Eric & Trevor in the 49er, and Jen & JP in the SKUD-18. Medals in six classes would surely define success. There are other US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider athletes who should not be written off as well.
While it is too late to contribute financially to the current teams, you can still support them with your best wishes. Send an email to the teams, both during the Olympics and Paralympics, to GoodLuckUSA@ussailing.org. Write early and often.