All the hotel rooms in Marina del Rey are reportedly sold out and occupied by some of the finest sailing talent the world has to offer in the realm of dinghy racing.
The California Yacht Club is hosting the Laser Radial Worlds until Saturday, August 12th, bringing the absolute top sailors in the world from 37 different countries here to compete aboard these 13-foot-ten-inch high-performance dinghies in the most important Laser Radial competition of the year.
During the two weeks of competition, 338 sailors are taking to the course in either the youth or men’s/women’s divisions and vying for a solid standing in their respective class.
An expected 180 youths will compete from Monday to Saturday, August 7th to 12th, but right now the bay is filled with the men’s and women’s classes.
Seventy men are vying for position in this world championship, but since the Laser Radial isn’t a boat that is currently used in the Olympic Games for men (the Laser, which has a larger sail area than the Laser Radial, is the chosen boat for the men’s class), the women’s class is where there is most at stake.
Nineteen of the 20 highest-ranked women in the world are in attendance, ensuring that an Olympian is here in our midst.
All eyes within the 89-boat women’s division are upon top-ranked and reigning world champion Paige Railey, 19, and number two-ranked fellow American Anna Tunnicliffe, 23, as they once again meet and battle for an all-important top spot on the leader board.
Only one sailor from each class gets the opportunity to sail on the United States Olympic team, thus making every contest they enter extremely relevant.
While Railey has most often come out on top, she can take nothing for granted in this championship, as Tunnicliffe is a complete and capable sailor who is nearly always within striking distance.
Railey, as the defending world champion, is expected to do well and the fleet watches her every move all the more closely.
“They want to see how I can handle the pressure or will I cave in,” said Railey of a champion’s added burdens, “and [the speculation of] if I have a bad regatta — am I getting worse, things like that.”
For now, Railey and Tunnicliffe are remaining consistent early in the regatta, both posting single-digit finishes in all their races.
At the time of this printing Tunnicliffe was in first place with a one-point lead over France’s Solenne Brain and Railey was in a comfortable fourth.
“It’s pretty tricky out there,” said Railey of the bay’s fickle conditions. “The wind fills in, but sometimes at the wrong time in the wrong place. It changes every upwind leg. You think you have it figured out and then you don’t.
“So far I’ve been conservative — just got to get my scores better, maybe sail a bit more aggressively. I’ve got to step it up.”
On the men’s side, it’s anyone’s regatta, since no one has yet to stand up and establish a certifiable presence.
In the first day of racing, The Netherlands’ Steven Krol looked strong, posting a first and second, but tanked the following day with 15th- and 20th-place finishes, which cost him the lead and reduced him to second place.
The regatta is still young and most of the racers have a chance to rise up and make their impact felt.
The trick for them will be to crack the code of the unpredictable conditions Santa Monica Bay can and will throw at them through the course of the event.