SAIL Olympics Update: U.S. women’s 470 sailors come up short

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The U.S. Sailing Team will have to settle for Caleb Paine’s single bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic sailing regatta following a heart-stopping and heartbreaking medal race in the women’s 470 class. U.S. sailors Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha had been in third place overall going into the race and actually led the fleet at the first windward mark. But a tough second beat followed by a penalty turn that they incurred at the end of the second run put their dreams of a podium finish to an end.

Early on, Haeger and Briana Provancha were a bit slow off the starting line, as the wind blew a steady 17-plus knots of wind out of the southwest on Rio’s notoriously tricky Pao de Acucar course. But by playing the shifts and staying clear of bad air they worked their way up to the front of the fleet so that they were first to the windward mark. They also looked good on the following downwind leg, again by staying clear of bad air, so that the were first around the leeward mark as well.

Unfortunately, it was then that things started to go wrong as they found themselves pinned by New Zealanders Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (who were a single point ahead of the Americans in first overall) and forced to go to the left side of the course and away from their other competition: French sailors Camille LeCointre who were a single point behind them in fourth overall and Japanese sailors Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka who were another two points behind them in fifth. The end result was that by the time the fleet came back together again for its second windward-mark rounding, Haeger and Provancha were in sixth.

Even then, they still had a chance at a medal as the fleet raced back down to the leeward mark for the second and final time, all within mere yards of one another. However, just shy of the mark they fouled the Japanese team, which forced them to do a penalty turn that subsequently pushed them back into a 10th–place finish and seventh overall. To add insult to injury, they were the only team to cross the finish line under main and jib alone, having been forced to drop their spinnaker to complete their turn. In the end, it was British sailors Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark getting the gold, having wrapped up first place overall with a race to spare, New Zealand getting the silver and France getting the bronze.

After that, it was the men’s 470 race, in which U.S. sailors Stu Mcnay and Dave Hughs had a very slim chance of jumping from fourth overall onto the podium for bronze. However, it was not to be as their second-place finish in the medal race was still not enough to dig them out of the hole they were in terms of the overall standings.

In the end, it was Croatia’s Sime Fantela and Igor and Marenic winning gold, with Austria’s Mathew Belcher and William Ryan vaulting over Greek sailors Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis, who’d been in second going into the medal race, to take silver and the Greeks winning bronze. The latter two teams, in particular, fought tooth and nail from start to finish, with the Australians finally putting it away when the Greeks had a rough rounding at the final leeward mark.

For complete results in the sailing events, including the medal winners in the 49er and 49erFX classes, in which there was no chance of a U.S. medal, click here.

August 2016

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