LTJG Nikki Barnes Chases Olympic Dream


LTJG Nikki Barnes Chases Olympic Dream

Jul 22, 2019


U.S. Coast Guard LTJG Nikole Barnes has teamed with Lara Dallman-Weiss to chase the dream of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.

Barnes and Dallman-Weiss, Team Perfect Vision Sailing, will next compete August 17-22 in Enoshima Yacht Harbor in Japan, which is the host venue for the 2020 Olympic Games.

The duo qualified in the Women's 470 by finishing 20th  out of a 45 boat fleet at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Iberostar regatta in Spain in April. The duo placed 15,16 and 25 spots higher than the three other USA Women's 470 teams.

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will take place July 24 through August 9 and up to 15 athletes will have the opportunity to represent the U.S. in one of the 10 sailing events.

Nikole 'Nikki' Barnes is a 2017 graduate of the United States Coast Guard Academy and a commissioned officer in the United States Coast Guard. She was the Quantum Women's Sailor of the Year in 2016 and received All-American honors in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Nikki has competed at the highest level of sailing for many years, with prominent and podium placings at events such as the Optimist and International 420 World, Continental and Country Championships. Most notably, she earned a Bronze Medal in the then-named ISAF Youth World Championships in the 420, in Zadar, Croatia. Nikki was born and raised in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands where she learned to sail and continues to be a member of the St. Thomas Yacht Club.

"When I'm on the water I think back to my Coast Guard training: the quick thinking, attention to detail, ability to make mistakes and learn quickly from them, and the work ethic to do whatever it takes to get the job done," said Barnes. "We are constantly juggling the logistics and strategy and managing budgets and equipment at one event while also pre-planning for events that are months in advance. At the end of the day, most important is the relationships in the boat. As the helm, it's my job to steer the boat and when in the situation to lead, to do so in a way that allows for the best performance. I have a lot of power in the boat, but I wouldn't go anywhere without Lara's skill and feel in the front of the boat. It takes a team and my Coast Guard training has taught me the skills of working in a team environment," added Barnes.

Dallman-Weiss is a 2011 graduate of Eckerd College, where she was captain and a four-year member of the sailing team, including winning skipper and crew of the year honors for three years. Lara was a member of the US Sailing Development Team in the 470 class in 2013. In addition to her dinghy sailing, Lara is a North American champion in the Farr 40 class. She is also a member of the New York Yacht Club.

A mutual friend of the two reached out to Lara knowing she is an excellent crew who was looking for the perfect skipper. Coincidentally, Lara was nearby on the water flying drones and after a quick phone call, she zipped her coach boat over to where Nikki was training. The two got in the 470, sailed together for about an hour and were both pleased to find they were in both search of the same thing: a perfectly sailed boat. They agreed to hire an Olympic level coach for a day to analyze their ability, whereupon he told them they meshed perfectly as a team. Next, wanting to make sure the fit was well thought out before Lara quit work, both girls attended a US Sailing Team 470 clinic where Nikki was able to get confirmation from several coaches to go forth with the idea to sail as a team.

The last seal of approval was the Support Allowance Billet Nikki was granted from the U.S. Coast Guard to allow the two to train full time until the end of the 2020 Olympic Summer Games. What has made Nikki and Lara, Team Perfect Vision Sailing, come together so quickly is the past racing experience they both hold individually, their ideal physical size, and the desire to train relentlessly.

"Growing up, I knew I wanted to sail in the Olympics and to make being on the water safer as a Coast Guard Officer. I thought I would have to separate my dreams, but fortunately the Coast Guard has given me the opportunity to do both," said Barnes. "The Coast Guard is my biggest fan when I'm away sailing and my command and shipmates help me to keep my career on track when I am back in Miami. I'm so proud to be part of a service that goes above and beyond to support its members to maximize their potential. I'm grateful for the opportunity to sail and to represent the United States Coast Guard."

LTJG Barnes is a native of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and member of both the St. Francis Yacht Club and the St. Thomas Yacht Club.

"Everyone said it would be hard, but I didn't realize how hard it would be until I actually started to train and compete. Our team can't wait to get to the Olympics and to reach our top goal," added Barnes. "In the meantime, the moments we cherish the most are the seven-hour practices on the water; the heavy wind survival moments sailing in San Remo, Italy; the long drive from our boat storage in Germany to our first European regatta this season on the island of Mallorca, Spain; the countries we have traveled to; and most importantly the bonds and friendships we have made with some of the best sailors from all around the world."