Changes for USA in Olympic skiff event

Published on September 27th, 2022

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
An Olympic campaign is not an all-or-nothing pursuit. Yes, given the immense expense and time commitment, it would be wise to have the talent to realistically reach the podium, but lessons along the way are applicable well after the lights are out.

It is always a goal of Scuttlebutt to encourage those on this path to share their story, as it creates interest in an area of sailing often seen only every four years. More so, their lessons and experiences are broadly relevant and motivational.

However, that has gotten harder with time, particularly as social media has changed what is shared. Fewer words, more photos, less depth. There is also heightened concern about criticism or providing advantage, so easier to keep the door closed than expose the highs and lows of the campaign.

When the new American 49erFX team Lucy Wilmot and Erika Reineke began their Paris 2024 campaign in 2020, they flung the door wide open. Reineke had moved on from the ILCA 6, the duo was on the steep climb to understand the Olympic skiff, and no topic seemed off-limits.

But their timing wasn’t great. They lost a year of quality training due to the pandemic, and they were in a boat that requires massive experience. With USA selection for Paris 2024 coming soon, and their progress far off the mark, the mutual dream was no longer mutual.

In a statement they released, Lucy now has her sights set on the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games while Erika is exploring various different avenues of the sport, which most recently included her involvement with the United States SailGP Team at the Spain SailGP event.

Leading the USA in the Women’s Skiff event is Steph Roble and Maggie Shea, who finished 11th at Tokyo 2020 and 5th at the 2022 49erFX World Championship. But the US Team has no depth in this event, and this pair has been fraught with injury. However, help is on the way.

Paris Henken and Anna Tobias have returned to the 49erFX, and hope to pick up where they left off, which was about as close as you can get to qualifying for Tokyo 2020 without going. Slipping in the final selection event, they saw their bid to represent the USA sail off with Roble and Shea.

These returnees need no introduction as Henken finished 10th in the skiff event at the Rio 2016 Olympics, and Tobias (née Tunnicliffe) won her country’s last gold medal in the Women’s Singlehanded event at Beijing 2008. Can they catch lightning in a bottle? Standing by…

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