First major Olympic and Paralympic event of 2015
Published on January 22nd, 2015
Along with the rest of the 848 sailors from 63 nations currently training in Florida ahead of ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, Presented by Sunbrella (January 26-31), US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider athletes and coaches have entered a period of intense focus ahead of the first major Olympic and Paralympic event of 2015.
“There is a lot of energy in the boat park at this point of the Olympic cycle,” said Charlie McKee, 2-time Olympic medalist and High Performance Director of the US Sailing Team. “As we get nearer to the endgame in 2016, our focus is firmly on performing well on the water. Right now in Miami we have a combination of full-time campaigners doing everything they can to get in medal contention for Rio, and new campaigners who will use this experience as a springboard to their Tokyo 2020 dreams. With all of the best teams in the world here to compete, you can’t get better exposure than this.”
The impressive entry list for ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami underlines how the event has become an indispensable destination for sailors at this level. “Miami is certainly a crucial stop in the international circuit,” said McKee. “It provides excellent racing, beautiful conditions and professional race management.”
The US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider enters the new year after a strong campaign in 2014. US sailors finished in the top seven in four classes at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain. The team also earned two medals at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, UAE in November in the Men’s 470 and Finn classes.
Five members of the team were finalists for US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards, including Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif., Laser), Annie Heager (East Troy, Wisc., Women’s 470), Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla., Laser Radial), Erika Reineke (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Laser Radial) and Stuart McNay (Providence, R.I. Men’s 470).
ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami defending champion Paige Railey faces a deep field of competitors as she attempts to make it two in a row in the Laser Radial class, but describes this event as one of her favorites. “You can’t beat the weather here, and I love sailing in my home country,” said the Olympian, ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and native Floridian. A training injury prevented Railey from competing at the 2014 Worlds last Fall, but she noted that the setback is firmly in the past. “I am ready to roll. My attitude has just been to stay focused and let the results take care of themselves. We are getting closer to Rio, and I feel fired up.”
Joining Railey as a strong contender in Miami is teammate Erika Reineke (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.). Reineke had an impressive year on the international stage in 2014 with a 6th place showing at the Rio Olympic Test Event and consistently battling in the top 10 at the World Championships until the final day dropped her to 14th. The Laser Radial youth world champion and three-time collegiate national champion will be one to watch in 2015.
The world #4 ranked men’s 470 team of McNay and David Hughes (San Diego, Calif.) look to return to the podium in Miami, having medaled at this event for two years running. The pair put together a strong 2014 campaign which saw them make the medal race at each major international 470 regatta, and take home four medals, including bronze at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final. Their 5th place finish at the Worlds in Santander was the best by a US men’s 470 team in 14 years.
In the Women’s 470, Annie Haeger (East Troy, Wisc.) and crew Briana Provancha (San Diego, Calif.) see this year’s Miami event as a crucial step in their campaign. “Having a good result here at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami is important for helping us qualify to compete at this year’s Olympic Test Event in Rio, so that is definitely a goal for us,” said Provancha. World #2 ranked Haeger and Provancha recorded a string of top finishes at major events last year, including medaling at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères (France). “All the best teams are here, and having so much talent come to Miami to compete is really a huge benefit to US sailors.”
In the men’s heavyweight Finn fleet, Caleb Paine (San Diego, Calif.) had a career year in 2014 and is currently ranked #2 in the world. The Californian won a bronze medal at the inaugural ISAF Sailing World Cup Final In Abu Dhabi, after finishing 7th at the Worlds in Santander. Paine is an ISAF Sailing World Cup series champion, having taken the overall title in 2012. He has also previously made the podium in Miami, with a gold medal performance in 2013.
In the men’s Laser, Charlie Buckingham looks to retain the positive momentum he built up in late 2014, which saw him nearly finish on the podium at the Worlds while earning a spot at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final. A 2013 medalist in Miami, Buckingham has made the medal race at this event for three years in a row. Chris Barnard (Newport Beach, Calif.) also enjoyed a strong performance at the 2014 Worlds, finishing 13th in the 147-boat fleet. The high school, college and national team teammates continue to push the US men’s laser squad to its best results in over a decade.
In the Paralympic divisions, the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider will have several 2014 medalists returning to race Miami. In the Sonar, Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), and Hugh Freund (South Freeport, Maine) took bronze last year, and will be joined by Brad Kendell (Tampa, Fla.). In the SKUD-18, 2014 bronze medalist Ryan Porteous (San Diego, Calif.) will sail with new crew and 2008 Paralympic gold medalist Maureen McKinnon (Marblehead, Mass.). 2014 bronze medalist Cindy Walker (Middletown, R.I.) will compete with new skipper Sarah Everhart-Skeels (Tiverton, R.I.).