Farrah Hall has spent the past year preparing for a critically important RS:X sailing competition in an increasingly iQFoil world.
The Annapolis native found a way to adapt and is currently competing in the sail boarding class at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 2021 Olympic regatta got underway Sunday in Enoshima, Japan, with Hall standing 17th out of 28 competitors after three races were held on Sunday. The 1999 Broadneck High graduate placed seventh in Race 3, her best result in any international competition.
After rounding the first mark in 16th place, Hall mounted a comeback that saw her pass 13 boards on the third leg. She dropped slightly to seventh on the fourth leg then defended that position until the finish.
This is the second Olympics for Hall, who finished 20th in RS:X class at the 2012 Summer Games in London. In an email exchange with The Capital before the regatta, the former Cape St. Claire resident cited no specific expectations going into this year’s Olympics. Just getting to the starting line amidst a pandemic is a victory, she said.
“The fleet is really high-level for these games, and there are about 10 women who could potentially medal,” Hall wrote in response to a question. “I’ve been racing well and feel really good going into this competition, so I’m looking forward to a peak performance and enjoying the Olympic experience.
“All the athletes really appreciate that we can even hold this competition, so we will race with the best spirit of sportsmanship possible,” Hall added.
This is a transitional period for the board sailing discipline with the RS:X being phased out in favor of the iQFoil. Tokyo 2020 was supposed to be the last hurrah for the RS:X with the iQFoil being introduced for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Having the Olympics being postponed a year disrupted that timeline. Competitors across the world have already started sailing the new foiling boards, which are manufactured by Starboard.
Hall herself has moved into the iQFoil class because it was the best way to continue training. She found new sponsors in the wind foil world and spent six months learning the new platform.
“I basically had to reorganize my entire campaign,” she said.
Hall resumed RS:X sailing in February with training camps in Cozumel, Mexico, and Clearwater, Florida, with a Mexican practice partner. She then relocated to El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain where a large contingent of competitors remained to participate in international training camps. Those were sandwiched around the 2021 RS:X World Championships, which were held in nearby Cadiz in late April.
“I’ve maximized my opportunities for group training and U.S. Sailing-run coaching clinics in iQFoil, and when travel reopened a bit and the Olympics grew nearer, more training camps were put together by the RS:X women,” Hall wrote.
“I wound up focusing on stabilizing my situation instead of chasing the fleet around with every change, and we ended up with a good group in El Puerto. It was great to be able to focus on physical and on-the-water training without having to travel much.”
Hall is familiar with the sailing venue off Enoshima, having trained there twice before COVID swept the world. Japan summers are similar to those in Maryland in terms of heat and humidity, so the Chesapeake Bay-bred sailor is accustomed to the conditions.
“I have a reasonable idea what to expect in terms of conditions,” Hall said. “We arrived on-site early enough to get acclimated to the temperature, humidity, and time difference, and the team has done a great job at the venue in providing us with enough support like water, ice, and physical therapy to keep us healthy.”
Hall is committed to becoming highly proficient in the iQFoil and hopes to assist with development efforts in the United States. She must eventually decide whether to mount a campaign for the 2024 Olympics or retire from competition.
“Yes, the foiling board was critical to learn last year. It’s a different feel and technique than classic windsurfing, and a true leap into the future,” Hall said. “I’m definitely making the switch.”
Hall, who has been based in Brest, France, for many years, is pursuing a diploma in coaching, project development and club management. She’s uncertain whether to seek a third Olympic berth or pursue coaching full-time.
“Before thinking about a real next step I need to stabilize my life so I’m not constantly running across the globe and can have a breather to put some savings away and take a few steps towards the future,” Hall said. “In short, I’m undecided, and will wait to see where the next year takes me and what opportunities I can create.”
Hall was back in Annapolis briefly before competing in worlds and admits she’s a bit homesick.