Monday, December 7, 2009

Inlet to Inlet Distance Race: Ft Lauderdale, FL

The Inlet to Inlet race, otherwise known as the "i-to-i," is a long distance race held in the Atlantic Ocean.  It is run by local Formula hotshot Ron Kern, and sailors race from the Port Everglades inlet to the Hillsborough Inlet and back.  We sailors can always expect two things: some really challenging conditions, and a big adventure. This year was no exception.  

13 sailors showed up to race; most on Formula gear (9) but a good longboard turnout as well.  The wind was from the southwest, and Ron put the pressure on us to get to the beach really early so we could make the best of the day.  As usual, everyone rolled in a half hour to the start and thus we started at 9:40 instead of 9:00.  

Racers pose before the start (photo: Sue Kern).

The side-offshore wind is always really gusty in Ft. Lauderdale, with big puffs and even bigger lulls. I was pretty sure the wind was going to increase with an incoming rainstorm, so I rigged on the small side (mistake), a KA 9.0 with my mid-sized 66cm Kashy fin.  We started by sailing about 2 miles on a close reach to the Port Everglades channel mark.  

I was close by the boys as we rounded the channel mark, but took a spill when I hit a piece of chop and a big gust came at the same time.  The ocean chop was challenging as on one tack downwind you were directly sailing up and down steep waves, and to keep going you had to sail in a zigzag fashion to keep from going uphill too much.  On my way down, I passed Alex Morales, who was chilling out, sailing in slow motion downwind, and watching the action.  He, along with most of the Formula fleet, had decided that the wind was too light, and sailed a short course in to the beach immediately.  The rest of the Formula fleet, which by then consisted of Ron, Fernando, and myself, went all the way down to the Hillsborough Inlet channel mark.  The wind was getting lighter and lighter, and on the way back up I was unable to plane in the lulls.  The two boys on their bigger rigs started to get far ahead of me, it started to rain, and then the wind decided to die.  By this time, I had already gotten halfway back to the launch, but still had about 4-5 miles to sail upwind.  I had also sent some fishermen into a hissy fit by sailing into one of their lines (who knew that they were so close to the surface 100 meters behind the boat?).  Comically enough the fishhook caught my fin and the boat actually dragged me 20 feet as it came to a stop.  When the line slacked I unhooked myself and escaped the frying pan yet one more day.

The last gasp of wind got me in about a half mile from shore, where it took another exciting hour to tack in.  Luckily I pulled the gear onto the beach in front of a nice derigging area: a tall, white, classic 1970s-era condo with a big deck and a hose to rinse all the gear.  In my wetsuit, I hopped the fence to the road, much to the annoyance of the security guard.  I asked him nicely to call a taxi for me, after which I was honored with a lecture about the evils of hopping fences and the meaning of private property.  The taxi took me back to the launch site, and I gave the driver an extra tip due to the big puddle of salty water in the back seat.  

At the launch, most of the Formula sailors were chowing down on French fries in the local restaurant.  Ron and Fernando were the only two Formula sailors to finish, a great accomplishment given the light and tricky conditions.  Alex was on scouting duty, and was finding the longboard sailors one by one.  The longboards really took the day as Beth Winkler and Daniel Borsutzky finished the huge distance in about 5.5 hours! 

 I took the van back to the condo to get my gear (and listen to another lecture), and the racers adjourned to Ron's house for a party and awards.  It was a big day, but at least I didn't break a mast and destroy my cell phone like last year. Check out Ron's race report and results.  Thanks to all the great race sponsors, Liquid Surf and Sail, Adventure Sports and Sandy Point Progressive Sports, for some really great prizes; and thanks to Ron and Sue Kern for making the i-to-i a really nice event.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Miami Pro-Am: No wind, but good fun

Windy conditions at a Florida regatta isn't always a certainty.  Although Miami usually has good wind, this weekend didn't have the conditions we would have liked to see.  The wind was from the east and averaged about 5 knots.  

Although this meant that the Formula fleet didn't race, we did get to hang out on the water and go to some good parties.  The race organizer, Alex Morales from Windsurfing Tour Miami, made sure we were well fed and entertained.  There was lots of opportunity to discuss fins, new sails, and the new production boards.  

Working the board to make it plane

New production boards from Starboard, Exocet, and Patrik Diethelm (formerly at F2)

On the other hand, the Kona fleet sailed 7 races in the light wind.  There was much cheering and heckling from the idle Formula sailors as the boards raced.  Close racing was had by the top 3 men, and after a protest, former world champion Bruce Matlack was upset by Mike Rayl for second place.  Steve Gottlieb from Sandy Point Progressive Sports took first.  In the junior fleet, developed by Britt Viehman, Kevin Hendrickson, Chris Waldo, and Margot Samson took first, second, and third.

Competitors at the Pro-Am

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Getting Ready for a New Season

I've been back in the USA for over a month now, and have spent the time getting ready for the winter season, and making longer-term plans for next year's campaign.  It takes some time to get organized and ready for the next session of training, and I also needed a little down time to relax and get re-acquainted with family and friends.  Of course, the work is endless, and I've been putting a lot of office time in, as well as cleaning out all my old stuff from my parents' house!

I just made it to Miami, where I'm getting organized once again for the winter.  My RS:X gear arrived safely from Weymouth in the US team container, and was waiting for me at the US Sailing Center.  I am also getting my Formula equipment sorted out and the new KA Sails prototypes are looking great.  

Tomorrow is the first Formula regatta of the season, the Miami Pro-Am.  The local scene will be here, so it will be competitive and fun, and a great warm-up for the bigger regattas.  I am looking forward to a lot of Formula sailing this winter!

Thanks to my sponsors, Compass Marketing and KA Sails, who will make this season exceptionally great.

A little Florida winter weather - the morning before a great day of sailing

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sail for Gold Wrapup

The last few days of Sail for Gold saw many American sailors stepping up the game and moving to the front of the fleet.  Two bronze medals were won by Zach Railey in the Finn class and by Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly O'Brien-Vandemoer, and Alice Manard in women's match racing.  US sailors swept the Paralympic division, with two gold medals in the Skud - 18 (Scott Whitman / Julia Dorsett) and Sonar (Hugh Freund / Maureen McKinnon-Tucker) classes.  My teammate Ben Barger had one of his best performances ever, with 9th overall in the RS:X men's fleet.

The final days of the regatta saw all the changeable conditions possible in Weymouth.  The third day many classes had a break as the wind was too strong on the outside courses (which I've written about in the previous entry).  

All fleets postponed for winds gusting over 30 knots.

Although it was really nuking for the first few days, the wind dropped a lot for the last two days of the final series.  We experienced a few days of Indian summer and four races in winds of 5-10 knots.  

Running through the starting line in light wind

The last day of the regatta was going to be a treat as I would get to watch my teammate Ben  in the RS:X medal race.  However, hot, hazy summer decided to descend on Weymouth, and conditions were pretty glassy all day.  Even though there was no wind, the committee decided to call the men out anyway.  After about 15 minutes of everyone hanging out on their coach boats, they decided to abandon the race.  Many fleets had their medal races cancelled, which was a disappointment for the huge British media presence.

On board the coach boat:  Race committee member tries to hold up the "A" flag

I had a lot of frustration these last days as being tired and sick was starting to catch up with me.  The wind was very shifty and light, making for a difficult transition back to pumping conditions.  My focus every day was on recovery, and some new stretches I learned facilitated that.  Although I didn't sail as well as I expected I could for this regatta, it was still a great experience to be at the Olympic venue for such an extended period of time, learn all the possible conditions, and be well-prepared for each coming year.

I would like to thank my sponsor, Compass Marketing, for making these important events possible for me to compete in.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Days 2 and 3: Sail for Gold

Patience is the thing I strive for the most in this sport.  I'm used to being able to do most sports well simply because I'm an athletic person.  However, in sailing, small gains come slowly and can be invisible in the results.  I'm out of my comfort zone in the really big breeze, and it shows.  This is the very reason I went to San Francisco and the Gorge this summer.  I'm pushing my wind range up higher and higher, but it's slow progress so far.  What I am the most happy about from the past two days is that my tacks and jibes are improving, and my upwind technique is getting much better.

We've had two races each day so far, and all races have been on a windward-leeward course due to the constraints of the harbor.  It's actually quite fun going around and around the course like a racecar, as it gives you lots of opportunities to practice maneuvers.  Today we were postponed for a few hours in the morning, as the wind was gusting to 35 knots.  Later, however, conditions calmed down a bit to around 20+ knots (although there were a few lulls and high gusts) and the committee was able to get our races off in the harbor.  The boards and the 49ers were the only fleets to sail today.  Although most fleets sailed yesterday, conditions were actually a bit windier.  I felt racing was called off a bit prematurely for the rest of the boats, but the committee believed that outside the harbor walls conditions were unsafe.  Tomorrow the wind will be lighter, and all fleets should be ready to go.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sail for Gold, Day 1

The northeast wind we have been experiencing for the past week is apparently a "summer" condition.  Although temperatures have been sometimes chilly, it's been sunny and dry, which is great for drying out wet gear.  Northeast conditions are expected throughout the rest of the regatta, but we should have about 20 knots tomorrow.  From what I've experienced so far at this venue, this direction doesn't get quite as nuclear as the normal southwest breeze.

Northeast is shifty and gusty, and on the racecourse today we had as much as 15 knots and as little as 6-8.  The boards are still inside the harbor walls, but we are sharing the harbor with the paralympic fleets, so the race committee is forgoing the normal trapezoid course in favor of a windward-leeward course to save a bit of space.  There are 10 races in the series, so we are on schedule for two a day.  

Today I had some good and bad moments.  Although I had a good start for the first race, I started with the really fast girls in the fleet.  After the start, I got rolled and didn't tack out because I was too focused on my plan for the upwind...rookie mistake that put me towards the rear of the pack.  I had a tactically sound second upwind and made up some places, and had some really good jibes through the slalom finish.  I had an incredible start during the second race, which turned out to be a little too good as I was over early, adding an OCS to my score.  

Overall I wasn't unhappy about my day, as there were many things that I improved greatly.  The rest of the American team had a bit of a shaky start to the regatta (except for Ben, who is in 6th place in the RS:X men's fleet) but as everyone is learning the venue, I expect we will bounce back quickly.  I'm enjoying the back-to-back regattas as it forces me to relax and focus on the learning process.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sail For Gold Starts on Monday

The final 2009 World Cup event, the Sail For Gold Regatta starts Monday at the Portland Sailing Center in Weymouth England, site of the 2012 Olympic sailing regatta.  This is the first of three annual pre-Olympic test regattas for the sailors to become familiar with the local winds and currents that will influence our training over the next three years.  China's local conditions for the 2008 Olympics were light winds but the Weymouth venue promises to provide more all around conditions with the likely potential for strong winds just as we saw last week at the RSX World Championships.

These pre-Olympic regattas also provide an opportunity for the various countries to ramp up their organization, logistics and support structure to maximize their team's medal winning potential.  The US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics officials held a meeting tonight with all the US sailors present at its impressive operation center.  The facility is being provided to us for the next four years and is directly across from the Olympic venue.  It provides a place for us to meet before and after racing and we can store our equipment and coach boats there year round. We are sure to have multiple training camps here outside of the Sail for Gold Regattas in the coming years.   

weather briefing at US Team facility

The weather has been great during the break as you can see in the picture below that was taken from Weymouth's Chesil Beach of the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.

Weymouth / Portland Sailing Academy

Not quite the Cote d'Azur but the smooth rocky beach  shows the powerful storms that must pound this shore

I've been feeling under the weather since the end of the RSX Worlds ended. I have taken the last three days off from sailing.  I'm still trying to shake my cold and other related aliments.  The racing starts tomorrow (Monday) and my coach told me not to worry because I sail better when I'm sick.  We will see if this holds true.  

I'd like to thank Compass Marking Inc. for their support which has allowed me to compete in the RSX circuit this year.  Their website  

To view the Sail for Gold website go to

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spain and Great Britain Take the World Championships

The Worlds have finally concluded yesterday with beautiful weather for the medal racing. Medal races can be high stress, as the weighted results can make or break a sailor's regatta.  We saw some seriously good sailing today with impressive finishes.  In the women's fleet, Marina Alabau from Spain sailed conservatively without any big mistakes to keep her points lead for the World Champion title.  Her teammate, Blanca Manchon, finished fourth, also maintaining her second place.  Charline Picon of France upset Agata Brygola (POL) to take third. Agata has had a phenomenal regatta, and after a year of not being on the Polish Olympic team, has completely risen to the top.

In the men's fleet, local British sailor Nick Dempsey impressively won the medal race and the championships, thrilling the British media.  The second place finisher, Nimrod Mashiah from Israel, almost lost his regatta in the medal race after he fell at the start.  As he went down and the gun went off, there was a collective gasp of horror from all the spectator and coach boats.  He recovered quickly, although he was behind the entire fleet.  By the first windward mark, he was going so fast that he caught three sailors to finish sixth, keeping his points lead.  Dorian van Rijsselberge, a very talented kid from the Netherlands, finished second in the medal race to take third place.

Nick Dempsey (GBR) is sprayed with champagne after winning both the medal race and the World Championships (event photo)

The racing for the silver fleet was cancelled on the final day, much to everyone's disappointment. A container ship was hanging out on the racecourse, making a normal trapezoid course impossible.  The committee was running one fleet at a time on a windward/leeward course, and with four fleets to finish, they ran out of time before the medal races.  I went sailing anyway and blazed around the slalom course for a while between races, practicing jibes. 

We have a few days off and then the Sail for Gold ISAF Grade 1 regatta begins.  I seem to have both a small sinus infection and some kind of British disease of the guts, so I'm resting and will do some light recovery running and calisthenics.  Sail for Gold will be another great opportunity to learn more about the Olympic venue and we are (tiredly) looking forward to the racing.

Arne and I watching the action before the medal races

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Worlds Days 4 and 5

With one race to go, the RS:X World Championships is almost over.  With life focused around racing, the days go quickly.  

In the silver fleet, I'm finally finding my groove.  My results are a tribute to progress:  jumping forward, falling back, but in general putting new knowledge to good use.  Yesterday I posted a 14th and a 6th in marginal conditions.  I'm quite proud of the 14th, as it came after I saved my own race.  I was slow to accelerate off the start, and had to tack out and go to the wrong side to get clear air.  I rounded the windward mark almost last.  However, I had two really strong downwind legs and caught half the fleet.   The next race, I knew where to go.  My start was excellent, as I had more space on the line and got out from under the fleet early in clear air.  I dedicated my start to my Polish coach, Romek, as it was exactly the way he has taught me. and my speed was good with the daggerboard down.  I consistently gained places and had a strong finish through the slalom.

Today my results were really upside down...I posted a 3rd and a 19th.  The third was fantastic as it shows what I can do when I race well.  Our entire race was light planing conditions, with an unusual north wind.  Big gusts were coming down the course, and racing today was all about finding the pressure.  Racing well is all about performing each individual portion of a race well, and I managed to piece together a good race.  My start was great, and I got out into clear air.  My speed was good in the flat water, and I hit the shifts and pressure right on the first two upwind legs.  Pretty soon I was ahead of the pack by a long ways....which felt great!  

Racing at the front of the fleet seems easy when you've gotten there, but it's really tough to work your way up from the back.  The wind was more fluky at the start of the second race, and I wasn't clean off the line.  I had tried for a planing start when most of the girls were daggerboard down.  I was forced to go daggerboard down for a while, and because there were so many holes, never got out of that mode into planing.  I chose the wrong side on the first beat, and was constantly fighting with the others to get ahead.  The result is a testament to a bad start and first upwind leg.  At least I'm showing improvement.  We have one race tomorrow, and then the World Championships end for yet another year. 

Monday, September 7, 2009

Worlds Day 2 and 3

Days 2 and 3 of racing went by really fast for me.  I had a bit of another frustrating day on the second day, as the wind was very shifty and marginal.  The low pressure finally moved on, and the wind dropped to manageable conditions. The girls raced first, and I managed two 20th places, which I knew wouldn't put me in the gold fleet after the qualifying series, as was my goal for the regatta.  It was really unfortunate that I hadn't made the time limit on the previous days' races and scored DNFs.  After I got home and warmed down from the racing, I became quite sick with flu-like symptoms and went to bed early.

Sometimes feeling like crap can be really helpful, because I wasn't feeling so pressured for yesterday's racing.  The wind was marginal again but enough to fully plane downwind.  It was coming from over the mountain of the island of Portland, making the course pretty gusty, and racing was all about staying in the pressure.  I quickly discovered the secret of a successful race:  don't go course left unless there was serious breeze visible.  Course right was favored and most of the girls went that way on the upwinds, but downwind many were tempted into chasing stray puffs on the left.  I went hard right on the downwinds and many times came out ahead, ending the day with a 16th and 12th place.  After 3 days and 6 races, the qualifying series is over and we are now split into gold and silver fleets according to scores.  Although I had a "gold fleet" kind of day, I didn't make the final cut.

Sailing home from the day's racing

When I finished the second race of the day, the measurement boat motored up and told me that my equipment would be inspected.  I then got to de-rig inside the measurement area of the Academy facility.  Guess they got suspicious of me after a good day of racing.  I passed the inspection free and clear.

I'm class-legal, I swear

As the qualifying series ends, there is no doubt who is on top:  the Spanish team.  Their top girl, Marina Alabau, is head and shoulders above every other sailor here in terms of speed and good decisions.  She has posted a perfect score of 6 points for 6 races, meaning she's won every race.  Five points behind her is the next Spanish girl.  It is very impressive, as the two have a reported close rivalry and have been pushed to train together lately.  Both have obviously risen to the challenge both mentally and on the water.  

Among my Polish "teammates," the top youth girl, Maja Dziarnowska, has also risen to her new challenge of being on the Olympic team.  Her career is just starting, but already she has had some seriously good races and is much faster than last year.  Another girl, Agata Brygola, who didn't make the Olympic team a few years ago (but never gave up racing hard under her own resources), is now in medal contention.  Overall, it is very impressive how fast some of the girls in the fleet have improved, and it gives me more motivation to keep up!

Today is our lay day and I'm feeling a bit sick again, but have been resting.  I'm sure that by tomorrow I'll be ready to go and will have some good races in the silver fleet. 

Friday, September 4, 2009

Worlds Day 1

After a week of extremely windy conditions, the first day of the regatta was also extremely windy.  The morning showed 25-30 knots and the afternoon was definitely 30+ as a few rain squalls came through.  Temps were in the high 50s Fahrenheit, and may have even hit the low 60s.  We've had 25-30 knots for almost a week now, and it seems that in September, Weymouth is like the San Francisco of England (minus the gnarly chop).

Windy start for the men (event photo)

The men's fleets raced in the morning, and the women's fleets started after 1 pm.  It was a tough day for everyone with lots of falls and carnage around the slalom finish.  I had a few decently planned out races, but got tired quickly after falling a lot.  I finished the races, but not without a huge effort and several long swims after flying equipment.  I even had a run-in with a women's match racing boat that was training near our course, and had to bail out when they jibed into me.  Even with all the craziness, I was happy to find that my jibes and tacks are much better even in the very strong breeze, and I am sailing upwind well.

Hanging on:  Rounding an upwind mark.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

More than Just Training: Preparing for the Worlds

Preparing for any major regatta is challenging and time-consuming.  Of course, training always is foremost, including water time, cardio, and weights.  Training is the easiest part, however.  The things that take up the most time and energy are logistics, budgeting, and equipment.  

Having good equipment is always the first concern for a big event.  Thanks to my great sponsor, Compass Marketing, I was able to order a new sail for event, and have it shipped to the Sailing Academy.  However, preparing a new sail takes a few days of work.  The sail must be broken in, meaning that you have to stretch it a bit to know how it will feel during the race.  This also allows you to figure out which settings on your boom and mast extension feel good with the sail.  This takes a few days of sailing.

Breaking in the new sail during a day of training.

The sail must then be logoed.  Sometimes this is very time-consuming if your stickers are complicated, or you have to make your sail numbers by hand.  Cutting and measuring stickyback letters usually takes me around 2 hours.  They have to conform to class measurements.

Making and applying sail numbers by hand

Although they look really cool, my sponsor's stickers are a little complicated too.  Luckily I had some help.

Christoph helps me apply stickers.

After this, a giant American flag had to be applied using soap and water.  This eliminates air bubbles under the sticker and lets the sticker be easily slid around and positioned on the sail.  The water can be pushed out from underneath the sticker by a squeegee or credit card (a good use for my maxed-out MasterCard).  The sticker can then be dried in the sun leaving no effect from the water.

After preparing the sail, I had to make sure the rest of the gear was up to par.  On my old board, I re-did the centerboard gasket and fixed the bottom.  The gasket was stiff and had become warped, so I removed it, scraped the glue off, and installed a new one.  This was time-consuming as there was a lot of scraping and filling involved, and the gasket had to be sanded to fit flush with each half, and also the deck.  On the bottom of the board, there were gelcoat bubbles from the board's exposure to moisture and temperature change during travel.  I sanded them off and put gelcoat filler on them.  The next day, I sanded the entire bottom of the board.  I also worked on roughening my boom grip and replaced lines on the boom and downhaul.  

I also needed to replace my fin, so I spent about 20 minutes at the Neil Pryde distributor's truck looking through a box of about 15.  Not all fins are created equal, even though they are supposed to be.  Christoph and I sighted down each fin to see if it was straight, and compared them side by side to determine thickness.  Basically, a good RS:X fin will be straight and thin, which reduces drag.  We did find a nice one.  Then the fin had to be sanded and shimmed to fit in the board's fin box.  After all this, all the gear went in to the measurer, who took serial numbers, and approved and stamped the sail, fin, centerboard, mast, boom, and hull.

Having a good logistical setup is also important.  I'm staying with my teammate Ben Barger, who had a rental car for a day.  We spent the entire day shopping for hardware, clothing items, miscellaneous parts for RS:X, used bicycles to get us to the venue, parts for said bicycles, vinyl stickers for sail numbers, British adaptors, and food for the house.  I ran out of money because I paid in full for our house, so I was running a tab with Ben.  Then he realized he was overdrawn because a check hadn't come in when he expected it.  The day of shopping left us both broke and figuring out how to make it through the next few days.  Luckily, we are both getting everything sorted.  After two days of commuting by bike, we are figuring out how to get around and the timing of riding from place to place.  We're also lucky that one of our neighbors has an unsecured wireless network, so we can sit in a front window of the house and have internet access.  We are looking forward to tomorrow's racing, which looks to be a very windy day, and getting on a good schedule.  It's just another few days in the life of an Olympic-class windsurfer at large in the world.

Friday, August 28, 2009

40 Knots in Weymouth

What do you do when it's too windy to sail?  A Star class sailor friend of mine says that "if you show up to the site, you have to go out."  However, he did mention that "if" is the operative word.  Although we did show up to the venue, we soon found out that all 350 youth competitors from the Bic Techno Worlds  were beached.

Only one RS:X sailor from Korea, training for the worlds, was brave enough to go out.  He got beat up and slammed for about 15 minutes, and then came back to the ramp as fast as possible.  He was greeted by a standing ovation and cheering from about 100 kids and other sailors hanging out on the club balcony.

Normally when conditions are dangerous, sailors will do another kind of workout.  I ended up going running and doing calisthenics.  It's also an opportunity to check out the area and be the tourist that you never get to be. I joined in a group of RS:X sailors visiting the Portland Lighthouse and cliffs near the seaside.

Rock climbing on the sea cliffs

  Two sailors from Canada and the Netherlands enjoy the enormous swell.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Close Call Before Weymouth

I almost didn’t make it to Weymouth to train.  One of the many things I was working on in California was getting a visa to the UK.  On a normal tourist visa, Americans are allowed into the country.  Unfortunately, last year as I flew in from Poland trying to visit a friend, I wasn’t allowed entry.  The UK immigration officials weren’t satisfied I wasn’t trying to steal British jobs (really long story).  Having two competitions in the UK, I needed to make sure I would be allowed into the country.  Four days before the start of our training camp, my visa was granted.

Naturally, I was en route from Oregon to California at the time (part of my backup plan for training).  I made a snap decision to turn around and drive back across the country.  After four days of nonstop driving to Annapolis, I had one day at home to pack and run errands before driving to New York to fly to London.  It was about the longest trip of my life!

Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy; upper body of water is Weymouth Harbor; large beach Chesil Beach. View from Portland.

As you can see, I felt the opportunity to train in Weymouth before the Worlds was one not to miss.  The crazy trip was entirely worth it as I entered a week of coaching and testing at the Weymouth / Portland National Sailing Academy that was intensely productive to my sailing.  Again I was working with Christoph Sieber, and two other athletes, Carolina (sailing for Portugal) and Arne (Belgium).  In addition to us three, many other international sailors showed up for training this week at the National Sailing Academy. Quite a few of our practice sessions were like a real regatta with 15+ girls on a starting line.  Our group worked on technique heavily, and Christoph made and analyzed a lot of video.  Weymouth harbor is a good place to work on technique, especially in breeze.  When there is sea breeze, the harbor is flat and fast, and it is easy to work on speed with a partner, or perfect tacks and jibes. It was a good and professional feeling to have a coach on the water with me, and it helped my focus immensely when he could give me specific goals for practice races and tuning.  Learning things like how to set small goals can be extremely helpful for when I’m training without a coach.  It keeps my focus to the immediate task at hand and improves the quality of the training session.

Sideways:  On the boat, Christoph gives me advice.

International sailors and coaches grill out and enjoy the evening after training.

I am finally visiting my friend after my thwarted attempt last year (she is stationed at RAF Mildenhall near London) and the time here has been a great break before the Worlds.  It is almost a relief to settle into “real life” for a short time.  In a few days I head back to Weymouth to begin the intense schedule of two back-to-back regattas, the RS:X World Championships and the ISAF Grade 1 event, Sail for Gold. 

A special thanks to my sponsor, Compass Marketing, this month, for really making it possible to compete at a higher level at these important regattas.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

2009 National Championships: First Place Formula Women

I guess I didn't make it clear enough in the last post.....I've been getting a few questions. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

US National Championships; San Francisco

Living in a van has its not being able to blog! For the past two weeks I've been back on the road in the USA for some high wind training on the Formula board. My schedule has included both San Francisco and the Gorge, an itinerary which one of my coaches, Mike Gebhardt, once called "running the gauntlet." The two venues have some of the highest wind sailing in the entire United States, and possibly even the world.

Trying to blog in a van

I spent a week in San Francisco, commuting to train with some really good Formula sailors in Berkeley. My first day on the water I had forgotten how crazy the San Francisco Bay can get, and it took a few days to learn the gnarly conditions. San Francisco really goes off in the summer, and the wind, current, voodoo chop, cold water, and boat traffic all make for some of the most challenging sailing found anywhere. I dialed in my gear and technique and by the end of the week was ready to take on the Ronstan Challenge, a distance race from the St. Francis Yacht Club, to a mark near the Golden Gate, all the way downwind to Berkeley, and return.

Before the wind comes up in San Francisco

I made a strategy for the Challenge based on the tidal conditions. We were experiencing a maximum flood tide right during the race, so on the downwind I decided to sail all the way across the bay, to Angel Island, to go with the last of the flood tide. the strategy for coming back upwind was the same, because the tide would be starting to ebb right after my planned mark rounding time. The wind hadn't filled all the way in after the start, and a few sailors and I were trapped in a hole above Alcatraz Island for a few minutes. Most of the sailors decided to go downwind along the San Francisco cityfront, because the wind was usually a bit less there. However, I thought I could take advantage of the less windy conditions to hold to my original plan. After I got out of the hole, the plan did indeed work as I passed quite a few other sailors by going across the bay. As soon as I rounded the Berkeley mark, the wind began to fill in and although I was on my way back up to Angel Island, the conditions soon became survival. With gusts up to 30 knots, I decided to try the cityfront. The new plan worked fairly well although I did get picked up and thrown by a few crazy puffs below Alcatraz. I finished the race in just over two hours, and was really happy that I had just made it back! We finished up the event with a few course races the next day.

After the Ronstan Challenge, I headed up to Hood River, Oregon for another few events. This is the summer of the distance race, because a day after I arrived the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association was holding the annual Gorge Blowout, a 26-mile downwinder from Stevenson, WA, to Hood River. I once spent a summer in the Gorge working, and I always wanted to do this race but wasn't able to. Finally, this was my year. Luckily, my training buddy, Eric Rahnenfuehrer, was around to be my blowout partner.

The launch at Viento, in the narrowest section of the Columbia for the Blowout.

We left Eric's van in Hood River, and carpooled up to Stevenson. On the way up, we noted that the wind was pretty filled in and strong throughout the river. Before the race, Stevenson started to really go off. It was about 18-20 at the start, and I chickened out and took Eric's 5.6 Sailworks sail instead of another borrowed 7.8, which actually felt great with the Formula board, but was way too small for the entire race. Through the narrow part of the river, the wind had really backed off from earlier in the morning. Many people had taken slalom equipment, and had to pull out halfway through at a launch called Viento. It was funny passing them as they were cursing the wind in the Narrows. I floated through on the Formula, and by the time I reached the Hatchery (a launch for hard-core waves and wind), the wind was back up again and I flew through all the funboarders to the finish at the Hood River Event Site. I was pretty annoyed at having taken the wrong equipment, but it was great to have at least finished.

After racing, I waited on the beach for Eric, but he was a no-show. He took his slalom equipment and didn't make it past Viento, so I had to take his van to pick him up, and swap all the gear around back at Stevenson. All in all, it was a pretty satisfying event, but you won't ever catch me using the wrong sail again!

I then had another few days until the US National Championships, which included both slalom and Formula racing. Eric and I did massive amounts of jibing around buoys with our shortboards to prepare for the slalom part. We sailed all around the river on the shortboards, upwind and downwind. We also got a good day of Formula sailing in Cascade Locks, in some smooth easterly wind.The regatta opened up with two days of hardcore slalom. We had three heats and knocked out 11 rounds of racing in two days, on a fun and inventive course that included tacking as well as jibing. The first day we saw winds gusting almost to 40 knots, which was pretty incredible. I don't think I've ever sailed the Hood River Event Site on a 4.0, but that is just what I was doing. The second day the wind backed off a bit, but was still enough to run a few more great rounds. The Techno 293 class for youth sailors also joined in, and these first-time Gorge sailors got some good experience jibing around the buoys. I had a great time at my first real slalom event, and even though I don't have slalom equipment right now, my 1990's Pro-Tech shortboard and wave sails made it around the course just fine. By the end of the slalom, my jibes had significantly improved, which I am quite pleased about.

Boards on the beach at the Hood River Event Site

The last two days of the regatta were awesome Formula races. The wind ended up being fairly light, but we had enough to get some good racing in. At the event site, the wind progressively gets stronger the farther upwind you sail towards the Hatchery. Our course was a windward-leeward with two windward marks, one at halfway up the course. We first rounded to the halfway mark, and then we were sent farther upwind for the second lap. At the most windward mark, it could get quite choppy and windy. However, down near the event site it was very light with gusts. If there were more gusts coming south from the Oregon side of the river, it was sometimes profitable to go downwind on that side, out of the current on the Washington side. The most strategy was found in playing the gusts, and watching their pattern on the north and south sides of the river.

The week in San Francisco paid off as the Gorge conditions seemed somewhat tame in comparison. I had great starts and my upwind technique had improved quite a bit, and I was hanging in there with mid-fleet finishes (fleet of 40, mostly big dudes). The second day of racing, the training paid off even more as the race committee moved the course west towards the Hatchery for better wind. We had some great fun sailing in the swell and breeze up there, and it was nice to be able to take advantage of classic Gorge conditions. I finished 18 out of 40 overall, and first out of the Formula women's fleet. Overall, I felt happy with how I sailed and know I have made some strides forward in the past few weeks.

Formula women at the awards

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kiel Week: The Conclusion

Yesterday was my first medal race in a Grade 1 World Cup event. My results from the previous day just squeaked me into 10th place overall, earning me a spot in the race.

I had a small amount of practice when I participated in the medal race in Puck, Poland back in May, but this was on a bit of a different scale. The course was windward-leeward with three laps and a slalom finish with two jibe marks. Medal race courses are usually quite close to shore to allow for spectators, and ours was near the seawall in the Kiel Olympiazentrum harbor. There was a lot of boat traffic both above and below the course, with coach boats, spectator sailboats, and also cruising sailboats hanging around. The weather was again spectacular, with a light, gusty breeze and clear, sunny skies.

I was all set to win the medal race, but as it went I didn't have such a spectacular performance. It all began at the start, when both Carolina and I got rolled by a fast girl. We had to tack out which slowed us down. My strength right now lies not so much with boardspeed, but with tactics in shifty breeze. However, our short course called for one tactic: go left to the better pressure, and go fast. I was keeping up well but made the next mistake on the leeward gate, going to the wrong side. After that I was a bit behind but was still holding the speed, when I unfortunately fouled another girl and had to do a circle. At any rate, it was a good experience for learning what not to do, and it was an honor to be in the race.

Afterwards, I packed up the gear. I delivered my board to some British sailors going to Weymouth, and loaded the quiver in the Polish trailer. My Polish coach, Romek, was having a frustrating afternoon. One kid's complete set of equipment was stolen in all the confusion of packing. Then, a strap broke and hit him in the eye, cutting his eyebrow (now he is walking around with a black eye as well). However, after about an extra hour and a half of waiting (and getting pizza with the guys) we were finally able to take off with the motorboat. I was riding in the van with four other guys, and pretty soon they were all playing video games, harassing each other, or snoring. The van smelled like stinky feet, but it was nice to be with them. I am now back in Sopot waiting to go home tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Medal Race!

Today we finally made it out on the water to have three races in light wind. The weather is abnormally sunny and warm here, almost like a normal summer day instead of the perpetual wet and cold. The Kiel race committee likes to set long courses, and we had three 45-minute races that were almost back-to-back. I like when we can get the racing done quickly because I don't have time to get anxious during the wait between them.

The technique I've been learning has finally started to sink in and my speed was better today in the nonplaning conditions. I stayed with the faster girls on downwinds and also sailed a few solid tactical upwind legs. The wind was much more stable today and the shifts weren't so big. The chop was pretty steep and short, and we had to be focused on maintaining boardspeed on the upwinds. I had moments on the downwinds when I was quite fast, but I couldn't maintain it for long periods of time. In the end, I sailed a few good races and managed a 9th and 8th which put me into the medal race. There are only 16 boards here and I'm 10 / 16, but it is a good small victory nonetheless and I'm really excited about racing tomorrow. The committee is giving us GPS receivers for live tracking of the medal race, which you can see on the website . Our race is at 13:50 Central Europe time, which is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the USA.

Beached Again in Kiel

The most beautiful weather in North Europe always coincides with the least amount of wind. Today we had sun all day long, and temperatures in the high 60s Fahrenheit (around 20 degrees C). However, the wind failed to materialize and we spent all day waiting. We were all ready to sail, but the wind never became stronger than around 4 knots. At around 5:45 p.m., the committee called off the racing.

The Americans had a team dinner tonight, and there were almost 70 sailors in attendance! It was really fantastic to see such a big turnout.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

No Wind in Kiel

Today happened to be one of those unfortunate days where there just isn't enough wind to race. We had rain showers on and off, and Kiel just seemed to be in the middle of the washing machine as rain clouds brought about three different wind directions.

The race committee here in Kiel is very organized, and updates to the postponement were made throughout the day. We were released around 2:30 p.m. when it was apparent that the wind would not make a showing.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Kiel Week, Day 1

A wind forecast is normally just a guideline. The wind will always do what you least expect it to, and today's conditions weren't exactly as predicted. We had rain in the morning, which killed most of the breeze, and from then on the wind was pretty squirrely. Several lines of clouds came through, and a small storm. The committee was trying hard to get three races in today, so we could be ahead of schedule for the forecasted light wind for tomorrow.

We had two races in offshore wind of about 5-10 knots. It was very gusty and as we are near a point of land, we saw some really big shifts. In general, the left side was favored only because the pressure was slightly better. If the right side had pressure, it sometimes was better but only for short periods of time. Bands of wind were coming from the point, and it paid off to stay in these and pay attention to the pattern of shifts. We didn't see much planing today, except in a few gusts downwind.

My first race went pretty well, as I hit the left side early. We had a big shift at the start which made the pin end favored. Luckily I reacted pretty quickly and was in the front of the fleet at the upwind mark. I was having trouble reading the shifts that close to the shore, and unfortunately lost out a bit there. I'm still working on my old nemesis, downwinds, and am focusing on pumping technique. The second race I went right, which worked on the first upwind leg. However, it fooled me during the second upwind as the pressure seemed better, but actually wasn't...tell me how that works, but ok. I lost the pattern of shifts and every time I tacked it seemed like I would get headed 20 seconds later. Needless to say I lost some ground during that leg and it was a bit frustrating.

Overall my coach is happy with the improvements I'm making. We are doing video again and it's nice to sit down and discuss everything that happened during the day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kiel Week

Training has never been more exciting for me than it is now. A few days ago, I arrived in Kiel, Germany in preparation for Kiel Week, a major ISAF Grade 1 regatta on the World Cup circuit. Attendance is a bit low because of a conflict with the RS:X European Championships in Israel, but competition is at a high a level as always. The full Polish youth fleet will be in attendance, and several other international sailors are here already training.

I am working with Christoph Sieber again and we are having some intensive sessions on the water with two other sailors, Carolina from Brazil, and Arne from Belgium. Our sessions have been technique-oriented and Christoph is taking video. After training, we debrief and discuss the video. We are focusing on cleaning up tacks, jibes, and pumping. We are also working on upwind speed and technique in breeze and big chop. Our racecourse is on the outside of the Kiel Ford, and the conditions out there are usually quite different than on the inside. Kiel is known for crazy chop and waves, and lots of boat traffic. On the outside, the waves are big and steep, and the wind is very gusty. We have been sailing there a good bit, and I'm happy to say that my technique in those conditions is coming along quite well. I am enjoying the training very much.

The weather has been cold and cloudy as is typical of north Europe. However, the last two days have been sunny and warm enough to make all the video shots look really beautiful. It's like the Caribbean in Germany with clear blue water, lush green shorelines, and huge aggregations of Aurelia-type jellyfish.

"Tropical" Kiel, Germany

Other than the training, logistics have been entertaining. I took the ferry here from Gdynia so I could bring my equipment with me with minimum hassle. The ferry is a new overnight line from Gdynia to Travemunde, and the company, Finnlines, was promoting it. The trip was pretty deluxe: private cabin, jacuzzi, sauna, restaurant, gym...just like a mini-cruise. It made me start to come back to life after a stressful living situation in Sopot. The wind was about 35-30 knots and it rained the entire trip, so we were late to port. Arne picked me up and took me to the venue.

Trucks and my equipment wait to exit the ferry.

I am staying with the other American boardsailors, which is a new experience. Our house is about 5 km from the venue, and we are using bikes and buses to get around. After a night, we were joined by Carolina, who was waiting for her boyfriend to arrive and was scared of staying alone in her house with the ghosts. She abruptly decided that it was a great idea to cut my hair. I gave her free rein to do what she wanted (scary), and off came about eight inches of hair! My head feels a lot lighter and everyone likes the new look, although I sorta think I look like my mom now.

Carolina in action: our official RS:X beauty consultant

"Studio shot" of Carolina's masterpiece

Tomorrow is the practice race, which takes place in the evening. We'll get registered and I will finish some board repair in the morning.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 5 Medemblik, and home again

A single race was on the schedule for today. The wind was very light heading out to the course, but shifted left and built to about 12 knots, just barely planing. The girls all started daggerboard down and headed over to the left side, which again saw some land effects. I was working on my speed, and overall saw some good bursts of sailing fast and railing hard. My start was great, but after a minute or so I lost my position because I was having trouble with boardspeed. The speed comes and goes, but when everything is fast it feels effortless. However, in between it is a lot of fighting with the board and rig.

The second upwind was planing and I was again having trouble with pointing, not to mention I went to the middle which is a bit of a bad idea in planing conditions. On the downwind I dialed in a few jibes, which I was happy about.

At the beginning of a start sequence

Overall, I and the Polish guys came to the regatta overly tired. We all had a hard time adjusting after the rough drive, and could have used a few days to get tuned into Medemblik conditions. It was a good experience to remember.

After the racing, we packed up the equipment and hustled back to the bungalow to pack our bags. We were hungry but didn't have much food left, and the boys decided to cook everything we had. They ended up with a huge spaghetti dinner with a variety of sauces, from beef curry-something to kielbasa with marinara. There were at least 3 lbs of pasta, which they devoured. We then loaded the car with everything on the left side, including one of the guys who laid on top of the bags, and drove to the venue. We put the bags into the Polish Olympic team's van, and loaded the equipment. Then we were off.

Our domek ("small house" in Polish)

We passed the two Polish cars hauling trailers twice during the beginning of the drive. In the beginning, there was an interesting grinding noise and smell coming from the front brakes and we stopped and looked at them for a few minutes. We decided to ignore the problem, and kept driving. Then we got lost for a bit. Everything was fine for most of the night, and I pulled the really late shift. At about 3:30 a.m., all the boys were sleeping soundly when the car coughed, bucked a few times, and glided to a stop. We had been running on gasoline when it should have been LPG, and we were out. It should have been a simple matter to start the car with LPG, but it wasn't. We ended up running a kilometer downhill behind the car, pushing it when it slowed down and then sprinting to catch up with it. It was a nice wakeup call, and nobody really slept after that. The sky was light anyway.

We made it home ok and now I'm staying at the Sopot sailing club for a few days. This weekend is a small regatta and some training, and after that I go to Kiel.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Medemblik Day 4

We had a good forecast of wind gusting to 20 in the afternoon, but it never materialized. The morning was looking promising, sunny with about 15 knots of wind. However, right before our 2:30 pm start, the wind dropped to about 5-10. Most of the pressure was towards the left side of the course, most likely due to land effects. There were big oscillations between left and right with bands of clouds coming down.

My starts are getting really good and my pumping much better, so I had pretty good speed on the course. We worked on a few tuning and technique issues and also some strategy for downwind. I’m gradually starting to see where I should go on the course, although I was still losing places. Overall it was a productive day. Many things, like starting, are becoming automatic, which allows me to focus more on tactics. It’s good to be progressing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Medemblik Day 3

Today was a frustrating day for me. Although conditions were great, I was having problems bringing together my technique. We had sunny conditions with a gradually building sea breeze. The air and water were cold and the wind built from 10 to 15 knots. We had two races, one in marginal conditions and one in planing conditions.

Overall I felt pretty good in the marginal conditions. My downwind is still slow and I’m still getting the feel for the hanging technique I recently learned. My upwind is getting a lot faster so I’m happy about that. In the breeze however, I was extremely slow. I wasn’t pointing at all and ended up getting really frustrated, since I normally sail well in those conditions. It’s difficult to come to a regatta not training at the venue ahead of time, and especially after being exhausted from another regatta and a crazy drive. Anyway I’m currently re-thinking my plans for June and July in order to maximize training and build a base of board handling skills.

Medemblik Day 2

The front blew through last night and we awoke to sunshine, blue sky, and light wind. It was a great morning for a run on the plateau of the dike, getting the maximum benefit of the sunlight.

We had two races today, with windspeed about 6-12 knots and extremely shifty and gusty. There were big oscillations and the committee reset the course once. Later in the day, the wind shifted to the left and gusts were coming off the land. The course is surrounded by dikes. I really enjoyed the racing today because it gave me a chance to use the new technique I had been practicing. My upwinds were pretty quick, and I was planing sooner downwind, but I’m still not entirely confident in my board handling through the slalom finish and missed a few opportunities to make up places.

I am again being coached by Christoph Sieber, and it’s great to have him out on the course. Having a coach makes me more confident and it’s good to have his perspective on what’s happening out there.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

24 Hours to Medemblik

After a lot of running around arranging my travel, it was determined that I would ride with three other Polish boys to Medemblik, and my equipment would go in the coach boat from Mragowo. I didn’t have super high expectations for an entirely smooth trip, but it ended up being more than a little crazy.

The guys were supposed to pick me up from the Puck sailing club at 8:30 a.m., which was about an hour and a half after the Polish Olympic team departed. The reasoning was that since the Olympic team had a heavy van and trailer, we would catch them no problem. I wanted to push for an earlier departure, but one of the kids ended up oversleeping and we left Puck around 9:30. It did give me some time to check in with the campground to make sure we still had our bungalow.

The guys finally arrived in a 1990s Corolla station wagon that one kid had borrowed from his parents. We threw in all the gear and were on our way. In about a quarter mile, we noticed some grinding coming from the rear of the car and we pulled over into a supermarket parking lot. Upon exiting the car, we discovered that the rear shocks were bottomed out on the wheels. The car was too heavy and the wheel wells were shaving down the tires. It was a dilemma. We unloaded the car and re-loaded it with more

weight in the front, which seemed to work at first, but after we sat down, it bottomed out again. After a long debate, we were stumped. We definitely couldn’t drive over 1,000 km, and on Polish roads, with a bottomed out car. A few phone calls were made, and one kid’s uncle showed up. He put a few bags in his car, and we were off to the mechanic’s.

It took about 5 minutes for two big, Polish mechanics to strip off the wagon’s rear wheels and shocks. We all stared at the dirty, old shocks while the mechanics tried to find replacements in their big garage. The uncle walked around smoking and making phone calls, rescheduling appointments because of the emergency situation. Meanwhile, the mechanics hadn’t found the right parts, so the uncle sped off to Gdansk, about an hour away, to find new parts. The mechanics rolled the car out of the garage, and the next car drove in.

For the next 3.5 hours, we sat in the sun. It was an unusually warm day for May, and we followed the shade thrown by a pile of roofing tiles. One kid played video games on his computer, while I checked out the truck repair garage next door. Two huge trucks, engines opened, were in the bay, and mechanics were crawling all over them. Next to our car, in which we were sitting, was a VW Passat, which had been in an accident. Body panels were pulled off and wires were strewn everywhere. One mechanic was buried in the wiring all afternoon. We sat, and shoes, shirts, and pants came off as the day grew hotter. We went to the store, we used the bathroom, but mostly we slept in the car.

Finally came a diesel roar and skidding tires, and the uncle pulled up in a cloud of dust. He pulled the shiny new shocks out, and the car was rolled into the garage again. 15 minutes later the new shocks were installed and the car rolled out. We loaded as fast as possible…and when we sat down, the car bottomed out again. It was a devastating moment. Finally the uncle took two of the heaviest bags to be delivered by another coach, and we were off. It was about 4:30 pm and we had a 15-hour drive to look forward to. Every big bump, the car would bottom out again. Soon a sticky black residue from the tire was all over the fender. For some reason the right side was lower than the left, so as the lightest in the car I got to sit on the right and listen to the tire grind all night. All the heavy bags were loaded on the left side, and I sat in the middle as far as I could go.

After we crossed the border to Germany, the roads were smooth and the car ran well. We were using LPG (liquid propane gas) which costs about half of normal petrol, but burns faster. We stopped a lot at gas stations, where the guys would get stuff to eat, we would check the tire, and switch drivers. One of the boys drove as fast as he could through the night, and in the morning we were in the Netherlands. As soon as I got behind the wheel for my shift, the car wouldn’t start. It was another devastating moment. After two tries pushing it across the parking lot, the engine fired and we were on our way once more. We finally arrived at the camping at 9:00 am, got the keys to the bungalow, and crashed for the next few hours. We had brought the cold, wet weather with us, and we registered and prepared our equipment in the afternoon as fast as possible so we could get home and sleep again. After all, the forecast was for 35 knots the next day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Medemblik Day 1

The windy weather forecast held true today.  By the time the RSX boards started in the afternoon it was already blowing 30 knots with higher gusts.  For me it was survival and unfortunately I could not finish either of the two races today.  The race committee canceled the third scheduled race.  I am dead tired and will write a longer report after tomorrows races. 

One of the sailors getting blown away!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Medal Race, and on to Medemblik

Today I sailed in my first medal race (the final race for only the top 10 finishers). Out of a fleet of 14, that's not saying a whole lot, but it was still a great experience. Medal races are shorter than normal, and are usually windward-leeward, not trapezoid like the boards normally sail. As a contrast to yesterday's 30 knots, today started at about 5 knots of breeze.

My medal race almost became a disaster. I had a good start with clear air, but I went to the wrong side of the course along with one other senior girl, Ania. I was last around the windward mark, but had a really strong downwind. There were some planing puffs coming through so we were all trying to stay in those, jibing three or four, or five times per short downwind. On the next upwind, I made up four places by tacking on two shifts and again hitting the left side, the strategy which didn't work the first leg, but was good this time! Ania, who had also gone left, and I match raced downwind. After aggressive jibes, I beat her by a second and finished 6th. Not bad for catching up. Overall I was happy with how I sailed the race.

The Polish Olympic team travels in style

After the racing, there was a flurry of activity packing all the gear. I had to run around trying to find my ride to Medemblik, where the Delta Lloyd regatta will be held. Once again I had irresponsibly not found housing, because I wasn't sure what my situation would be. I am going there with 3 other Polish guys, ages about 19-21, on the youth team (who are also really disorganized), and somehow I ended up in charge of all evening I was scrambling to find housing. I booked something over the internet, but I'm not sure it went through. We'll see. On to the next regatta!

My gear is going with the coach boat from Mragowo.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Finished All the Races

Sometimes there's a day where you just want to make sure you finish the races. Conditions today were about as tough as it gets here in Puck. Temps were in the low 50s, and it was blowing 30 with gusts as much as 40 sometimes. Nobody wanted to get out on the water, and we all waited around until the last possible second to blast out to the committee boat. When it's that windy and cold, it is really hard to wait on the water. One or two falls before a start can really sap your strength, as can standing on your board fighting your sail just to stay in one place. Most sailors will keep sailing up and down while waiting.

The committee began a sequence, but it was apparent that their anchor wasn't holding and the boat was drifting backwards. After about a half hour (it was an hour of water time total) they sent us in so they could find a different anchor. It was not so nice to have to change in and out of a wet, cold wetsuit after not having completed any races!

After a few hours they sent us out again and we ran 3 back-to-back races. The rapid-fire racing was really good, because there wasn't much opportunity to freeze between races. It was so windy that everyone was in survival mode. Tactics included one tack per upwind, one jibe per downwind, and above all, don't fall! I did have a few spills but managed to finish all the races. Only seven girls made it to the course today. Every race I got a bit faster. I could see improvement both technically and mentally, so it was a great day of regatta training for me. 3 races, 30 knots, 50 degrees, max HR 173, 2900 calories, 40 miles sailed, 27.2 mph max speed...not too shabby.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Puck Delivers

One weather pattern on the Polish Baltic includes really nice mornings and evenings, and gnarly cold, cloudy afternoons. This has been the pattern for the past few days, and as I write the weather is the nicest it's been all day, not a cloud in the sky.

Nice Baltic weather

From the weather now, you wouldn't know it had been cold, overcast, and blowing 25-30 all afternoon. We had four races today, as was planned on the schedule. It was a long, chilly, and grueling day and everyone is really tired. I am pretty comfortable with board handling in the big breeze, but I'm not going very fast. My focus is trying to fix my upwind technique, which is a detriment to my finishes.

I am borrowing a Garmin GPS / heart rate monitor, a few of which were given to the US Sailing Center in Miami by the USOC. At the end of the day, I had sailed for 4 hours (1 race / hour shows you how efficient the RC is) burned 3230 calories in that time, had a max heart rate of 170 (where you are during interval training) and top speed 27.5 mph. That's a lot of work! We are looking forward to 40, yes, 40 knots tomorrow with the same schedule. Woo hoo!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Puchar PZZ in Puck

Roughly translated, this regatta is called the Polish Sailing Association Cup (Polski Zwiazek Zeglarski), and it's my third year in a row participating. Most of the participants are boardsailors, but there a good-sized Laser fleet, and a few Finns. Our first day of racing was today, and we began this day by waiting for the wind. In the afternoon, we finally got about 6-10 knots of breeze, which was enough for two races. The committee here doesn't mess around and they're used to running races for boards. As soon as the wind was up, they sent us out, ran two fast races, and sent us back in.

I had a couple sorta kinda mediocre races. Even though my technique has dramatically improved, I'm still having trouble downwind and reaching, and still a bit slow to plane. This wasn't helped by the massive amounts of floating weed in the water. We were all fighting the weeds, and I saw many sailors stop to clear their fins. However, I am pretty fast upwind and am holding my own with a few of the good youth girls. Tomorrow some big breeze is in the forecast, which will be great. The committee will probably want to run four races, so it should be a big day. It's time to get organized...walk to the store, get some food, then get back to my hotel. I know some people are anxious to see some pictures, but they'll have to wait for tomorrow because I forgot my camera cable.

Do jutra,