Saturday, May 30, 2009

Medemblik Day 4

We had a good forecast of wind gusting to 20 in the afternoon, but it never materialized. The morning was looking promising, sunny with about 15 knots of wind. However, right before our 2:30 pm start, the wind dropped to about 5-10. Most of the pressure was towards the left side of the course, most likely due to land effects. There were big oscillations between left and right with bands of clouds coming down.

My starts are getting really good and my pumping much better, so I had pretty good speed on the course. We worked on a few tuning and technique issues and also some strategy for downwind. I’m gradually starting to see where I should go on the course, although I was still losing places. Overall it was a productive day. Many things, like starting, are becoming automatic, which allows me to focus more on tactics. It’s good to be progressing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Medemblik Day 3

Today was a frustrating day for me. Although conditions were great, I was having problems bringing together my technique. We had sunny conditions with a gradually building sea breeze. The air and water were cold and the wind built from 10 to 15 knots. We had two races, one in marginal conditions and one in planing conditions.

Overall I felt pretty good in the marginal conditions. My downwind is still slow and I’m still getting the feel for the hanging technique I recently learned. My upwind is getting a lot faster so I’m happy about that. In the breeze however, I was extremely slow. I wasn’t pointing at all and ended up getting really frustrated, since I normally sail well in those conditions. It’s difficult to come to a regatta not training at the venue ahead of time, and especially after being exhausted from another regatta and a crazy drive. Anyway I’m currently re-thinking my plans for June and July in order to maximize training and build a base of board handling skills.

Medemblik Day 2

The front blew through last night and we awoke to sunshine, blue sky, and light wind. It was a great morning for a run on the plateau of the dike, getting the maximum benefit of the sunlight.

We had two races today, with windspeed about 6-12 knots and extremely shifty and gusty. There were big oscillations and the committee reset the course once. Later in the day, the wind shifted to the left and gusts were coming off the land. The course is surrounded by dikes. I really enjoyed the racing today because it gave me a chance to use the new technique I had been practicing. My upwinds were pretty quick, and I was planing sooner downwind, but I’m still not entirely confident in my board handling through the slalom finish and missed a few opportunities to make up places.

I am again being coached by Christoph Sieber, and it’s great to have him out on the course. Having a coach makes me more confident and it’s good to have his perspective on what’s happening out there.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

24 Hours to Medemblik

After a lot of running around arranging my travel, it was determined that I would ride with three other Polish boys to Medemblik, and my equipment would go in the coach boat from Mragowo. I didn’t have super high expectations for an entirely smooth trip, but it ended up being more than a little crazy.

The guys were supposed to pick me up from the Puck sailing club at 8:30 a.m., which was about an hour and a half after the Polish Olympic team departed. The reasoning was that since the Olympic team had a heavy van and trailer, we would catch them no problem. I wanted to push for an earlier departure, but one of the kids ended up oversleeping and we left Puck around 9:30. It did give me some time to check in with the campground to make sure we still had our bungalow.

The guys finally arrived in a 1990s Corolla station wagon that one kid had borrowed from his parents. We threw in all the gear and were on our way. In about a quarter mile, we noticed some grinding coming from the rear of the car and we pulled over into a supermarket parking lot. Upon exiting the car, we discovered that the rear shocks were bottomed out on the wheels. The car was too heavy and the wheel wells were shaving down the tires. It was a dilemma. We unloaded the car and re-loaded it with more

weight in the front, which seemed to work at first, but after we sat down, it bottomed out again. After a long debate, we were stumped. We definitely couldn’t drive over 1,000 km, and on Polish roads, with a bottomed out car. A few phone calls were made, and one kid’s uncle showed up. He put a few bags in his car, and we were off to the mechanic’s.

It took about 5 minutes for two big, Polish mechanics to strip off the wagon’s rear wheels and shocks. We all stared at the dirty, old shocks while the mechanics tried to find replacements in their big garage. The uncle walked around smoking and making phone calls, rescheduling appointments because of the emergency situation. Meanwhile, the mechanics hadn’t found the right parts, so the uncle sped off to Gdansk, about an hour away, to find new parts. The mechanics rolled the car out of the garage, and the next car drove in.

For the next 3.5 hours, we sat in the sun. It was an unusually warm day for May, and we followed the shade thrown by a pile of roofing tiles. One kid played video games on his computer, while I checked out the truck repair garage next door. Two huge trucks, engines opened, were in the bay, and mechanics were crawling all over them. Next to our car, in which we were sitting, was a VW Passat, which had been in an accident. Body panels were pulled off and wires were strewn everywhere. One mechanic was buried in the wiring all afternoon. We sat, and shoes, shirts, and pants came off as the day grew hotter. We went to the store, we used the bathroom, but mostly we slept in the car.

Finally came a diesel roar and skidding tires, and the uncle pulled up in a cloud of dust. He pulled the shiny new shocks out, and the car was rolled into the garage again. 15 minutes later the new shocks were installed and the car rolled out. We loaded as fast as possible…and when we sat down, the car bottomed out again. It was a devastating moment. Finally the uncle took two of the heaviest bags to be delivered by another coach, and we were off. It was about 4:30 pm and we had a 15-hour drive to look forward to. Every big bump, the car would bottom out again. Soon a sticky black residue from the tire was all over the fender. For some reason the right side was lower than the left, so as the lightest in the car I got to sit on the right and listen to the tire grind all night. All the heavy bags were loaded on the left side, and I sat in the middle as far as I could go.

After we crossed the border to Germany, the roads were smooth and the car ran well. We were using LPG (liquid propane gas) which costs about half of normal petrol, but burns faster. We stopped a lot at gas stations, where the guys would get stuff to eat, we would check the tire, and switch drivers. One of the boys drove as fast as he could through the night, and in the morning we were in the Netherlands. As soon as I got behind the wheel for my shift, the car wouldn’t start. It was another devastating moment. After two tries pushing it across the parking lot, the engine fired and we were on our way once more. We finally arrived at the camping at 9:00 am, got the keys to the bungalow, and crashed for the next few hours. We had brought the cold, wet weather with us, and we registered and prepared our equipment in the afternoon as fast as possible so we could get home and sleep again. After all, the forecast was for 35 knots the next day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Medemblik Day 1

The windy weather forecast held true today.  By the time the RSX boards started in the afternoon it was already blowing 30 knots with higher gusts.  For me it was survival and unfortunately I could not finish either of the two races today.  The race committee canceled the third scheduled race.  I am dead tired and will write a longer report after tomorrows races. 

One of the sailors getting blown away!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Medal Race, and on to Medemblik

Today I sailed in my first medal race (the final race for only the top 10 finishers). Out of a fleet of 14, that's not saying a whole lot, but it was still a great experience. Medal races are shorter than normal, and are usually windward-leeward, not trapezoid like the boards normally sail. As a contrast to yesterday's 30 knots, today started at about 5 knots of breeze.

My medal race almost became a disaster. I had a good start with clear air, but I went to the wrong side of the course along with one other senior girl, Ania. I was last around the windward mark, but had a really strong downwind. There were some planing puffs coming through so we were all trying to stay in those, jibing three or four, or five times per short downwind. On the next upwind, I made up four places by tacking on two shifts and again hitting the left side, the strategy which didn't work the first leg, but was good this time! Ania, who had also gone left, and I match raced downwind. After aggressive jibes, I beat her by a second and finished 6th. Not bad for catching up. Overall I was happy with how I sailed the race.

The Polish Olympic team travels in style

After the racing, there was a flurry of activity packing all the gear. I had to run around trying to find my ride to Medemblik, where the Delta Lloyd regatta will be held. Once again I had irresponsibly not found housing, because I wasn't sure what my situation would be. I am going there with 3 other Polish guys, ages about 19-21, on the youth team (who are also really disorganized), and somehow I ended up in charge of all evening I was scrambling to find housing. I booked something over the internet, but I'm not sure it went through. We'll see. On to the next regatta!

My gear is going with the coach boat from Mragowo.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Finished All the Races

Sometimes there's a day where you just want to make sure you finish the races. Conditions today were about as tough as it gets here in Puck. Temps were in the low 50s, and it was blowing 30 with gusts as much as 40 sometimes. Nobody wanted to get out on the water, and we all waited around until the last possible second to blast out to the committee boat. When it's that windy and cold, it is really hard to wait on the water. One or two falls before a start can really sap your strength, as can standing on your board fighting your sail just to stay in one place. Most sailors will keep sailing up and down while waiting.

The committee began a sequence, but it was apparent that their anchor wasn't holding and the boat was drifting backwards. After about a half hour (it was an hour of water time total) they sent us in so they could find a different anchor. It was not so nice to have to change in and out of a wet, cold wetsuit after not having completed any races!

After a few hours they sent us out again and we ran 3 back-to-back races. The rapid-fire racing was really good, because there wasn't much opportunity to freeze between races. It was so windy that everyone was in survival mode. Tactics included one tack per upwind, one jibe per downwind, and above all, don't fall! I did have a few spills but managed to finish all the races. Only seven girls made it to the course today. Every race I got a bit faster. I could see improvement both technically and mentally, so it was a great day of regatta training for me. 3 races, 30 knots, 50 degrees, max HR 173, 2900 calories, 40 miles sailed, 27.2 mph max speed...not too shabby.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Puck Delivers

One weather pattern on the Polish Baltic includes really nice mornings and evenings, and gnarly cold, cloudy afternoons. This has been the pattern for the past few days, and as I write the weather is the nicest it's been all day, not a cloud in the sky.

Nice Baltic weather

From the weather now, you wouldn't know it had been cold, overcast, and blowing 25-30 all afternoon. We had four races today, as was planned on the schedule. It was a long, chilly, and grueling day and everyone is really tired. I am pretty comfortable with board handling in the big breeze, but I'm not going very fast. My focus is trying to fix my upwind technique, which is a detriment to my finishes.

I am borrowing a Garmin GPS / heart rate monitor, a few of which were given to the US Sailing Center in Miami by the USOC. At the end of the day, I had sailed for 4 hours (1 race / hour shows you how efficient the RC is) burned 3230 calories in that time, had a max heart rate of 170 (where you are during interval training) and top speed 27.5 mph. That's a lot of work! We are looking forward to 40, yes, 40 knots tomorrow with the same schedule. Woo hoo!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Puchar PZZ in Puck

Roughly translated, this regatta is called the Polish Sailing Association Cup (Polski Zwiazek Zeglarski), and it's my third year in a row participating. Most of the participants are boardsailors, but there a good-sized Laser fleet, and a few Finns. Our first day of racing was today, and we began this day by waiting for the wind. In the afternoon, we finally got about 6-10 knots of breeze, which was enough for two races. The committee here doesn't mess around and they're used to running races for boards. As soon as the wind was up, they sent us out, ran two fast races, and sent us back in.

I had a couple sorta kinda mediocre races. Even though my technique has dramatically improved, I'm still having trouble downwind and reaching, and still a bit slow to plane. This wasn't helped by the massive amounts of floating weed in the water. We were all fighting the weeds, and I saw many sailors stop to clear their fins. However, I am pretty fast upwind and am holding my own with a few of the good youth girls. Tomorrow some big breeze is in the forecast, which will be great. The committee will probably want to run four races, so it should be a big day. It's time to get organized...walk to the store, get some food, then get back to my hotel. I know some people are anxious to see some pictures, but they'll have to wait for tomorrow because I forgot my camera cable.

Do jutra,


Monday, May 18, 2009

Poland Again

One of the first questions the Polish kids always ask me when I show up is "How long are you staying here?" The truth is that this year I don't know, but it will be at least 2 months. I really enjoy my time here. Although I'm usually pretty quiet and just sail and train hard, I absorb a lot. It's great to be working hard in a familiar setting, and I'm really happy to be back.

I had a really long flight and one day on the water so far. It looks like I'm going to make some big improvements this year. After racing today with the kids, my upwind speed is great, but my downwind still needs a bit of help. I'm definitely planing sooner and going faster, but I still have a lot to work on. The weather is classic, rainy and cold. We had an hour of summer today before a front came through! I'm really excited for the season to begin.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Miami Training

I only had a few days to sail in Miami, but I made the most of it. For the past few days Mike Gebhardt and I have been working together, and it's been an enlightening experience to say the least. There have been certain technique issues that I have been struggling with, and needed some new concepts to help make my next breakthrough. We've been working with some really basic concepts that I never learned when I started to sail, and just in a few days, my sailing is already different. It is amazing that there are such big gaps in my learning, but now the biggest ones are being filled. The best thing is that I now have new goals to accomplish over the next few months.

Another treat was the Wednesday night Formula race held at Shake-a-Leg in Coconut Grove. This is a summer series which includes a few classes of keelboat like J24s and Sonars. The usual Miami crowd was in attendance, and we had three races concluding when the sky started to get really dark. We had light wind of about 12 knots, and everyone was using their biggest gear. This is always great for me, because I get to use my favorite 75-5 XXXS fin made by Dave Kashy. I honestly think it's the best fin in Miami, and I love being able to see how hard I can push it to make me go faster and higher. So far, I haven't found its limit. There are a bunch of fast guys in the fleet, and a few are really good starters. It was nice to get the practice in with a great group of sailors, be back on the Formula equipment, and to get to sail around an interesting course with shifty wind, weeds, and big sailboats. I was on my toes the whole time! Thanks to the Shake-a-Leg crew for a great evening.

On Saturday I leave for Poland and the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Medemblik, Netherlands.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Return to Miami

It was great being able to go home after the French Olympic Week. Home is always the most productive place to be when it comes to organizing my campaign, and for getting rest too! As far as work goes, it's been mostly logistics and finances. I'm busy organizing a trip to Poland, followed by the Delta Lloyd regatta in Medemblik, Netherlands. I'm also happy to say that the Compass Marketing team is helping me out with a new website, and that will be up in the near future. They are really professional and the new design is looking great.

I just finished a really, really long drive to Miami. I'll be doing a little work here with coach Mike Gebhardt, getting the basics for some technique that I can continue to work on in Europe. Today was busy finding enough gear to make two rigs, organizing some video, picking up last-minute equipment deliveries, and basically making sure I have enough gear and other supplies to last through September in Europe. The last item on the to-do list is the actual packing. I brought tons of clothes with me, enough summer and workout clothes for a week in Miami and all the warm stuff for chilly northern Europe. This means I'll repack everything on the final day, and send about half of everything back home.

It will be a busy week of training and logisitcs in Miami, and I'm looking forward to getting started.