LAKE GENEVA, Wis. — Two 17-year-old sailors from southern Wisconsin are beginning a European tour in their quest to earn a spot on the U.S. sailing team for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Harry Melges IV and Finn Rowe live in Lake Geneva but have embarked on a tour with several marquee regattas, including the ISAF World Championships in Denmark that starts July 30 and the Junior World Championships in France in late August.
Rowe believes they're some of the youngest sailors currently competing.
"The people that we're racing against in Europe, they're probably all from 23 to older," Rowe told the Janesville Gazette .
The high school students balance their rigorous training schedule with schoolwork. That included training most weekends in Florida last winter when local lakes were frozen. The teens, who will be seniors at Walworth Big Foot High School in the fall, also have taken extra courses to graduate early.
"I get so much adrenaline racing sailboats," Melges said. "I've done a lot of other racing — motocross, ski racing, other stuff like that — and sailing is the best, I think. If I wasn't racing sailboats, I think I'd be really bored."
The pair has raced a variety of boat classes, but the team excels in the 49er boat class.
"It's one of the most athletic boats there is in the Olympics," Rowe said.
A 49er can reach a speed of over 20 knots, which is about 23 mph (37 kph). The boat has two sails with a combined surface area of over 600 square feet. Melges steers the boat, while Rowe focuses on speed.
"He reads the wind to make the boat go fast," Melges said. "And I read it to point the boat in the right direction."
The newspaper reports the pair is on the short list of Americans who could reach the Olympics in the 49er boat class.