When the 2015 Pan American Games sailing competition gets underway in Toronto, the U.S. team will be looking to add to its impressive collection of accolades that have accumulated over the years at the world's third largest international tournament.
With a medal count of six at the 2011 Games held in Guadalajara, Mexico, the United States finished second to Brazil in total medals and performed well across the board in all major classes.
This year’s competition will see sailors from all over the Americas meet at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, where they will be hosted for the entirety of their stay. The races themselves will be staged on Lake Ontario near Sugar Beach, where for the first time in the event's history, spectators will be treated to the opportunity of watching the proceedings from the sand.
The United States will be competing in nine out of the 10 classes at the Pan Am Games, only failing to qualify in the J/27 class.
For many of the Team USA competitors, the opportunity to shine on one of the world's biggest stages comes as nothing new, as many of the 14 Americans have prior experience at the Pan Am Games.
One of those individuals is the decorated Paige Railey of Clearwater, Florida, a former ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, gold medalist at the 2007 Pan Am Games and 2012 Olympian. Competing in her third consecutive Pan Am Games in the Laser Radial, Railey hasn’t lost any of her love for the event and still views it as a great opportunity to prep for the Olympic Games, as well as hang out with her fellow athletes.
“I love the Pan Am Games because it’s great preparation for the Olympic Games,” Railey said, “It is only every four years, has a smaller fleet, and the racing is always very close on points. Also, seeing the other athletes in the village is another fun experience.”
Representing the men in the Laser will be the less experienced Charlie Buckingham of Newport Beach, California, who will be making his first appearance in the Pan Am Games. Buckingham competed at the Laser world championships just days before the start of his first race in Toronto, making for a very busy month of July for the newcomer.
Rounding out the classes that are represented by one person for the U.S. will be Carson Crain of Houston in RS:X for men, Marion Lepert of Belmont, California, in RS:X for women, and Conner Blouin of Tampa, Florida, in sunfish.
The new class making its debut at the Pan Am Games is the 49erFX high-performance skiff class, which will be completed by the American duo of Paris Henken of Coronado, California, and Helena Scutt of Kirkland, Washington. The two have been preparing diligently for how the conditions during their race days may affect their ride.
“Physically, we expect it to be a light wind event so we will make big improvements to our light wind boat handling, boat speed and strategy,” said Scutt. “The biggest strides could likely be mental.”
The father-daughter team of Mark Modderman of Long Branch, New Jersey, and Grace Modderman of Rumson, New Jersey, will attempt to bring home first place in the Hobie 16 class, coming off a second-place finish at the 44th Hobie 16 North American championships. Also, the United States squad is primed to have its team of three in the Lightning class operated by Justin Coplan of Nyack, New York; Danielle Prior of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania; and Caroline Patten of Barnegat Light, New Jersey.
The seasoned pair of Augie Diaz of Miami, Florida, and Kathleen Tocke of Buffalo, New York, who took home the silver medal at the 2011 Pan Am Games in the Snipe class, is back to have a go at the gold medal. Both have their names on some of the most prestigious championships in the world, and will want to add the Pan Am Games to their long list of first-place accomplishments. Sailing runs July 12-19.