A breakthrough regatta isn't necessarily about seeing yourself jump up in the results, but rather know and feel that overall you've been racing really well. For me, the Miami OCR was this regatta. After a few months not sailing RS:X and focusing on Formula (and some rest too!) it was good to come back to the board and realize that I had made some big gains last year during all the training and regattas. As the fleet overall gets better, it's sometimes hard to see that you're getting better too, until you realize that you're actually racing and not just "following the leaders."
Overall I had a pretty solid regatta. My speed is getting better and I'm improving a few things at a time in that respect. If I had a bad upwind, I made up ground on the reach, which is a technical ability I've never had before. Improving reaching made racing through the slalom section a lot easier (also, my jibes are a lot better from Formula training). This was the first regatta where I actually felt competitive in the slalom, and in a few instances overtook a few sailors around the turns. The most interesting aspect of speed is that it completely rules boardsailing. Although being fast with bad tactics won't improve anyone's standings, the simple truth is that speed is what separates the front of the fleet with the back. Sailors who are fast can get out of bad situations a lot easier than the slower sailors. Also, faster sailors have an easier time executing a tactical plan. They are able to get off the starting line faster and get to the side of the racecourse where they already planned to go. For example, I can create a good plan for a race and perform a good start, but if lots of faster boards get ahead of me before I can execute my plan, I may have to bail out just to get clean air. In many instances, I have seen fast sailors have bad upwind legs, but make up ground so quickly on downwind legs that they completely save their race. My focus for the season is to make more technical improvements so my speed gets much better. This will come with very organized training and coaching, and one of my goals for this week is to put together a very good training plan. Of course, that includes working on the dreaded budget, weighing the value of new equipment versus travel, coaching, and training, and trying to manage debt.
Coming through the slalom course
I'm ranked first again for women's windsurfing on the US Sailing Team Alphagraphics (that's the team's Gold-level sponsor). It's good to be back and I'm very encouraged not only by my own performance at this regatta, but also the way the team is shaping up. The team is smaller than ever this year, but in that way we will be able to focus our resources more efficiently. Once again the boards will have a coaching budget, so we will have some coaching at a few regattas, which is extremely helpful. Our team leader is enthusiastic and excited about our plan this year, and is very happy with how the team is performing overall, especially with the OCR performances of some of the developmental sailors. Later, we will also be suited up in some new gear from our clothing sponsor Atlantis so that we all look unified.
The new team culture is very positive, but what the boards are really lacking is a US Sailing-run developmental program like the boats have. As more juniors come through the US Windsurfing programs, there will soon be a need for it (I'm thinking in the next 2 years). Hopefully, as the US Sailing Team's overall results improve and the PR program matures, there will be funding for such a project. Boards are the easiest class to develop, as proved by the Polish team, whose youth team makes good results with not very much money.
Coach Mike Gebhardt helps teammate Lisa Kremer tune her rig.
I'm looking forward (as always) to making some big improvements this year. Thanks to my great sponsors, Compass Marketing and KA Sails, for helping me achieve my sailing goals.