Progress in Olympic sailing is all about making the right training choices. For the past few months in Australia, my focus has been on getting faster in all conditions. Speed is king at any event. Following a few simple rules, refined by lots of practice and memorizing feel in all different conditions, is what it takes to get faster and keep getting faster. Putting speed into perspective and attaining the correct focus to maintain speed gave me a 9th place finish in Palma. Combining speed with elements of racing learned over the past year, plus a consistent coaching focus, is what brings success to any Olympic-class sailor.
Palma gave us a variety of challenging conditions. From an exhausting 30 knot day with 2 meter swell, to very light wind, we had two days of non planing racing and four days of planing. Challenging conditions were added to by ISAF's testing of a new Olympic format. Similar to the last Olympic format, the regatta was divided into a qualifying series, final series, and medal races. However, sailors' scores from the qualifying series were not carried over to the final series - but sailors' places were carried over instead of scores. Therefore a sailor scored 10th entered the final series with 10 points, and all sailors had the "gaps" reduced in their scores to only one point. Essentially, the final series was the beginning of a new regatta entirely, with consistency and good finishes in the qualifying series not rewarded. An additional race was added to the final series for a total of 5 races, and two medal races were held for double points each. All in all it was six days of really intense racing, extra races, and two high-stakes medal races instead of one.
Most sailors, including myself, were unsatisfied with this format. Like the Miami OCR, it didn't reward consistency in good finishes, a hallmark of successful sailors. There was no benefit in rewarding lower-ranked sailors by erasing their scores from the qualifying series, and it made the scoring harder to understand for spectators. Two medal races were acceptable and interesting, but double points scoring became senseless. Luckily, ISAF is getting feedback from all the competitors! There was nothing wrong with the previous format and scoring and hopefully ISAF will decide on a similar solution.
We are now training in Hyeres in preparation for the next World Cup, the French Olympic Week. We have had perfect French springtime weather with lots of sun and wind, and the venue is already filling with sailors. It is another opportunity to keep building on the work I did this winter and another chance for a good finish. I'm looking forward to making progress at the French Olympic Week.