With exactly one year to go until the start of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, US Sailing has released the names of fifteen US Sailing Team Sperry Olympic-class sailors who will compete at the Aquece Rio International Regatta (Olympic Test Event) from August 15-22, 2015. The 2015 Test Event is the second and final major pre-Olympic regatta to be held at the Rio 2016 Olympic sailing venue, and stands as a significant milestone for sailors hoping to qualify for the Olympics. With the top contenders in each class present, the event is an important measuring stick for American athletes against the world’s best. As is the case at the Olympics, one boat per country will compete in each class.
“At the Test Event, US Sailing Team Sperry athletes are looking to prepare for small-fleet racing at the Games venue,” said Charlie McKee, a two-time Olympic medalist and the High Performance Director of the US Sailing Team Sperry. “US sailors are also looking to demonstrate that they are on track to be ready to compete for the podium in one year’s time.”
Several US Sailing Team Sperry athletes have logged some of their best results of the Rio 2016 Olympic quadrennium leading into this event. In the Men’s 470, Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and David Hughes (Miami, Fla.) have been unbeaten since June, with overall victories coming at ISAF Sailing World Cup Weymouth and the 470 European Championships earlier this Summer. In Rio, McNay and Hughes will look to continue their run of top results. “Every day sailing in Rio is another day logged building valuable experience at the Olympic venue,” said McNay. “We are becoming more savvy at handling the tricky conditions in Guanabara Bay. Any day can throw us a curve ball, but the more time we spend here, the more comfortable we are with the variables.”
Hughes added that a main challenge of an Olympic campaign is to achieve steady improvement over a four-year period. “Stu and I are excited that many parts of our game have come together this year,” said Hughes. “However, we remain mindful of what we need to do in the lead up to the Olympics. We’ve spent a great deal of time here in Rio and we’re constantly looking to better our understanding of the Olympic race courses. As always, our main focus is on sharpening our skills within the boat to be as competitive a team as possible.”
The American 49erFX team of Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) and Helena Scutt (Kirkland, Wash.) is coming off a bronze medal-winning performance at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, and is eager to gain more experience at the 2016 Games venue. “Rather than just training in Rio, this is a chance to perform under pressure at the Olympic venue, which is what our game is all about,” said Scutt. “With the complexity of the current and water movement in the bay here, more time in racing situations can only be a good thing for us.” Henken noted that there was palpable anticipation within the fleet for the Test Event. “Everyone wants to perform well at this event. We only have one year left to learn everything we can about this place.”
Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) won gold at the Pan American Games in July, her third career medal at the event and her second time finishing on top of the podium. She now returns to Rio de Janeiro, the site of her first Pan Am Games gold medal performance in 2007. “It’s motivating to win one big event right before heading to another one,” said Railey. “We’re going to take the things we learned in Toronto and carry them over into [the Rio Test Event].”
US Sailing Team Sperry Women’s 470 sailors Annie Haeger (East Troy, Wisc.) and Briana Provancha (San Diego, Calif.) are also coming off a podium performance at the 470 European Championships, where they won bronze. Provancha noted that it’s exciting to be so close to the start of the US Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games. “It’s really cool to represent your country here at the Test Event, and get used to the small fleet size. We are trying to treat it like a normal regatta and perform our best.”
To read more about the US Olympic Sailing Team, visit: www.ussailing.org