As the RS:X nears the end of its Olympic era, windsurfer Farrah Hall has secured the opportunity to give it one last go in Tokyo.
The 38-year-old from Annapolis, Maryland, clinched her spot at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 simply by putting her boat in the water this week in Australia. As the only American woman competing in the RS:X World Championships, the second of two U.S. Olympic team selection events, Hall secured her place as the sixth member of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team as soon as she completed a fleet race.
Tokyo will be Hall’s second Olympic appearance, after she finished 20th in her Olympic debut in 2012 in London. However, Tokyo will be the last Games using the RS:X, which made its Olympic debut in 2008, because the windsurfing equipment for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 is changing to iQFoil.
Hall was part of the “sea trials” that last fall helped the sport’s international federation decide which windsurfing equipment to use for Paris. She noted in a blog post that with foiling, “the thrill of the speed, stability, and physical racing in all kinds of conditions was hard to beat,” adding that, “Sailors who were beginner foilers picked up windfoil technique in just a few sessions.”
Though growing up in Annapolis, a city known for its sailing culture, Hall’s youth was spent focused mostly on other sports, particularly running, swimming and triathlon. It wasn’t until after graduating from high school in 1999 and moving on to St. Mary’s College of Maryland that she turned her attention squarely to windsurfing.
Hall began windsurfing competitively after her junior year and eventually reached the top level. She won a bronze medal at the Pan American Games Guadalajara 2011, and the next year finished second at the Miami World Cup months before her Olympic debut. In 2015, Hall won the Semaine Olympique Francaise in France in 2015. More recently, she finished fourth at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 and fifth at last month’s world cup stop in Miami.
This year is all about the Olympic Games, though.
With her 56th-place finish in the 2019 world championships, Hall secured an Olympic quota spot for the U.S. She then ran away with the competition to fill that spot. Hall entered this week’s competition with a 38-point lead over Carolina Mendelblatt, and as the only U.S. entrant at this week’s worlds on Port Phillip Bay in Australia she needed just to take the water to make her Olympic berth official.
Following three days of racing, Hall was in 35th place. The RS:X world championships finish up Saturday, with a men’s RS:X Olympic quota still to be filled.
Hall told US Sailing that she would savor what is expected to be one of the final major competitions using the RS:X this week.
“RS:X sailors have developed as a class and a fleet to have a really nice spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship, plus a really high level of racing,” Hall said. “I appreciate our last worlds on the RS:X for the friendships we’ve formed and the years we’ve spent together competing, plus we are hosted by a really amazing and welcoming club who has done the maximum to help us out.”
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic and Paralympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.