As the top-scoring eligible American athletes in their respective Olympic sailing classes, 13 sailors successfully completed qualification for the US Olympic Sailing Team at the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Championships, Dec. 3-18, 2011 in Perth, Australia. Three additional athletes, who will compete in Women’s Keelboat Match Racing, were selected to the Team at the U. S. Olympic Team Qualifying Regatta, May 4-10, 2012, in Weymouth, England.
US Sailing’s Olympic Sailing Committee will officially nominate the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, pending approval from the U.S. Olympic Committee. The US Olympic Team – Sailing will compete at the 2012 Olympic Games, scheduled for July 27- August 12, 2012 in Weymouth/Portland, England.
US Olympic Team – Sailing selection (pending approval by US Olympic Committee)
Equipment (Olympic Event) – Athlete
Laser Radial (Women’s One Person Dingy) – Paige Railey
Finn (Men’s One Person Dingy Heavy) – Zach Railey
RS:X (Women’s Windsurfer) – Farrah Hall
470 (Men’s Two Person Dingy) – Stu McNay and Graham Biehl
Laser (Men’s One Person Dingy) – Rob Crane
RS:X (Men’s Windsurfer) – Bob Willis
49er (Men’s Two Person Dinghy High Performance) – Erik Storck and Trevor Moore
Star (Men’s Keelboat) – Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih
470 (Women’s Two Person Dingy) – Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan
Women’s Match Racing – Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandemoer, Debbie Capozzi
Paige Railey won a bronze medal in the Laser Radial (women’s singlehanded dinghy) in a 102-boat fleet. “I think the excitement of winning a bronze in the medal race is all over and it’s starting to sink in that my brother and I are going to the Olympics, it’s pretty exciting,” said Railey after finishing the regatta.
At age 24, Paige Railey is no stranger to the fierce competition of the international sailing Olympic class circuit, and she is determined to win a medal at the 2012 Games in England. While she had a meteoric rise to the top at a young age – she was the world’s most celebrated female sailor in 2006, winning both the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year awards – she has proven she has the talent and maturity to evolve as an athlete and stay on top of her game. After taking most of 2008 off to attend college, she jumped back into the Laser Radial. She tried new techniques and took new risks, but also trusted her instincts when to hold back and sail consistently. Since then, she has dominated the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup series, consistently finishing in third place overall for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons. The bronze medalist for the 2011 Pan American Games (Laser Radial) and Weymouth & Portland International Regatta (London 2012 Olympic Test Event), she is currently ranked #5 in the world and a member of St. Francis Yacht Club.
Zach Railey finished in 9th place in the 72-boat Finn class (men’s heavyweight dinghy). “Getting the USA qualified for the Games and winning the trials is a huge step in the right direction,” he said. “Making the Olympic Team with my sister Paige is a dream come true for both of us. This is what we’ve worked for. This is what we sacrifice for.” When Zach Railey won an Olympic silver medal in 2008, he described that moment as “a rush of emotion, satisfaction and pride. I dream about being able to have that moment again in 2012.”
This time, Railey is hungry for gold, and he has a calculated plan to achieve his goals in 2012. The 27-year-old member of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics spends approximately 200 days a year training and competing on the water and is on a full-time physical fitness program specially designed to ensure he is in peak athletic shape. Since 2009, Railey has continued his success in the Finn class, the men’s heavyweight dinghy, by winning a silver medal at the Finn Gold Cup; winning the Finn Nationals (’09, ’10, ’11), and three medals at ISAF Sailing World Cup events. He is currently ranked #5 in the world and a member of St. Francis Yacht Club.
Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl finished 13th in the 80-boat Men’s 470 class (men’s doublehanded dinghy). “We know we can sail much better than that,” said Biehl at the conclusion of the regatta. “But, at the end of the day we’re going to the Olympics and we’re pretty psyched about that.”
McNay and Biehl teamed up in 2005 with the goal of winning an Olympic Medal for the United States. They completed the first part of their dream in 2008 by representing the USA at the Olympics in the Men’s 470 class, the doublehanded dinghy. The pair finished a respectable 13th and then rededicated themselves winning a medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. Since 2008, they stood atop the podium on the International Sailing Federation World Cup’s Sail Melbourne for the past three years earning a gold (’11) and two silver (’10, ’09) medals. The team finished 11th at the Weymouth & Perth Int”l Regatta, Weymouth, U.K. (London 2012 Olympic Test Event). McNay is a member of Beverly Yacht Club and Biehl is a member of San Diego Yacht Club. They are currently ranked #5 in the world.
Farrah Hall finished 51st in the 63-boat Women’s RS:X class (women’s windsurfer). “This event, the Olympic Team wasn’t foremost in the mind,” said Hall after the regatta. “My focus was small goals in every race and I’m happy with this event.”
During Farrah Hall’s junior year at St. Mary’s College, the windsurfing club and sailing team were visited by Mike Gebhardt, a famous American windsurfer and two-time Olympic medalist. It was during the visit that she learned that windsurfing was an Olympic sport, and that she had the potential to get to a new level through racing. That summer, Hall began racing locally on an old Mistral Olympic-class sailboard purchased at a local swap meet. It wasn’t until after graduation in 2003 that she began to think about a Olympic campaign. Her campaign officially launched in May, 2005 when ISAF switched the Olympic class from Mistral to the Neil Pryde RS:X. Since then, Hall has trained around the World, often spending months at a time in Europe for training. Known for her incredible work ethic and physical fitness, Hall is a dedicated competitor. A member of St. Francis Yacht Club, Hall is currently ranked #60 in the world.
Although Hall earned US Olympic Team selection, the USA did not qualify a berth in the women’s RS:X at the ISAF Worlds. The final opportunity will be the 2012 RS:X World Championship, March 20-29,2012 in Cadiz, Spain.
Rob Crane stunned the international Laser fleet on the final day of the ISAF Sailing World Championships by winning the 9th race and finishing a close second in the 10th. His commanding final day’s performance earned him the top American position (14th) in the Laser (men’s singlehanded dinghy) and with it, the selection to the US Olympic Team.
“We put in so much effort trying to do this and I’m so proud that I accomplished my goal,” said Crane the day after selection. “Without the support of my family I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Rob Crane was born into a family that is passionate about sailing and was introduced to sailing at a very young age at the Noroton Yacht Club. Rob’s competitive sailing began in the Optimist class, where he competed in the local Long Island Sound events and he also traveled to some of major events. In 1998 he won the Optimist North American Championship and soon after he advanced to the Laser Radial and won the JSA of Long Island Sound Championship in 2000.
Rob “graduated” to the Olympic Laser in 2001 and has raced competitively in the class ever since. Unlike many of the serious youth sailors who compete today, Rob pursued other athletic endeavors during the school year, including hockey, soccer and lacrosse.
Once at Hobart College he began to sail almost year round, primarily as Hobart’s singlehanded sailor where he was the first Hobart team member to qualify for the men’s Intercollegiate Sailing Associations Singlehanded Championship. In 2008 he finished third in the event. Rob is a full time athlete, traveling and training in pursuit of his Olympic dreams. His schedule includes the major international events such as the ISAF Sailing World Cup, world and continental championships. This will be Rob’s first Olympic Games. He is currently ranked #26 in the world and a member of Noroton Yacht Club.
A first-time Olympic Team member, Bob Willis qualified the USA for an Olympic Games berth when he made the cut for gold fleet at the ISAF Sailing World Championships
“It still hasn”t settled in yet,” said Willis. “It is an unbelievable feeling and it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Ben (Barger) is a relentless competitor and pushed me so hard over the past few years. I found out from Dean and Kenneth as I completed recovery with our physio. I”ve had a constant smile on my face since!”
Chicago native Bob Willis learned to sail when he was 8-years-old at the Columbia Yacht Club (in downtown Chicago). During his years at Francis W. Parker High School he began to windsurf and shortly after graduation he qualified for the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics.
As the top-ranked U.S. windsurfer, Bob represented the USA at the Pre-Olympic Test Event in Weymouth, U.K., in August, at the site of the 2012 Olympic Games. An avid Chicago Bulls fan, Bob rates Chicago as his favorite city in the world and proudly represented his hometown and the USA at the 2011 Pan American Games where he finished 7th. He is ranked #75 in the world and is a member of Columbia Yacht Club.
On the final day at the ISAF Sailing World Championships, Erik Storck (Huntington, N.Y.) and Trevor Moore(Naples, Fla./Pomfret, Vt.) went into the 49er medal race with a chance at a bronze medal. Standing in 5th overall in the 10-boat fleet their goal was to secure a medal. But, the medal wasn’t to be. On the fifth leg, the rudder pintle broke and the high performance skiff stalled, then capsized.
“It was going great there,” said Moore on the dock shortly after coming ashore. “We ended up attacking our plan. We got a port-tack start, hipped up on the fleet, and we were heading out right where there was decent pressure. We were winning the race going onto our third and final lap.
“We were cruising upwind, and the rudder started to hydroplane and Erik didn’t have any steering. We went to windward and flipped. Our rudder pintle ended up snapping off. We couldn’t finish the race. After taking a look at where we rounded the second top mark, we were medaling. It was a crushing blow to have a breakdown at that point. If only the pintle would have lasted 15 minutes more we might have been sitting in a different spot.”
The entire week was strong for Storck and Moore, who have been together as a team for less than three years. They have seen their performance strengthen at every event, and this world championship was yet another increase in their standings. They are currently ranked #12 in the world. Storck is a member of New York Yacht Club, Storm Trysail Club, while Moore is a member of New York Yacht Club.
In an exciting finale to the Star class’s world championship, Mark Mendelblatt (Miami, Fla.) and Brian Fatih(Miami, Fla.) won a bronze medal. “We’ve been working hard and training hard, and it’s all coming together,” said Fatih soon after arriving back at the dock.
Mark and Brian teamed up in the Star during this Olympic quadrennium and have consistently found themselves in the top 10 at international events. Mendelblatt, a member of St. Petersburg Yacht Club, is a 1999 silver medalist at the Pan American Games (Laser) and a 2004 Olympian where he finished 8th in the Laser class. Fatih is a member of Shake A Leg Miami and Coral Reef Yacht Club. This will be his first Olympic Games. They are ranked #17 in the world.
Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihanteamed up in February, 2011 to compete in the Women’s 470 class. They have steadily climbed the ranks and steep learning curve of the technical two-person dingy.
It’s been such a year for me,” said Clark, referring to her change in crews. Her former crew and partner in the 2008 Olympic Games, Sarah Mergenthaler Chin, retired from USSTAG in January. “It’s been an incredible year of change. The goals I set out for myself four years ago; this is the next step in achieving those goals. And to be a two-time Olympian? I just can’t believe it. I’m excited to have this moment to share with Sarah as it’s her first Olympics.”
With only a handful of events in which they competed in 2011, their best performance, to date, is a bronze medal at the 2011 Sail Melbourne, in Australia, the first event of the 2010-2011 ISAF Sailing World Cup. The team is ranked #9 in the world. Clark is a member of Shelter Island YC/New York YC/Seawanhaka Corinthian YC and Lihan is a member of Lauderdale Yacht Club.
Quote from Olympic Sailing Committee Chairman Dean Brenner (Wallingford, Conn.): “All 13 athletes have demonstrated determination, drive and the commitment required to win Olympic medals. They worked full-time to earn the right to represent the USA at the 2012 Olympic Games. I can speak on behalf of the OSC, US Sailing’s Board of Directors, our staff, volunteers, friends and family when I say how I proud I am of each and every one of them.”
Selection: Athletes combined their overall score from two regatta: 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships and 2011 Skandia Sail for Gold. The top-performing eligible athlete(s) in each Olympic fleet racing class was selected to join the U.S. Olympic Team to compete at the 2012 Olympic Games, scheduled for set for July 27- August 12, 2012 in Weymouth/Portland, England. To read the press release announcing the selection procedures, please click here. To read the details of the selection procedures, please click here.
Video: First members announced
Video: Eight more members announced
Video: Farrah Hall selected
About US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics
The US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics is managed by the United States Sailing Association (US SAILING), the national governing body for the sport of sailing and sailboat racing. The top boats in each Olympic and Paralympic class are selected annually to be members of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. US SAILING supports these elite athletes with funding, coaching and training. The title sponsor of the team is AlphaGraphics; other sponsors include Rolex Watch USA, Atlantis WeatherGear, Sperry Top-Sider, LaserPerformance, Harken Team McLube, Trinity Yachts, New England Ropes, Group Experiential Learning and Bow Down Training. For more information about the US Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Program and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, please visit: http://sailingteams.ussailing.org. For more information about the 2012 US Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Teams, please visit: http://olympics.ussailing.org
Press contact: Dana Paxton, US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, firstname.lastname@example.org, mobile: +1 401-369-0490