Tokyo 2020: Three teams, One berth

Published on February 23rd, 2021

These are the final days for LTJG (Lieutenant Junior Grade) Nikole ‘Nikki’ Barnes and Lara Dallman-Weiss as they head into the final qualifier to select the USA representative in the Women’s Two Person Dinghy event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – the 2021 470 World Championships on March 5-13 in Vilamoura, Portugal.

Barnes, a 2017 U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Miami and on a support billet to train, and Dallman-Weis, a 2011 Eckerd College graduate and past member of the US Sailing Development Team in the 470, are in a near dead heat with two other teams, having had to navigate the one year postponement.

The duo has been supported by the Inland Lake Yachting Association which shares this update on the team’s past several months and a preview of what’s next:

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented you from on-the-water training until last summer. What was the strategy behind, and strengths gained, when you did get back on the waters off Miami?

Dallman-Weiss: For a typical four-year Olympic campaign there are benchmarks teams typically go through. Since we started this campaign late, in April 2018 or two years into the current quad, we were on the fast track trying to squeeze in multiple things at once. The silver lining of the pandemic presented the opportunity to slow down and go back to the areas we had sped through before.

One big area for improvement was the basic principles of boat handling and team coordination in the 470. Our coach, Robby Bisi, is an expert when it comes to the above and we used the time alone in Miami, sailing without any other teams, to learn as much as we could from him, and then apply what we knew and make it our own.

With regattas canceled and no formal training camps scheduled in the fall and early winter of 2020 due to COVID, what did it take to position yourselves in a place where you could train and race against some of the best 470 teams – men and women – in Europe, a continent where there is tremendous talent?

Dallman-Weiss: There is such high value in training with and against the men’s teams. Physically, the men keep raising the bar higher and higher and we knew that if there was an opportunity to measure ourselves and train with some of the best teams, both men and women, we had to take it.

Therefore, we went to Santander, Spain. From a mental standpoint, there has been an incredible amount of uncertainty and pressure over the past year, which has led us to become process-oriented. We knew if we kept focused on stringing together several small positives that we would not be disappointed with the end result.

You took delivery of your new Olympic 470 this fall. What did it take to get a new boat, and could you underscore how important a new vessel is for your campaign?

LTJG Barnes: We are very grateful for our new boat, Page! At the beginning of our campaign, we were advised to sail the Zieglemayer boats, a Hamburg based company that has produced sturdy and fast boats for decades. We immediately got on a list to get a new Zieglemayer boat and three years later, we finally got one! We would not be able to get this boat without the help of our title sponsors through the Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association Elite Athlete Fund!

LTJG Barnes, during this past year with the COVID-19 pandemic and Olympic training, you also received word that in May you will be promoted from LTJG to LT. What did it take to keep your Coast Guard career advancing while captaining an Olympic campaign?

LTJG Barnes: I would not be where I am in my Coast Guard career and on the Olympic campaign path without the support of the Coast Guard. My supervisors and all my previous and current command at Sector Miami have gone out of their way to allow me to stay ahead in my qualifications while being huge supporters of the Olympic campaign.

To make the best out of a challenging situation when the COVID pandemic forced us to stop training and head back home, I was able to use the extra time in Miami to complete specific qualifications and gain experience that has made me a better officer. I will have a good amount of work to do after the Olympic campaign in my soon to be LT role, but I am grateful for the challenge and the ability to represent the U.S. Coast Guard on the world stage.

Could you share your thoughts on the upcoming Qualifier – and Tokyo beyond? How can readers watch, follow along and even help?

LTJG Barnes: This past year has been filled with challenges, but it has allowed us to grow tremendously as a team as we worked through different adversities. We traveled to foreign countries to train in the middle of a pandemic and logged an average of 100+ hours of campaign work and training each week to maximize the time we had been given. We didn’t want to waste a moment of it.

With this preparation, dedication and hard work, we are eager to put our skills to the test. The qualifier of course is for the Team USA selection, but it is going to be a test against ourselves. Beyond the qualifier, we have already begun thinking about what we can best use in our equipment for the Olympic Games in Japan. There are some key aspects of our new boat that will give us an advantage in the venue for the Olympic Games, Enoshima. We will keep these little tricks to ourselves until after the Games though!

LTJG Barnes is a native of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and a member of both the St. Francis Yacht Club and St. Thomas Yacht Club. Dallman-Weiss is a native of Shoreview, MN, and a member of the New York Yacht Club.

To follow the World Championship:

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