Monday, April 18, 2011

Trofeo Princesa Sofia 2011

Palma can be a difficult venue for most North American sailors, and some of the regatta results of the US Sailing Team Alphagraphics reflected this. Our team leader asked us for some factors that would have improved results, and for me there were three deciding factors.

The conditions at Palma are quite different from Florida, where most of us train in the winter and early spring months. Most, if not all, of the top finishers in Palma trained during the winter at the venue. If US sailors were to arrive for a three-week training block before the event, we wouldn’t be coming into the first European event “cold” and adjusting to being in Europe again.

In addition to earlier training, it is difficult this year to find training partners to tune up with. Having more support for the boards to find partners would effect this; our Olympic qualifying year makes it a more difficult time to try and fit into other teams’ schedules. This year, I need to spend more time at the Weymouth venue, taking time away from my usual training with the Polish youth team.

Finally, after an intense training camp in Cadiz, I didn’t recover in time for racing. Although I know and utilized a lot of endurance-athlete recovery tricks, the element missing was physical therapy. Not having therapy can interrupt my entire training schedule, as too much time is spent trying to recover instead of working out in the gym or on the water. Without physical recovery, mental recovery is more difficult as well. Recovery was the major factor that affected my results in Palma. As a high-level endurance sport, it’s silly not to have trainers here for boardsailors, and the entire team would benefit from adding physical therapy to more events.

The regatta was a great learning experience in that it was a lesson in what improper physical and mental preparation, and not enough time at the venue, can lead to. At this level of sailing, especially with the fleet’s ability growing stronger and stronger, smaller details become more important. In the results, lack of minor details was apparent in the performances of a few top sailors, who weren’t quite up to speed. As more resources are being applied to windsurfing, sailors are gaining more experience in the second quadrennium using the RS:X, and teams are gaining depth with growing youth programs, competition is at its pinnacle.

Apart from the sailing, I finally got to see some of Mallorca. Having the minivan enabled me to get away from the venue and touristy beaches. Tourism in Mallorca makes up about 60% of the GDP and drives most of business on the island. In the past 50 years, tourism has chiefly consisted of North Europeans coming down to get drunk and sunburned, and beach towns have aptly been described as “tourist ghettoes.” However, tourism marketing has shifted focus and the island is attracting crowds of cyclists and other types of “ecotourists.”

Non-beach tourism is focused around some picturesque mountain villages on the north side of the island, one of which we were able to visit on a free day. We cruised uphill in the van to Valldemosa, following packs of cyclists around hairpin turns at a snail’s pace. We also toured a monastery and enjoyed lunch at a port town. In short, we were perfect tourists for a day, stealing a rare moment away from the regatta venue.

I’m now in Hyeres, France, after a ferry trip and drive from Barcelona and have spent the week tuning up. I always enjoy the French Olympic Week and am looking forward to a fun event, starting this Easter Sunday.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Princess Sofia Trophy, Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Polish youth coach Maciek Dziemanczuk and team

After a two-week training camp with the Polish team in El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain (Cadiz area), I'm about to begin the World Cup event Princess Sofia Trophy in Mallorca, Spain.

Training in Cadiz and here in Mallorca before the event led to a new list of skills to develop. In the wavy conditions of the Mediterranean and before that, Bay of Cadiz, the skills I learned in Miami need to be refined and new ones learned.

Oftentimes in these older maritime regions, strong winds have character and are named. In South France, the 30-40 + knot offshore wind is famously known as "le Mistral," and in Cadiz a strong prevailing southwesterly is named "Levante." Levante made a showing for almost an entire week, and we trained in 30-knot breeze after a week of light wind. Although it wore out all the sailors, Levante created a great opportunity to find areas to strengthen for December's regatta in Perth, Australia, another notably windy venue. It was also a good warm-up for the Princess Sofia Trophy.

Fixing a broken batten
Team meeting

After just under a week's worth of training here in Palma, where I am being coached by Britt Viehman, it's evident that the conditions require techniques that are newer for me. We've developed a specific plan for each condition and the event will be a great training opportunity. This year before the Olympics, competition is at its best and toughest, and the large attendance of many top sailors will make the event challenging and exciting.

Palma cathedral, early morning by ferry