Making it to the Olympic games is the dream of every athlete. And expert sailors Nikole ‘Nikki’ Barnes and Lara Dallman-Weiss made that dream a reality. They qualified to represent the U.S.A. in the Women’s 470 at the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Together they accomplished this impressive feat when their team, “Perfect Vision Sailing”, qualified this past March at the 2021 470 World Championships in Vilamoura, Portugal.
But how do two young athletes with a love for sailing and the open water navigate their way to the Olympic games? The gracious and exuberant demeanors of these elite athletes might lead you to believe it was an almost effortless journey. But the truth is, it took the kind of hard work, sacrifice, and resilience that we non-Olympians may never understand.
Nikki, a 2017 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, currently serves in the U.S. Coast Guard assigned to Sector Miami. She was awarded the Coast Guard Achievement Medal for her efforts during Hurricane Irma. Nikki is also the first active-duty officer in the history of the Coast Guard to receive the Support Allowance Billet with permissive orders to train full-time for the Olympics. Nikki is the most decorated sailor in Academy history and placed third at the 2011 ISAF Youth Worlds, is a 2016 Women’s National Champion, 2016 Quantum Women Sailor of the Year, 2017 Sportsman of the Year, three-time All American, and All American select.
Lara hit upon her love of competitive sailing at Eckerd College where she was team captain and earned both crew and skipper of the year awards, as well as a third-place, finish at the 2010 Women’s Nationals. Lara was on the professional sailing circuit for five years racing with a wide range of teams, from Etchells and Melges 20s to Farr 40s and Perini Navis. Lara continued to race and work with teams until she and Nikki joined forces. Lara is a North American Champion Farr 40 Class, Flash Gordon 2016, and a first-place Key West Race Week, C&C 30 class 2016. Included in her list of accomplishments is the first place Etchells Pacific Coast Championship as main trimmer 2016 and third place Women’s Match Race World Championship, Epic Racing 2014.
So, how did destiny bring these two amazing forces of sailing together? It worked its magic through a mutual friend, Mike Marshall. Mike, a world champion sailor himself, clearly saw how Nikki and Lara’s drive and superior talent were sending them on parallel trajectories that needed to intersect. He reached out to both women to say he thought they’d be a “good fit.” And boy, was he right! Both Nikki and Lara were open to a meeting, met for coffee, spent time on the water, and the rest is history in the making. As for Mike, he designed the sails that the US Olympic 470 teams will be using in the upcoming Olympics.
Nikki and Lara’s Olympic event is the Women’s 470 two-person dinghy. The event name comes from the boat they’ll sail, which measures 470 centimeters and requires one skipper (Nikki) and one crew (Lara). The final opportunity for a country to qualify for the Olympics occurred at the 2021 World Championships this past March. To put things in perspective, only 21 countries qualified to send only one team each to compete in the 470. You can appreciate this achievement when you consider that there are more than 195 countries in the world today.
These two inspiring young athletes are truly making history. But they can’t do it alone. Although some expenses will be covered by U.S. Sailing, the cost for training and competing at the 2021 Olympic Games, is considerable. If you want to help Nikki and Lara achieve their dream of winning an Olympic medal for the U.S., join us in this effort and donate at www.cgaalumni.org/Marinalife today.
We invite you to follow Nikki and Lara’s amazing journey with us and experience the kind of excitement and pride that only the Olympic games can generate. Just visit their team website, http://perfectvisionsailing.com/, to stay up-to-date with the team news, read their blog, see photos and videos, sign up for their newsletter, and even send messages of inspiration right to Niki and Lara. They’d love to hear from you!