July 23, 2008

Two Bulldog Sailors to Compete at the 2008 Olympics

July 22, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Two Eli sailors have qualified to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics held Aug. 8-24. Sophomore captain Thomas Barrows will represent the US Virgin Islands in the Laser class while 2005 Yale graduate Stuart McNay will represent the United States in the Men's 470 event.

Sophomore captain Barrows will be making his first appearance at the Olympic Games, but he is hardly new to international competition. The native of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands competed in the summer of 2007 at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, where he placed eighth in the Laser class. Barrows has also competed in the past two Laser World Championships and was the 2007 Laser North American champion.

Since coming to Yale in 2006, Barrows has been at the top of the collegiate sailing ranks. Barrows has been named an All-American skipper for the past two years for his performance in coed competition and won B Division at the 2007 ICSA/Gill Dinghy National Championships. Success has also come to Barrows in the Laser class, as he is the 2007 ICSA National Singlehanded Champion, the first Yale sailor to win the honor.

Barrows will be the sole representative from the US Virgin Islands at the Olympics in the sailing competition. Barrows is currently training for the Olympics by competing against other Olympians and world class sailors in regattas in Europe. The Laser class, with 42 competitors from 42 nations, will be the largest of the Olympic sailing events. The Laser is one of the most popular singlehanded boats in the world.

McNay, who has been sailing full-time since graduation with the hopes of sailing in the Olympics, will be competing in the Men's 470 class, a double handed boat with a spinnaker and trapeze. McNay, who is sailing with crew Graham Biehl, was a three-time All-American sailor while at Yale and helped turn a struggling Yale team around into one that is now continually at the top of the national rankings. McNay will have further opportunities to assist the Yale team following the Olympics through coaching.

McNay first became a member of the US Sailing Team in 2001 and went on to compete at the Olympic Trials for the 2004 Olympics. McNay missed out on qualifying for the 2004 Olympics, though, losing to the eventual gold medalists from the Athens Olympics. McNay and Biehl earned the honor of representing the United States at the Olympics by winning the 2008 Olympic Trials for the United States by being the top male team at the event which was held in October 2007 in Long Beach, Calif.

The Olympic sailing competition will have a new format in 2008. In each event, 10 races will be sailed for the entire field of athletes, all of whom had to qualify their nation for the Games by virtue of their performances at the World Championships for their respective classes. The top 10 boats in each of the eleven Olympic classes will then advance to a medal race, which will count for twice as many points as a normal race. The top boat after these 11 races will be crowned the Olympic champion.

While sailing is taking place apart from most of the other Olympic venues in Beijing, the sailing athletes will hardly be alone. 400 sailors from 62 countries have qualified for the Games and will be competing in 11 classes.

Both Barrows and McNay will compete at the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center located in the city of Qingdao. Competition will take place in Fushan Bay, which is connected to the Yellow Sea. The venue, which historically has very light winds during the summer, was recently in the headlines because of an algae bloom that cropped up across the sailing area.

The Bulldogs have a very rich history in Olympic sailing, which was first contested at the 1900 Olympics. Yale was last represented in the Olympic sailing competition in 2004 by Isabelle Kinsolving '02, who placed fifth at the Athens Games. Kinsolving missed qualifying for this year's games by placing second at the Olympic Trials in the Women's 470 event, but went on to win the 2008 World Championships. Bulldog athletes Jonathan McKee and J.J. Isler earned medals in the Olympic sailing competition in the 2000 Olympics. McKee won the bronze medal in the 49er class while Isler won the silver medal in the Women's 470 class. Both athletes were previous Olympic medalists, with McKee winning a gold medal in 1984 and Isler a bronze in 1992. Stephen Benjamin was the last Yale Olympic medalist in the Men's 470 event, earning the silver medal in 1984. No Yale Olympian has ever medaled in the Laser class.

Competition will begin for McNay and Biehl on Aug. 8 while Barrows will have his first race on Aug. 9.

Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity