Pursuing their potential for Tokyo 2020

Published on June 27th, 2019

In the lead up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the USA had two Women’s Two Person Dinghy teams internationally ranked in the top 11. Considering the 470 Class is not active in the USA, this was a tremendous position of strength that, without a tragic final race, would have resulted in an Olympic medal for USA.

More impressive was how this was the first campaign for both teams, but despite the significant investment and massively positive future, both teams opted not to continue toward Tokyo 2020. This left an immense void in the USA plans, but there are three new teams now seeking to fill the space.

Among them are 29th ranked Nikki Barnes and Lara Dallman-Weiss who have recently completed Europe’s spring circuit of elite regattas. Their results advanced them to be the USA representative at the 2019 Olympic Test Event to be held at the Enoshima venue for the Games on August 17-22.

Then, with this golden carrot firmly fixed in Japan, both in 2019 and ultimately in 2020, the duo stayed in Europe to continue training with top teams to focus on what they needed to excel in the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ later this summer.

“It was a key step in our campaign to go to Europe for these regattas before traveling to Japan, so that we could get on a starting line with some of the world’s best Women’s 470 sailors,” explains Barnes, a 2017 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

“If we just stayed at home and trained by ourselves, sure we would have improved, but it would have given us a false sense of our ability. In the intense racing environment of Europe’s spring circuit you can fail fast, but if you are willing to stand up after getting knocked down you will learn so much faster.

“We weren’t comfortable with watching boats sail in front of us. That’s why at our last event in Marseille, France, we were top 10 at almost every first windward mark in conditions from 5-30 knots. That means that we have great starts and are fast in a wide range of conditions. Our failing fast moments were the down winds where we weren’t able to keep the mast upright when we were sending the boat too hard. We were fast, until we flipped.”

What lies ahead for them now is the 470 World Championships (August 2-9), as this is an opportunity for the team to quality the U.S.A. in the Women’s 470 for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. The other major regatta this summer in Japan, in addition to the Olympic Test Event, is the 2019-2020 World Cup Series 1, set for August 25-September 1.

From left: LTJG Nikole Barnes, Coach Robby Bisi, Lara Dallman-Weiss.

“One point that has been clear throughout our time in Europe is that it takes time to reach our potential,” says Dallman-Weiss. “With each event and the tremendous help of Robby (coach Robby Bisi), we’re beginning to understand the 470 in ways we haven’t before. Some of the tools we have added include rig tune, precise communication, specific kinetics, and an overall understanding of weather.”

For Barnes, an Olympic campaign both strengthens and continues to build a unique skill set that will serve her well in her continued career as a U.S. Coast Guard officer.

“When I’m on the water I think back to my Coast Guard training: the quick thinking, attention to detail, ability to make mistakes and learn quickly from them, and the work ethic to do whatever it takes to get the job done. We are constantly juggling the logistics and strategy and managing budgets and equipment at one event while also pre-planning for events that are months in advance.

“At the end of the day, most important is the relationships in the boat. As the helm, it’s my job to steer the boat and when in the situation to lead, to do so in a way that allows for the best performance. I have a lot of power in the boat, but I wouldn’t go anywhere without Lara’s skill and feel in the front of the boat. It takes a team and my Coast Guard training has taught me the skills of working in a team environment.”

To support Barnes and Dallman-Weiss, donate to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association’s Elite Athletic Excellence Fund (www.cgaalumni.org/eliteathlete).

For more information about Barnes and Dallman-Weiss’ Olympic campaign, visit www.perfectvisionsailing.com

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