I’ve been making the rounds at the U.S. Olympic Sailing Trials over the past week. I enjoyed immensely watching the intensity in the Laser Radial class, where Paige Railey and Anna Tunnicliffe are competing. The stakes are high, and only one of these talented sailors will qualify for the Olympic Games. At the halfway point Tunnicliffe is five points up over Railey, but this event is far from concluded. To my eye, Railey sails faster upwind and is a little slower downwind. This may be a result of the penalties assessed to Railey at the Rolex Miami OCR last January: she might be a little gun shy working the boat to take advantage of the waves on the runs.
Interestingly, Tunnicliffe was assessed a penalty in Race 8 for rocking too hard. She completed her 720 degree penalty turn and still managed to win the race. But a second penalty call in any of her final 8 races would mean a disqualification in that heat. Anna will certainly have to be more conservative with her kinetics. This might level the playing field.
After the races on Tuesday I interviewed both sailors. Tunnicliffe was bright, feeling very good about her performance and looking forward to the upcoming races. Railey, on the other hand, seemed distraught. She had tears in her eyes. Apparently she was upset with her downwind performance. The lay day on Wednesday will probably help her calm down. Railey seems like a person who is more concerned about the final result than a specific race. Through the course of our interview she talked herself into concentrating on one race at a time. For me, it was interesting to watch the transition, and I think this regatta is still up for grabs.
Back in third is Sarah Lihan. At 6’1″, she has a distinct advantage in heavy wind over both Railey and Tunnicliffe. My impression is deep down she’s hoping the two leaders will get into a match race, allowing her to get into the top spot. But Sarah realizes just how special her two rivals are.
Overall it is a joy to watch this event at several levels. The competitors are businesslike, yet friendly and open. Sail Newport Race has created a beautiful venue out at Third Beach, and Brad Reed and his team are doing a good job running these races.