Vilamoura, Portugal – 4/24/2021 – The 2021 ILCA European Continental Qualifiers ended on Saturday, April 24 following a week of varying breeze and swell in Vilamoura. USA Tokyo 2020 representatives Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) and Charlie Buckingham (Newport Beach, Calif.) finished in the top 10 among fleets of 89 and 139, respectively. Railey ended her event in tenth and Buckingham finished off his week in a three-way tie for fifth but ultimately in seventh after tie-breaker procedures.
On the ILCA 6 podium for this event sits Anne-Marie Rindom from Denmark in first, Josefin Olsson from Sweden in second, and Manami Doi from Japan in third. In the ILCA 7 class, the current world champion Philipp Buhl from Germany finished the event in first, six-time Olympian and two-time gold medalist Robert Scheidt from Brazil in second, and Michael Beckett from Great Britain in third.
The event served as the final qualifier for European countries to claim the remaining four slots to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: two spots were up for grabs in the women’s ILCA 6 fleet with eight countries in the running, and two in the men’s ILCA 7 fleet with 17 countries chasing their ticket to Tokyo. Even though the USA secured the country qualification in 2020, the European Continental Qualifiers this week provided an opportunity for US Sailing Team Tokyo 2020 representatives Railey and Buckingham to test their skills against competitors they’ll see in Enoshima this summer and sail in the heavy wind and swell that Japan is expected to bring to the table.
“I was mostly happy with my performance,” said Buckingham. “I was especially curious to see how my speed would stack up against the top sailors here after training stateside for the winter and I was happy with with it during this event. I definitely left some points on the table throughout the week, but overall I was consistent and put myself at the top of the fleet at the end of the event. I’m looking forward to sharpening up a few areas of my performance and placing higher on the leaderboard next time.”
The large swell proved to be a dominant factor on the racecourse this week, and both Buckingham and Railey are maximizing their time on the water in Europe to prepare for Japan. Railey and her coach, Steve Mitchell, stayed out an extra 90 minutes on the final day of racing just to continue practicing in the waves.
“My downwind legs were very strong this regatta, and I had some promising windward roundings throughout the event, even if a few mistakes pushed the results down a few notches at the finish line,” said Railey. “But overall, these conditions played a crucial role in my final preparations for Tokyo and Steve and I have our work cut out for us to be ready for what Japan will bring.”
Railey and Mitchell will stay in Vilamoura to train with a group of girls also chasing more time in the Japan-like conditions, including this event’s third place ILCA 6 sailor Manami Doi. Railey will compete once again in Vilamoura next month in the ILCA Coach Regatta on May 10-14 and is excited to see how the next few weeks of training on site will pay off.