The sailing events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games began on Sunday, with the US Sailing Team in action in four singlehanded classes. American sailors are in the top ten overall in two events, with Laser athlete Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) and RS:X sailor Pedro Pascual (Miami, Fla.) both in 9th. In the Men’s RS:X sail board, Pascual had a career-best day of Olympic racing with a 6,12,7.
After five years of training and racing at the highest level, Pascual demonstrated significant improvement since competing at his first Games in Rio 2016. “Well, being transparent, at my first Olympics I wasn’t sleeping. I was too excited,” said Pascual. “I was 20 years old. And that definitely took a toll on me. This time around, I know what to expect. I’ve experienced these feelings before and I’m just looking forward to racing.”
Pascual sits in 9th overall after three races. “I got off the [starting] line pretty well in the first and third races,” said the 2020 Sailing World Cup Miami winner. “Tactically, the shifts and the puffs were super small. So staying in pressure was key to me. I was a lot more confident, especially in the last race with a bit more breeze. I’m happy with my first day and looking forward to improving in the next.”
In the Men’s Laser, Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) finished 9th in the only race that was completed on the first day of racing. The Lima 2019 Pan American Games bronze medalist started cleanly near the pin and sailed with the front pack throughout the race. A single-digit finish on a light and tricky day in Enoshima represents a solid start in the deep 35-strong Laser fleet.
RS:X athlete Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.) scored 21, 21, 7 across the opening races, and her single-digit finish in race three is a career-best to date for the two-time Olympian and 2011 Pan American Games medalist. After rounding the first mark in race three in 16th, Hall mounted a comeback that saw her pass 13 boards on the third leg. Leg four saw her drop slightly to 7th, a position she defended until the finish.
In the Women’s Laser Radial event, three-time Olympian Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) endured one of the toughest days of her long and accomplished career. The five-time World Championship medalist started the first race strong, but after ending up on the wrong sides of large shifts on both upwind legs, Railey found herself deep in the fleet despite showing her typically-strong speed. A score of 40 in race one was followed by a UFD (over the starting line early) penalty in race two, which prematurely ended her efforts to bounce back.
“I’m disappointed, to be honest,” said the 2006 World Sailor of the Year. “It was a rough day for me, so I’m just going to go out and do my best for the next few races. I just need to take one race at a time and just do as well as I can.”
The NBC Olympics website is hosting the Tokyo 2020 sailing event for U.S. audiences starting at 11:00 PM EDT (8:00 PM PDT) during the event. 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.