Will North America be a Contender at the 2016 Olympics?

Published on August 23rd, 2015

When Rio de Janeiro welcomed 339 sailors from 52 nations on August 15-22 for the Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2015, better known as the Rio Olympic Test Event, it was a dress rehearsal for the aspiring athletes that seek to compete in the 2016 Games.

All ten sailing events were competing, but with only one entry per event per country… just like the Olympic Games. As a result, fleet size is much smaller than what is typically experience at international events. A different game to adjust to, and when sailing inside Guanabara Bay, with its varied winds and currents, it becomes a vastly different game.

The North American countries are seeking to rebound from the 2012 London Games where they got shut out of the medal count. The 2012 Olympics was particularly hard on the US team as they came with legitimate medal contenders and had won at least two medals at every Games they competed in since 1948. But after succeeding at 15 Olympic Games since World War II, the USA got skunked.

So North America came to Rio with hopes of turning the tide, as the test event is often an indicator into who will be on the podium at the Olympic Games itself. In the build up to London 2012, the 2011 test event saw 18 eventual Olympic medalists finish on the podium with the remaining podium finishers demonstrating the attributes that it takes to become an Olympic medalist.

In short, if you did well last week, you can be a contender in 2016. Nineteen countries landed on the podium… here’s an update on the North Americans teams that were in Rio:

Mexico: The Men’s and Women’s RS:X boardsailing classes is where Mexico has made an investment. While David Mier y Teran finished 15th, he was just two places behind 2012 silver medalist Nick Dempsey (GBR). Faring better was Demita Vega de Lille in 10th, posting top nine scores in 5 of the 9 races but was also disqualified from two races.

Canada: While the Nacra 17 team of Luke Ramsay and Nikola Girke have had their positive moments on the international circuit, they stumbled hard in Rio, finishing 14th out of 17. But Canada has a strong history in singlehanded classes, and Lee Parkhill nearly medaled in the Laser. One bad day dropped him from 2nd to 7th, but winning the Medal Race boosted him to 5th overall.

USA: Represented in all 10 events, USA was off the pace in the skiffs, boards, and catamaran. Finn rep Caleb Paine, who has shown he can compete with the leaders, also struggled in Rio. Charlie Buckingham had a remote chance for a Laser medal, but got penalized in the Medal Race to finish 7th. However, the USA appears to have real promise in the Men’s and Women’s 470 and Laser Radial, and could have easily medaled in all three events.

Men’s 470 team of Stuart McNay and David Hughes, which won the 2015 European Championship, were either first or second for most of the event but stumbled near the end to finish 7th. Paige Railey, who had been in medal contention throughout the event, just missed out on the podium, dropping to fourth after attracting penalties in the Medal Race. However, Women’s 470 team of Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha overcame a three point deficit in the Medal Race to win the gold medal.

Solid progress for a team eager to erase memories of the London Olympics.
ISAF Olympic WebsiteTest event scheduleEvent reportsResultsCourse areasPhotos

The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition will take place at the Marina da Glória, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and will feature 380 athletes competing across ten events. Racing is scheduled to take place August 8-18, 2016 and the competition format for all events is fleet racing.

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