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.

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