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Los Al sophomore to compete in Olympic Trials for sailing

Stewart McCaleb will be in Miami during ski week, sailing for the chance at attending the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics
Los+Al+sophomore+Stewart+McCaleb+will+be+in+Miami+Feb.+17-24+competing+in+the+Olympic+Team+Trials+for+sailing.+It%E2%80%99s+more+about+the+experience+than+actually+trying+to+win%2C%E2%80%9D+McCaleb+said.
Courtesy of Stewart McCaleb
Los Al sophomore Stewart McCaleb will be in Miami Feb. 17-24 competing in the Olympic Team Trials for sailing. “It’s more about the experience than actually trying to win,” McCaleb said.

LOS ALAMITOS, CA — Under a clear, blue sky on open, choppy water, Stewart McCaleb picks up speed, expertly handling the lines on his Laser with the wind rushing through the sails. 16-year-old McCaleb is a sophomore at Los Alamitos High School and an accomplished competitive sailor. He is one of 62 sailors in America, including only one other high school student, who qualified for the 2024 Olympic Team Trials in Miami, Florida from Feb. 17-24. These Trials get athletes one step closer to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

“It’s kind of crazy that if I win this, I could go to Paris. For me, it’s more about the experience than actually trying to win,” McCaleb said.

“My goal is to get a medal at the Olympics one day, not necessarily Paris, but L.A. 2028 is where I want to get to,” McCaleb said. (Courtesy of Stewart McCaleb)

This regatta will be McCaleb’s biggest event yet, after racing sailboats for eight years. He races in the Men’s Single Handed Dinghy division in the ILCA 7 (International Laser Class Association) category. McCaleb qualified for the Trials at the Olympic Class Regatta in San Diego last summer.

“After [that], I was like, this is really where I could go. I could go to Paris if I really wanted to. It sparked me, like I could really try hard and give it my best effort,” McCaleb said.

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According to U.S. Sailing, there are two parts to the process of representing Team USA for sailing: country qualification and athlete selection. In each sailing class, athletes must place high enough at the regattas throughout the year in order to qualify their country for a spot in that class at the Olympics. Then, athlete selection determines who fills the spots in each class.

The Miami Trials serve as the athlete selection for ILCA 6 and 7. The ILCA 6 class has already earned country qualification, so the winner will have earned their ticket to the Paris Games. However, the ILCA 7 winner will need to qualify their country to confirm their spot on Team USA.

“I’m a little nervous. It’s competing against the best from the business,” McCaleb said.

McCaleb is also part of a sailing team club at Los Al. (Courtesy of Stewart McCaleb)

McCaleb is entering this regatta with the mindset of soaking up his first Olympic Team Trials. He’s aiming to place in the middle of the fleet in Miami, with a longer-term goal of qualifying for the 2028 Olympics in L.A.

“I’ve competed a lot, but I haven’t really shined yet. I’m still pretty young in this sport, and I’m competing against people who are in college [and] out of college,” McCaleb said.

In Miami, McCaleb will be one of the youngest competitors. The trials are eight straight days of racing, he said, with two 90-minute races per day for a total of 14 races.

“At this regatta, I’m just trying to complete all the races because the longest I’ve done before that was about five [days], so it’s a big step up,” McCaleb said. He is used to participating in three to four races per day, so the Trials will be a longer regatta with more spread-out races, allowing him to improve his endurance.

My goal is to get a medal at the Olympics one day, not necessarily Paris, but L.A. 2028 is where I want to get to.”

— Stewart McCaleb

McCaleb left for Miami on Wednesday, Feb. 14, and will begin racing on Saturday, Feb. 17, and into Ski Week. Los Al wishes him a strong wind in his sails and the best of luck as he tackles these new horizons.

This story was originally published on Griffin Gazette on February 16, 2024.