Clearwater Worlds: USA 49er and 49erFX Jump Upwards

The top of the USA leaderboard includes two Henken siblings and their teammates. Two days of racing remain.
USSTS 49erFX Henken and Scutt
Paris Henken and Helena Scutt, 49erFX, US Sailing Team Sperry. Jen Edney AP/49er Class

Day three of the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida marked the first day that all three fleets complete multiple races, radically altering the standings and ushering in what the US Sailing Team Sperry’s Joe Morris (Annapolis, Md.) called “the real start of the regatta.” A principle storyline of the day from an American standpoint was the strong results of siblings Hans and Paris Henken in the 49er and 49erFX classes.

A light and variable breeze filled in mid-morning, and did not exceed ten knots at any stage of the day. Nevertheless, race organizers worked hard to complete as many races as possible, and get a regatta previously plagued by extreme conditions back on track.

49er and 49erFX racing will be brought to a worldwide sailing audience on Friday, February 12 (Day 4) at the Worlds in Clearwater. Coverage will include onboard cameras, aerial footage, 3D graphics and expert commentary as the best skiff sailors in the world battle off Clearwater Beach. The broadcast will begin at 12:00 noon EST.


49erFX (Women’s Two-Person High Performance Skiff)

In the women’s skiff, Paris Henken and Helena Scutt dramatically improved their overall position by recording three top-five scores over four races, and now sit in 12th overall.

“We’re really happy with how the day went,” said Scutt. “During one race we were pretty worried about a possible black flag penalty, but it worked out. Our speed was good, and our tactical moves were strong. We’re happy with our execution, and are looking forward to continuing.”


Nacra 17 (Mixed Two-Person Multihull)

Michael Easton and Katie Pettibone remained the top American team, with their best races on Day Three being an 11th and a 6th, their second top-ten finish in as many days.

“It was quite a change from yesterday, conditions-wise,” said Pettibone, an America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veteran. “Today we had to focus on current and big shifts. There were no definitive tactical trends. It stayed pretty cold, however.”


In terms of Olympic selection, Easton and Pettibone are now locked in a close battle with Mark and Carolina Mendelblatt, along with Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee.

USSTS 49er Ryan and Henken
US Sailing Team Sperry’s Judge Ryan and Hans Henken Jen Edney AP/49er Class

In the 49er, the relatively new team of Judge Ryan and Hans Henken had an impressive day on the water, recording three scores in the top six over four races and jumping over thirty spots in the standings.

“Today was about not being forced to tack early,” said Henken. “It was hard holding a lane because there was a lot of current. For us, it was a day of focusing on sailing well and keeping our heads out of the boat.”


This may be a U.S. Olympic Team selection event, but despite their strong showing, Ryan and Henken said they’re not getting ahead of themselves. “You can’t get too high or too low based on one day’s racing,” said Ryan. The pair has been notably successful in youth classes such as the 29er, and have logged just over one year of racing in the Olympic 49er class.

Racing will continue on Day Four of the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championship in Clearwater, Florida, with medal races being held on Sunday, February 14, 2016.