Henken & Scutt Earn U.S. Olympic Team Selection in the 49erFX

Henken and Scutt 49erFX US Sailing Team Sperry

Jen Edney AP/49er Class

Paris Henkenand Helena Scutt, 49erFX, US Sailing Team Sperry

American sailors Paris Henken and Helena Scutt have won the U.S. Olympic Team Athlete Selection Series in the 49erFX, the women's two-person high performance Olympic skiff. Rio 2016 will be the first Olympic Games appearance for both Henken (20) and Scutt (23), who won bronze at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.

Henken and Scutt qualified for the team based on their performance at two major events; January's Sailing World Cup Miami, and this week's 49erFX World Championship in Clearwater, Florida. While two days of racing remain at the Worlds, Henken and Scutt have clinched the selection series due to their strong results over the opening races.

"It doesn't feel real right now," said Scutt, who graduated from Stanford University last year after serving as the varsity sailing team co-captain and being named an all-conference crew. "It’s going to take a while to sink in. Eight years ago I was learning how to sail. It’s pretty surreal for me, and I feel very lucky to get to sail with Paris. I know she has something special. I had a little feeling all along."

Henken said that while they are elated to be named to the Olympic Team, they might be more pleased with how they have raced so far at the 49erFX World Championship this week. "We’re really happy with our results," said Henken, who put her time at the College of Charleston on hold to pursue her Olympic ambitions. "Our goal [at the Worlds] wasn’t to just beat the other Americans, it was to perform well at this event," said Henken. "That’s what we’re doing, and we’re very happy." The pair currently sit in 9th overall in the 42-boat fleet.

Helena also noted the strength of the international fleet here in Clearwater. "This is arguably the most competitive regatta of the [Olympic quadrennium], because there are multiple boats per country, with 42 boats overall instead of 20 like we will have at the Games. We’re going to make the most of the competition, and enjoy the atmosphere on home waters."

Henken and Scutt have faced significant adversity during their journey towards U.S. Olympic Team selection, as a major accident in September 2013 nearly derailed their campaign. While competing at the 2013 49erFX Worlds, another boat collided with the Americans, and Scutt suffered a broken spine, two broken ribs and a lacerated a kidney. Nevertheless, after a successful recovery by Scutt, the pair returned to the racecourse in 2014 and have trained full-time as members of the national team, the US Sailing Team Sperry.

Vids: 2016 Helly Hansen NOOD in St. Petersburg

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St. Pete NOOD, Friday: Sticking the Landing

PHRF Racing St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta

Paul Todd/Outside Images

Farr 395 currently leads the PHRF 1 class. "The plan for tomorrow is to hope that our boat handling in heavy air out chines them," says second-place PHRF skipper Ed German.

While the focus is normally on clean starts and extending leads, the key moments of the day boiled down to the leeward mark roundings for a number of classes at the NOOD Regatta in St. Petersburg. Even with an AP that delayed the start of racing past noon, each of the ten classes were able to get off three races.

In the PHRF 1 class, Madcow2 started the day under a genoa, but they quickly made the decision to switch to their blade when the breeze kicked up enough. It was that decision that led them into a strong mark rounding, putting them well ahead of the fleet. Skipper Ed German describes the moment:

“We were sailing downwind, really close to a few boats. We approached on starboard and had inside room at the mark. As we rounded, our takedown was better than the other boats, and we anticipated the current a little better. We popped out and started to head upwind, and we were about eight boat lengths ahead. We picked a lot up on them and never looked back. It was beautiful.”

Madcow2 is currently in second place, behind the Farr 395 Wasabi. “The plan is to hope that our boat handling in heavy air out chines them,” says German about sailing against Wasabi tomorrow. “They’re much faster than us but our rating is much better. We should get a bit faster as the breeze increases, and our boat handling takes over from there. We hope they struggle with that, and we know in heavy air that boat handling wins the day.”

S2 7.9 Sailing PHRF Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta St Petersburg

Paul Todd/Outside Images

The S2 7.9 fleet is mostly imports from northern climates. "Many of the skippers pull a variety of sailors from their home fleets and bring them here, so the competition is pretty tough," says Tom Bryant, skipper aboard Matros. "The best of the best come down here. But, it's not a class full of professionals so it still keeps it fun and fair for the rest of us, like my boat which is all family."

In the same circle, a family boat from Holland, Michigan had a similar experience with their mark rounding, which co-skipper Roger Gamache says won them the third and final race of the day, securing their S2 7.9 Matros first place spot in the standings.

“We got into a puff with three other boats, which put us well ahead going into the mark,” says Gamache. “It was basically a jibe takedown, we got around the mark, got trimmed, looked back and we had four lengths on the next boat. If this were gymnastics, you’d say we stuck the landing.”

Gamache’s co skipper, Tom Bryant, says that the team excels in heavier air and they look forward to the chance to keep their results consistent and remain at the top of the fleet.

Full results for the day are available here.

St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta

Paul Todd/Outside Images

J/88 Wings, skippered by Mike Bruno, sits in third overall in the PHRF 1 class. "St. Pete is a good place to be this time of year," says tactician Stuart Johnstone. "We're looking forward to this weekend, it should be a great time."

Helly Hansen St. Petersburg NOOD

Paul Todd/Outside Images

"It was a great day on the Lightning course," says Wendy Reuss (in yellow). "Two races with great breeze finished off a day of challenging racing. Overall, the Lightning Class is so fun to race in because everyone is very competitive but also so friendly."

Helly Hansen St. Petersburg NOOD

Paul Todd/Outside Images

Hannah Stodle and the rest of the British Sonar Team is in the middle of their campaign for the 2016 Paralympic Games. "We love the NOOD Regattas, its perfectly timed for us as we finish in Miami at the Olympic Classes Regatta," says Stodle. The team finished fourth overall in the World Sailing Regatta two weeks ago.

Helly Hansen St. Petersburg NOOD

Paul Todd/Outside Images

Will Welles and the J/70 Sea Bags Sailing Team currently lead the largest class in the regatta.

Helly Hansen St. Petersburg NOOD

Paul Todd/Outside Images

"We spent today working the kinks out and adjusting our rig for the conditions," says Tom McKenzie, a sailor aboard the Fareast 28R Eagle's Eye.

Helly Hansen St. Petersburg NOOD

Paul Todd/Outside Images

The St. Petersburg Yacht Club youth sailing team, who won the Sailing World Youth Trophy at Quantum Key West Race Week last month, is adjusting to their new PHRF class. "It's tough to go from OCR to PHRF," says Youth Sailing Director Todd Fedyszyn. "Our rating isn't great, but the boat is fun and the kids love to sail it."

Helly Hansen St. Petersburg NOOD

Paul Todd/Outside Images

Bob Hodges takes flight in his A-Class Catamaran. The fleet, which is divided into a foiling and non foiling division, still sails in one start. The intention is to keep all of the A Class Catamarans sailing together, even as innovation continues to drive the development class.

Love Letter to Sailing, Again

By Kimball Livingston

It’s such a common phrase that we take it for granted. The romance of the sea. Even those who dwell far from the sea are not immune to it. Red sails in the sunset. The very notion of sailing away to paradise. Those who heed the call, those who love the sea and sailing, will not find it strange that a sailor would choose to send a Valentine to the sport.

Once upon a time there lived a young man so enamored of sailboat racing that he couldn’t look out from the deck of one raceboat to another race going on over yonder without wanting to be part of that race, too.

Absurd? Whoever said that Rational went with Passionate? roses

Ernest Hemingway was no bigtime sailor. On the water, he was more at home in the fighting chair of a fishkiller with a touch of brandy close at hand. But the man had an eye. He could absorb what he saw and put it into words. He had gazed across the waters. He knew the look of boats under sail. And there came a moment in the writing of The Sun Also Rises when the blankness of the page demanded a next sentence to describe the beauty of his heroine, Lady Brett Ashley. And he wrote, “She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht.”

The real flesh and blood Lauren Bacall, who brought so many fictional characters to life—Hemingway’s “Slim” Browning of To Have and Have Not comes to mind—has many times remarked that her only real competition for her leading man’s affections was that boat, Santana.

Do sailors romanticize their boats? Do they ever. With so many women now sailing at the top of the sport, it’s awkward to wade into the origins of the usage of “she” to speak of a boat. But, let’s be simpleminded. Early day sailors were men, and that’s how they felt about their boats.

Are boats erotic? Don’t be silly. I just like to run my fingers along the hull . . .

And on a boat, it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to need, seriously need, chocolate. So I just want to say:

Sailing, I really really really like you. I mean, I like you a lot. I mean . . .

Okay. I’ll just say it. It’s more than that. This is the real thing, and even though I really really really got ****’d in that last race, I’ll still love you tomorrow.

Clearwater Worlds: USA 49er and 49erFX Jump Upwards

USSTS 49erFX Henken and Scutt

Jen Edney AP/49er Class

Paris Henken and Helena Scutt, 49erFX, US Sailing Team Sperry.

Day three of the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida marked the first day that all three fleets complete multiple races, radically altering the standings and ushering in what the US Sailing Team Sperry's Joe Morris (Annapolis, Md.) called "the real start of the regatta." A principle storyline of the day from an American standpoint was the strong results of siblings Hans and Paris Henken in the 49er and 49erFX classes.

A light and variable breeze filled in mid-morning, and did not exceed ten knots at any stage of the day. Nevertheless, race organizers worked hard to complete as many races as possible, and get a regatta previously plagued by extreme conditions back on track.

49er and 49erFX racing will be brought to a worldwide sailing audience on Friday, February 12 (Day 4) at the Worlds in Clearwater. Coverage will include onboard cameras, aerial footage, 3D graphics and expert commentary as the best skiff sailors in the world battle off Clearwater Beach. The broadcast will begin at 12:00 noon EST.

49erFX (Women’s Two-Person High Performance Skiff)

In the women's skiff, Paris Henken and Helena Scutt dramatically improved their overall position by recording three top-five scores over four races, and now sit in 12th overall.

"We're really happy with how the day went," said Scutt. "During one race we were pretty worried about a possible black flag penalty, but it worked out. Our speed was good, and our tactical moves were strong. We're happy with our execution, and are looking forward to continuing."

Nacra 17 (Mixed Two-Person Multihull)

Michael Easton and Katie Pettibone remained the top American team, with their best races on Day Three being an 11th and a 6th, their second top-ten finish in as many days.

"It was quite a change from yesterday, conditions-wise," said Pettibone, an America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veteran. "Today we had to focus on current and big shifts. There were no definitive tactical trends. It stayed pretty cold, however."

In terms of Olympic selection, Easton and Pettibone are now locked in a close battle with Mark and Carolina Mendelblatt, along with Bora Gulari and Louisa Chafee.

USSTS 49er Ryan and Henken

Jen Edney AP/49er Class

US Sailing Team Sperry's Judge Ryan and Hans Henken

In the 49er, the relatively new team of Judge Ryan and Hans Henken had an impressive day on the water, recording three scores in the top six over four races and jumping over thirty spots in the standings.

"Today was about not being forced to tack early," said Henken. "It was hard holding a lane because there was a lot of current. For us, it was a day of focusing on sailing well and keeping our heads out of the boat."

This may be a U.S. Olympic Team selection event, but despite their strong showing, Ryan and Henken said they're not getting ahead of themselves. "You can't get too high or too low based on one day's racing," said Ryan. The pair has been notably successful in youth classes such as the 29er, and have logged just over one year of racing in the Olympic 49er class.

Racing will continue on Day Four of the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 World Championship in Clearwater, Florida, with medal races being held on Sunday, February 14, 2016.