Waiting for Wind and Learning Lessons
No one said that sailboat racing was supposed to be easy.
We worked harder than we ever have in the weeks leading up to the World Championship. After months of focused preparation on the water and in the gym, including an extremely productive training camp in The Netherlands earlier this summer, we felt excited to get on the water and bring our improvements to the table against international competition.
As you probably read, our 10 day training camp went smoothly, with beautiful 12-18 knot conditions and big North Sea waves. At the end of the week we took a few days off and headed home to see family and relax before coming back to the hustle and bustle of the competition week.
One week later and we arrived in Scheveningen Harbor only to discover that the Holland we left was certainly not the one we found when we returned! Gone was the cool, predictable building breeze and temperate climate. Instead, we found ourselves searching through carefully packed gear for our Zhik Skiff Suits, a lone tank top, a pair of shorts, or ANYTHING that might provide some relief from the heat and sun.
The weather was rebelling, and in the six days that the Worlds lasted we got in only eight races.
The first two races were run in the early evening of the initial day in light air and ripping current. We struggled a bit in the starts but made big gains through the fleet in each race. It was not a perfect first day, but we were happy with our speed and boathandling, and pleased to see that all of the work we had put into becoming a strong technical team was paying off. Goals for day two were all centered around coming off the line strong each race.
Unfortunately we had to wait more than 24 hours to have the chance to execute on these goals. After a long hot day in the sun led to abandonment for day two of racing for us, we went to sleep early and fully prepared to wage war on the starting line the next day.The next morning, with this goal in mind, and a gorgeous 10-15 knots of breeze on, we won the pin in the start of the very first race of the day, and led the fleet back from the left side.
We screamed in on port and found the perfect gap ahead of the stream of oncoming boats on the starboard layline. When we rounded the windward mark in fourth I had no idea that I was about to find myself at the hands of the worst foul-up we had yet to experience as a team.
When the Dutch team ahead of us stuffed their bows hard at the offset mark, I managed to get my tiller lodged under the tiller bar. Smooth move, Skipper! A few seconds later I forced us into a jibe to avoid the Dutch and we were upside down before even having rounded the offset mark.
We pushed hard for a comeback, and ended the day on the wrong side of quite a few risk/reward scenarios. By the time we sailed back to the beach, we had taken ourselves out of Gold Fleet.
Despite our disappointment, we spent the next three days working hard to perform our best. Unfortunately, we also spent a lot of time wishing for wind! The tail end of the World Championship was light air, lots of current, and very little racing. We stayed focused and worked hard to improve in the areas that we had struggled in the days before.
On the final day the weather, again, failed to cooperate. Fleet races and medal races were canceled and the rush to pack boats was on. In a very fun, champagne-filled ceremony Billy Besson and Marie Riou were crowned 2013 World Champions, with Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond in second place and Mattias Buhler and Natalie Brugger in third.
Predictably, the breeze filled in to it’s usual 15-20 knots the day after the event ended.
I am proud that throughout the World Championship we worked hard to stay a solid team, and to support our training partners as they sailed a truly great event. We are happy with our preparation, our approach, and our focal points, and it was encouraging to find all of the skills we trained so hard were confirmed!
But what is even better is that we found the weaknesses, and now we are attacking them. This experience is our chance to find greatness in the face of adversity.
As athletes and competitors we spend all of our of time working to make our boat as fast as possible, to become stronger in the gym, to organize logistics that allow us to reach the goals that we set, to coordinate technical data and planning, and to keep the campaign moving forward. We have been fortunate to experience success at many turns as a result of preparation, determination, and ability.
At this World Championship we learned a lot about what it takes to be a strong team even when preparation fails to produce ideal results. I know that failures can be the greatest motivators and directives, and in that sense, they are key to the creation of the biggest successes.
Thanks to all of the work that US Sailing and Oakcliff Sailing Center have done, this week John and I are in Long Island, to train with the US, Canadian, and Puerto Rican teams. On Saturday we will race in the first ever Nacra 17 US National Championship. The fleet is filled with some of the best young multihull sailors in the country, many former Olympians, and all-around sailing greats like Enrique Figueroa, Bob Merrick, Robbie Daniel, and my personal favorite, John Casey.
One of the most exciting parts of the past few days has been the process of unpacking and rigging our new carbon masts! Several kilos lighter, the new masts, made by Hall, are Nacra's second and final attempt to build a solid carbon stick for the 17. Safe to say, it feels great to press the boat with one of these lightweight babies on top.
There is so much talent and energy here, and it is so incredible to be in our element--working hard in the boat park and on the water--while being surrounded by other people who love this sport as much as we do.
Sailboat racing is the kind of sport that teaches you some of life's most incredible lessons: learn from both the wins and the losses, struggle hard, struggle harder, try again, sail better. Worlds was made up of a few important sailboat races that we learned a lot from. This weekend will be a chance for us to add a few more to the list, and we're so excited to get out there and rip around with our new carbon rig!
Stay tuned for more details regarding the US Nationals and more! We'll see you on the water...