Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sopot Delivers. . . Qingdao Doesn’t

Yesterday I didn’t update because the Olympic RS:X sailors had a lay day (and I was at an important meeting – more on that later). However, in Qingdao there was another day off today as the breeze never materialized, and sailors spent the day waiting in the boat park. The day was very smoggy and overcast, and no racing was had by any of the other classes as well. This means the race committee will have to do some juggling of the racing schedule in order to try and make up the racing for all the classes. US Sailing’s reporter, Derby Anderson, writes a good update on the cancellation of the races, and what the scheduling will be like tomorrow.

On a side note, while I’m hanging around at the Sopot sailing club, there is always discussion on the Olympics and about the placement of the Polish team. The general feeling from the other sailors is that although the Polish team is one of the most professional and well-prepared, the type of racing to be had in Qingdao is such a crapshoot that anything can happen, and the results don’t reflect the ability of the sailors.

Links to media coverage:




Sailing Anarchy

While the Olympic sailors sat on the beach, we raceboarders had a full day of insanity. The day was clear and sunny today and very breezy. The committee reported 15-19 knots offshore before we left the beach, but as we made our way down to the starting line, gusts started coming through at 20+ knots. I tested my charter board out a bit with some upwind and downwind runs, and tried to get it dialed in. However, as soon as we started the race, the wind began to build until gigantic gusts of at least 30 were coming through the course. There began to be some interesting raceboard carnage as the old guys with big sails and longboards got slammed by the gusts (ok the rest of us did too, but it’s funnier to see the old guys fall). Lots of cursing could be heard all over the course. I was having a hard time with my Bic hybrid board in the big breeze (that sucker needs a chicken strap!) and I unfortunately adopted a “ghetto fabulous” way of sailing it downwind in 25 knots. My sticky mast track wouldn’t slide back easily, so the mast got stuck right in the middle of the track well forward of where I would normally want it. However, in the big gusts, it actually was very controllable. I also had my back foot stuck in the leeward strap! (To Formula sailors, this is known as the “pussy strap.”) I was able to hurtle full speed downwind in the big gusts but in the lulls this survival technique didn’t quite cut it! The Bic doesn’t plane upwind as quickly as the RS:X, but because of the rounder, more narrow hull shape, it doesn’t become airborne on the chop as easily as the RS:X does. It was actually quite controllable upwind in big breeze. There were so many holes, that I was going daggerboard down quite a bit as well.

After 2 races (target time for raceboard class is 40 minutes, but normally I was finishing about 50+ minutes) the committee sent us in for a break. The sail back to the beach was probably the hardest upwind of my life in the 30 knot gusts and crazy shifts. The last 200 meters upwind to the beach are always the hardest in Sopot when the wind’s like this (think Cascais on speed) and I was totally exhausted. When I came back in I found that Max had broken his daggerboard! He’s sailing a really old-school Fanatic Mega Cat. The most amusing thing about Max is that he is sailing this regatta to have fun, but he wants to win in the worst way possible and he takes the racing very seriously. He borrowed all this old gear at the last minute so he could go fast, and he gets really bent out of shape when things don’t go his way. He hides it really well, but you can tell that he is reminding himself over and over that this isn’t the world championships, and to relax a little!

We waited an hour and the committee sent us back out. Fully expecting another wild ride, I geared up in my long wetsuit, and a life jacket (the flag had gone up for mandatory life jackets). However, the sail to the committee boat was the windiest leg of the whole race! The wind dropped to a rather pleasant 8-15 knots and I ended up having quite a good race. I finally figured out how to get the board to go a little faster so was keeping up with the fleet, and I made a great tactical call on the second upwind which made up a lot of ground. The only thing I was struggling with were transitions (tacks and jibes) because I was extremely tired still.

There’s a lot of tiring stuff happening this week besides the regatta. Yesterday I participated in a meeting of the Bic Techno 293 class, which is the kids’ under 17 age group fleet and very popular here in Europe. US Windsurfing’s "Windsurfing Task Force," which works with US Sailing, is really promoting this class in the USA, and wanted me to present a bid for the 2010 Techno World Championships to be held in San Francisco. This was a really nice opportunity for them to have a representative at the meeting, and also for me to become more involved with the USA youth windsurfing movement, which is very important to me. I spent a lot of time prepping for the presentation, and learning more about the class and its rules. I got thrown into voting on some changes for the class, so it was really important that I knew a lot of background. The presentation went really well and the committee understands what an opportunity this is for the class to develop at a faster rate in North America. Also presenting bids were France, Germany, Latvia, and New Zealand. The meeting went on until past midnight! Then I was in contact with the boys back home to update them and figure out our next moves. The voting will take place a short while in the future.

There are three days left of raceboard heaven, and then it’s a short break before another training camp. It is nice to have a full schedule, but I’m looking forward to some rest!

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