Thus far, the 2016 U.S. Olympic sailing team has been filling up with teams that have been together for years. But in the Nacra 17 class, Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee are bucking the trend, as this fairly new team has punched its ticket to Rio de Janeiro.
At the Nacra 17 World Championships, in a qualification race that came down to the wire, Gulari and Chafee were able to hold onto their lead as the top-ranked U.S. boat. Quota spots on the U.S. Olympic Team are filled based on results from two major international events for each class. Gulari and Chafee finished 12th at the first event, the Sailing World Cup Miami in January, to give themselves a nice eight-point cushion over Mark and Carolina Mendelblatt. Still very much in the race were Steph Hudson and Dalton Tebow at 15 points behind, Michael Easton and Katie Pettibone at 16 points behind, and Sarah Newberry and Matthew Whitehead at 17 points behind.
With windy conditions for most of the world championships, Gulari and Chafee struggled slightly; as a newer team, they hadn’t yet been able to practice in similar conditions. Three U.S. boats finished ahead of them at worlds, with Easton and Pettibone placing 17th, the Mendelblatts 26th and Hudson and Tebow 30th. Gulari and Chafee finished 31st, which was enough to maintain their first-place ranking in the U.S. and earn a berth to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Though they’re still working on gaining more experience sailing with each other, Gulari and Chafee are both experienced sailors in their own right. Gulari is a US Sailing Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and a two-time Moth World Champion, while Chafee joined Olympic class sailing after an All-American collegiate career at Brown University.
Gulari and Chafee join two other U.S. sailing teams on the Olympic roster. Paris Henken and Helena Scutt qualified on Friday in the 49erFX class, while Thomas Barrows and Joe Morris qualified in 49er earlier in the day. The next U.S. sailors will qualify for the Olympic team at the Laser Radial Europeans in March.