Monday, August 30, 2010

Three races for women on Day 2 of RS:X Worlds

Conditions sprang to life on the second day of the RS:X World Championships. The wind filled in from the northeast to 20+ knots, the sun came out, and the women were scheduled for 3 races.

The women started at 11 am, and we knocked out two races quickly. I am working on starts and speed in the choppy conditions. Racing wasn't too complicated today in the planing conditions. It was "Nascar" racing - all speed, starts are everything, round and round the course racing. I've been having some good moments even though I'm not making results. I had one of the best starts in the fleet during the third race, and my board handling is getting better.

Meanwhile, my mom is here living the good life as a registered photographer for the event. She has her big camera and has been going out on the media boat. She's making some new friends, is enjoying watching the racing, and having hot coffee and lemon cheesecake on the boat. She also made us dinner tonight!

More tomorrow with some of Mom's pictures!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

RS:X Worlds: No action for women on Day 1

The day started promising for sailors on the first day of the RS:X Worlds in Kerteminde, Denmark. The offshore wind was light but gusts were coming through as clouds passed overhead. However, as rain cells cycled through, the wind became too unstable to race, and the men's fleets were sent back to the beach and held.

Men leave the beach

The women's start was scheduled for 1 pm, but was pushed back. We hung out in the competitors' tents all day, until the men were sent back out. The wind had clocked around to the opposite direction, and filled in but remained very light. After a period of waiting, the men finally got their races in, but it was too late for us.

Women's boards ready on the beach

The forecast for tomorrow shows breezy conditions with the ever present rain, so we should be able to get in three races.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kerteminde, Denmark

Peaceful Danish environment

Last week many sailors landed in Kerteminde, Denmark, where the 2010 RS:X World Championships will begin on August 29. Kerteminde is a small town east of Copenhagen, on the next peninsula across a long bridge. I drove in from the airport with Bob Willis, and we were shocked at the price of the bridge toll: 225 Danish kroner, which is $40. Sometimes it's nice to get a reminder that the price of US highway infrastructure is minimal compared to what Europeans have to pay!

Kerteminde is situated on an inlet in the Baltic Sea. We are surrounded by farmland and water, which is great for cycling and getting away from the scene at the Kerteminde Sailing Club. It is a relaxed atmosphere which definitely agrees with me. The weather been cloudy the entire week and extremely rainy. After coming from the UK, I'm quite anxious to see the sun again. Despite the rain, we have had excellent windy days and in general great sailing conditions.

A break in the clouds: light wind training

Training leading up to the event has been going really well. Although the Americans don't have coaching until the regatta starts, I'm refining my planing technique by tuning with other girls. I have noticed an improvement in speed, and upwind pointing is coming along. The international coaches run daily races, which most sailors take part in. I'm also working on breaking in a new sail and mast. I have the mast strung up in some marina storage racks with pressure on it so it is bent similar to how it will load up rigged. I will keep it there for four or five days until it is broken down a little more, then I'll rig it again and see if there is some change. For now I'm using my most ancient mast, which is a good mast but I'm a little concerned that it might not last through the regatta.

Mast bending system

Apart from sailing, the weather has allowed me to get some grant writing done and get organized in general. My mom is coming to visit me during the regatta, and we're looking forward to a little sightseeing, something I almost never do by myself! I'm also reunited with my minivan, which the Polish team drove to Denmark from Sopot. I will feel more at home here with both my van and my mom!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Racing ended for us yesterday with two crazy, shifty, funny races. The girls were supposed to race last after the two men's fleets. However, the constantly changing weather prevented the men's gold fleet from efficiently getting their races off, and the blue fleet's racing was cancelled in order to get our races in at the very end of the day. Rain cells moved through the course areas constantly, and every time a dark cloud passed, the wind shifted to move with it. The wind oscillated left and right, and big gusts and lulls anywhere from 5-17 knots touched down on the course. We raced starting around 4 pm, and made it back to the beach around 6:45.

I tried a few things that were different in order to break myself out of my usual race mode. The first was to try planing starts before the other girls went daggerboard up. I also started on port once (near the boat) and footed underneath the entire fleet. I was going really fast and got out into open air, but the wind shifted at that moment and I committed myself to the wrong side of the course! My plan was to hit that side because it looked better, but I ended up quite surprised. I learned a lot of lessons during this regatta, and now have a long list of new things to work on. It was great being able to identify weaknesses and try new things during this regatta, all made possible by our coach Mike Gebhardt.

The US Sailing Team overall had a good regatta and all logistics and coaching efforts were well worth it. Read the press release for more details.

I'm moving on to Kerteminde, Denmark to compete in the World Championships. I will get to be a tourist for a few days as the regatta doesn't start until the 29th. Thanks to the Polish windsurfing team who drove my minivan over from Sopot. Also a big thanks to my sponsor, Compass Marketing, for making all my Olympic efforts possible.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Weymouth, Days 3 and 4

Scheduling for racing is a bit tight. Since there are two courses in the harbor, the race committee is running a windward - leeward slalom course rather than the usual trapezoid. This means that the fleets of boards are raced individually and called out one at a time.

We raced last yesterday, and started after 3 pm. Conditions yesterday were classic sea breeze, and the sun made an appearance. I worked on getting good starts, which I accomplished, and marginal planing daggerboard-down technique. The wind died before the start of the second race, and the committee shortened the course. Pumping in light wind was not a bad change after the 25 knots of the previous day.

Today, the wind was from an unusual direction, northerly right from the Weymouth land mass. Clouds formed over the land, and the wind went right throughout the morning. Because of the shifting wind, we had several general recalls and the committee reset the course once. The key tactic of the day was to hit the right side of the course and then play the shifts up the remainder of the beat. The gusts and lulls were very significant and often we had to switch gears from planing to daggerboard down. I am getting a lot better at switching gears, and one of the best aspects of my racing today was making independent decisions about when to switch. I also had several good starts and was one of the first girls to attempt planing starts in the gusts. In my best race I rounded the top mark in 15th after the start.

Tomorrow will be my last day of racing and after that one training day, the day of the medal race.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Weymouth shows racers its classic conditions on Day 2 of Sail for Gold Regatta

Weymouth showed its true colors yesterday with the rough conditions it is well-known for. After an hour's delay for very light wind, misty clouds moved in, rain began to fall, the temperature dropped, and the breeze picked up.

The women had the first start, and we left the beach in very marginal conditions. After a few minutes, the wind built to planing conditions, and we had one general recall before the first race. I didn't have a very good race because although I have decent board speed and tactical skills, I had a second-row start, and once the fleet is ahead, it is impossible to catch up. Starts are difficult here as the line is fairly short and the fleet is very aggressive.

After the first race, the wind shifted right significantly and picked up to 20-25 knots, and rain squalls cycled through. The committee had to move the course and experienced a lot of difficulty with keeping the marks and the boat anchored. The process took about two hours and in the meantime, we were all freezing, wet, and getting tired sailing around in big breeze. Not only were the girls out, but the mens' fleets were called out too early as well. They waited with us as the course was reset.

The second race I pulled off a better start, and sailed better overall. I went course right, while most of the fleet went left. Even though this can be a dangerous tactic, I wanted to try it because the water on the right side was much flatter than the left, which was crazy from boat traffic, wind, and seawall backwash. It ended up working out, and I had a 2/3 fleet finish, which is more normal for me.

This is a difficult regatta for me as it is a peak regatta for the entire fleet, along with the RS:X Worlds in a couple of weeks. All the younger sailors on European teams have improved a lot this season with full time coaching and training camps, and the experienced sailors are extremely tuned up. However, I am making some improvements and learning a lot with Mike Gebhardt coaching me, and results will come in the future. The US Sailing Team is making steady improvement with its support of the sailors, and we will have more help in the next two seasons.

Team USA dinner - we have a big group here!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Back to Weymouth

For the past week the US Sailing Team Alphagraphics has been training in Weymouth, UK, sailing venue of the 2012 Olympic Games. An impressive number of USST members are here, including sailors on the boat development teams. Our team leader, Kenneth Andreasen, is doing a great job of organizing meetings and bringing us together in our team "compound," a big storage facility a quarter mile from the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy.

The US team hired Mike Gebhardt to coach Ben Barger and I, which was the deciding factor in my attendance at this regatta. It is really expensive because I have to charter equipment, but equipment is less than the cost of good coaching. We have had four days of coaching in wind anywhere from 8-25 knots in mostly chilly, rainy, and cloudy conditions. We are focusing on tuning and technique, and I have been developing my speed and pointing in breeze, and we have created different strategies for various conditions. We are continuing this focus through the regatta, and using the racing for further tuning and working on tactics.

Today was our first day of racing, and in addition to the tuning, we worked on developing tactics specific to Weymouth. In the breeze, tactics aren't excessively complicated. The left side of the course is usually favored and speed and a good start are imperative for getting to the left side right from the starting line. Although I didn't make any glaring tactical errors, I am having trouble pointing and I'm basically getting creamed by the fleet for that reason. A major factor impacting my pointing ability is my charter equipment, which is new and very stiff. It is great to be on new gear, but it still needs to be broken in and I have been keeping my sail fully rigged in a main hall to break it down faster. It doesn't look like I'll have a fantastic result at this regatta, but I'm making a lot of progress with technique and learning a lot more about the equipment. Mike Gebhardt is really pushing my ability and effort, and it will pay off at future regattas.