Monday, December 12, 2011

US Olympic Selection for Women's Windsurfing Completed

Two days ago the RS:X women's event concluded at the ISAF World Championships in Fremantle, and I'm really happy to announce that I qualified to be the US Olympic Representative in the RS:X women's windsurfing class. The regatta was also an opportunity to qualify the United States for a berth at the Olympics. 28 countries will compete at the Games, and here, the top 20 countries were selected. I missed qualifying the USA by a slim margin, but will have another opportunity at the Worlds in Cadiz next March.

The ISAF Worlds are the peak event of the year and the level of the competition reflected that. After training in Fremantle for over a month, I found a different perspective on the racing - I was having a lot of fun. For the past few months I've been really working on the board handling and technique in planing conditions. Working on technique meant that coach Max and I broke down a race to work on individual elements. I didn't do a lot of actual racing during training and instead focused on tacks, jibes, speed, and more "fun stuff." In return, I gained a lot of confidence in my board handling abilities and got a mental break from the more grinding practice races. I felt fresh and happy going into the regatta and noticed a lot of improvements in my racing.

Carrying gear in and out of the water between races

Another major difference that I noticed in my outlook was that I felt noticeably less tired after this event than most of my previous regattas. I attribute this to a slightly different approach to training; that after a lot of long sessions, a few races a day weren't incredibly tiring, and I felt so enthusiastic about the skills I learned over the past month that I maintained a high level of "stoke" throughout the event. I could see that I made measurable progress and looked forward each day to accomplishing goals. I still have a lot of work to do going into the spring season, but I've laid the foundation for a really great season both physically and mentally, and I'm looking forward more than ever to future events and lots of training! I have one more week left in Fremantle, and I'm taking the opportunity for more training in great wind and waves.

I'd like to thank my sponsor Compass Marketing for all their support this year, and also the St. Francis Yacht Club Foundation, the Annapolis Yacht Club Foundation, the Southport Sailing Foundation (CleverPig), the Olympic Sailing Association at New Orleans, and all the folks who have been following and helping me with my campaign. You all make everything possible for me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Training in Australia: A Coach's Perspective

Max Wojcik, from the Polish National Team, shares his thoughts on training in Perth. Max is coaching me through the ISAF World Championships in December.

There are still three weeks to go before the Worlds in Windsurfing will take place in Perth, Australia. After 10 intense training days in Perth with competitors from all over the world, Farrah has made great progress in technique and board handling such as tacking, jibing, and starting. We usually spend 3-4 hours a day on the water, although yesterday we got carried away and spent 5.5 hours training just to improve tacking.

In addition to the progress in windsurfing, Farrah is mastering diet secrets by weighing and writing down all the details of the food she eats every day. This includes calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Everyone thinks windsurfing is all about fun - I suggest that you think again, because there is a lot of work too! However, today is a so-called "lay day," a day of rest which will wisely be used for laying around. :)

P.S. - Rumor has it that two great white sharks, one 9 feet and the other 15 feet long, prowl coastal waters. We didn't see a great white yet and we hope not to. We take comfort in a statistic that shows more people die each year from coconuts falling on their heads than being attacked by sharks.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pan Am Games and Australian Arrival

It's been a fast-moving October and I've finally had a few days to rest and catch up on communications! I'm currently in Fremantle, Australia beginning preparations for the ISAF World Championships beginning the first week of December, and I'm looking forward to working in this location for the next month before the event.

Last week I was happy and excited to bring home a Bronze medal for the United States at the Pan American Games. The Pan Am Games are like the Olympics of the Americas, with all the ceremony, security, and ritual expected at such an event. Held once every four years before the Olympics, summer Olympic sports and even a few non-Olympic events compete in the Pan Am Games. For North, South, and Central Americans, the event is a great chance to bring home medals for their country, as the competitive pool is smaller, although still at a high level. Such was the case with our fleet of seven women - very competitive sailors, but as sailing is an expensive sport, fewer countries on the American continents participate. The event is made to be really special, and it was an indescribable honor to stand on the podium at an elaborate, ritualistic ceremony and receive a medal for the USA. The experience was a culmination of the hard work and challenges I faced this year, and a new beginning and feeling of excitement for the future of my racing and Olympic campaign.

I went into the regatta with just a few goals: use and reinforce the light wind techniques I freshly learned in Annapolis, get good starts, and create a good tactical plan before each race. The conditions gave me the chance for good practice of the new skills. We had a daily sea breeze of around 6-10 knots with a bit of ocean swell and chop. The weather was sunny, hot and humid, which was a nice change from the European events, which are usually really cold! I enjoyed carrying out the relatively simple plan for the event, which clearly worked!

Railing the board in light wind

Overall, I was impressed with the effort the Vallarta Yacht Club and Mexican volunteers and event staff put in to make the event successful. The venue was thoughtfully chosen and organized, and resources for sailors like water, food, and a hangout at the VYC were readily available. The race committee was efficient and learned quickly, and worked to maximize the opportunity for the best breeze every day. The event's staff and volunteers were helpful and friendly, and were clearly thrilled to host so many international sailors. I was happy that my first impression of Mexico was of good people, and I gained good perspective on how well Mexican and American culture overlaps.

Although I enjoyed the competition and getting to experience a bit of Mexico, an unexpected pleasure to me was how proud I felt to represent the United States, and how people reacted to me as a Pan American Games athlete. During travel, Americans were very excited to see and meet Pan American athletes wearing all their team gear. They felt proud that we were competing, and the Pan American Games were a tangible reminder that the summer Olympic Games are just around the corner. Although I'm definitely a patriotic American, being a full-time competitor in a small and less-recognized sport, traveling and competing alone, doesn't usually leave a lot of room for thought about national pride -- personal performance is the focus. A jolt back to the bigger picture of the Olympic Games was a welcome and humbling experience.

Boards and bikes en route to Puerto Vallarta

After the Pan Am Games, I flew to San Francisco; I wanted the opportunity to visit the St. Francis Yacht Club, of which I am a new member, to thank them for the coaching support they gave me this spring. In addition, flying to Australia is a lot easier from the west coast. I had an incredible amount of equipment (two full sets of RS:X gear plus duffel bag and backpack) and got my heart rate up at each layover dragging it around. First was a leg to LAX on Southwest Airlines, separate from my international flight to Perth. I dragged the gear from the domestic to the international terminal, up an escalator, and re-checked it. Next, after a 16-hour leg from LAX to Melbourne, the gear needed to clear customs. In order to accomplish this, I dragged the gear, with the help of an airline rep, through the terminal, up an escalator (two trips), and down an elevator (three trips), as it was too big to check in the normal oversize area. The airline rep was unfazed by the size of the gear; clearly a lot of sporting equipment gets flown to Australia! After getting the gear in Perth and loading everything on the poor little rental car, the entire trip took about 32 hours. I was jet lagged, exhausted, and really stinky and sweaty!

I'm a little more recovered now and am excited about training in Fremantle, where I have a big opportunity to improve my planing technique. I can't believe I'm in Australia, a place I've always dreamed of seeing. Other than training, I have some big plans for bird watching and seeing some completely different species - I just have to find a new bird book! I'd also like to stick my head underwater for a few days and learn some new things. I'm looking forward to a completely different experience.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pan American Games Bronze Medal for Farrah Hall

U.S. Sailors Claim Four Silver, Two Bronze Medals

NUEVO VALLARTA, Mexico (October 23, 2011) — Team USA’s sailors wrapped up the Pan American Games regatta at the Vallarta Yacht Club on Sunday by grabbing six total medals — four silver and two bronze — in the nine classes contested.

The U.S. earned silver in the J/24, Lightning, Snipe and Sunfish classes. Bronze went to the Americans in the Laser Radial and women’s Windsurfing classes. Each class raced just once today with double points on the line to decide the medalists.

“We had four medals secured yesterday and we were able to close out two more medals today for six total. That makes us really happy,” said U.S. Sailing team leader Dave Johnson. “A lot of these athletes don’t get to necessarily compete at the Olympic level, but the overall level of world-class sailing was definitely shown here by the Americans. Our sailors were able to perform, and it’s pretty exciting to see that.”

Among the U.S. silver medalists was the Lightning team of skipper Jody Lutz (Brick, N.J.) and crew Jay Lutz (Houston, Texas) and Derek Gauger (Ann Arbor, Mich.) The Lightning was fifth in today’s medal race to finish six points back of gold medalist Chile.

While he was disappointed to not bring home the gold, Jody Lutz enjoyed his Pan Am Games experience. “It was such an opportunity to represent the U.S. It was something that us ‘old guys’ don’t get a chance to do very often. The class that we sail, the Lightning, is not in the Olympics, so this is our Olympics,” he said. “To have the support of the U.S. and all the staff that’s involved here was tremendous. I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to bring the gold home to everybody but I’m proud that we did it right and we acted properly and competed fairly. We did the best darn job that we could.”

In addition to the Lightning team, the following U.S. sailors also earned silver medals:
• J/24: John Mollicone (Newport, R.I.), Geoffrey Becker (Arnold, Md.), Daniel Rabin (Charlestown, Mass.), Paul Abdullah (Jacksonville, Fla.)
• Snipe: Augie Diaz (Miami, Fla.), Kathleen Tocke (Miami, Fla.)
• Sunfish: Paul Foerester (Heath, Texas)

Bronze medals went to:
• Laser Radial: Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.)
• RS:X Women (Windsurfer Women): Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.)

Additional USA results:
6th, Hobie 16 Greg Thomas (San Diego, Calif.) and John Williams (Long Beach, Calif.)
6th, Laser Clay Johnson (Toms River, N.J.)
7th, RS:X Men Bob Willis (Chicago, Ill.)

Visit for complete results.

Also joining the team in Puerto Vallarta: Head Coach Leandro Spina (Miami, Fla.), Team Coach Greg Wilkinson (Rockport, Mass.), and Team Physical Therapist/Athletic Trainer, Dr. Scott Weiss (New York, N.Y.).

The 16 athletes qualified for the US SAILING 2011 Pan American Games Team after winning a select regatta previously determined as a qualifying event for each class. US SAILING’s Olympic Sailing Committee then submitted its team to the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) for inclusion on the 2011 U.S. Pan American Games Team. Athletes must be U.S. citizens to qualify for the team, members of US SAILING and the classes in which they compete.

Since sailing was included in the Pan American Games in 1955, USA has won 72 medals in sailing: 33 gold, 29 silver and 18 bronze.

For more information on the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, visit the event website:

About US SAILING Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US SAILING is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country. For more information about US SAILING, please visit: For more information about the US Olympic Sailing Program and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, please visit:


Contact: Dana Paxton,; mobile: 401-369-0490
Sailing Venue Press Officer in Mexico: John Martin,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pan Am Games Day 3

Farrah Hall
Team USA Sailors Well Positioned Through Six Races

NUEVO VALLARTA, Mexico (October 19, 2011) – Heading into the scheduled “lay day,” Team USA leads in the Lightning and the J/24 classes and stands in medal position in three others through six races of the Pan American Games sailing regatta at the Vallarta Yacht Club.

In addition to the two leaders, the U.S. stands second in the Snipe and Sunfish classes and third in the RS:X Women’s (Windsurfer) class.

The U.S. Lightning team, skippered by Jody Lutz (Brick, N.J.), picked up fourth- and second-place finishes today to secure the top spot through six races with 11 net points. Jay Lutz (Houston, Texas) and Derek Gauger (Ann Arbor, Mich.) round out the Lightning crew.

“We didn’t see much current on our course that affected anything, but the wind was light and there were puffs of wind throughout the racecourse that changed things rapidly, so you had to be a little lucky to get it,” Jody Lutz said. “There were a couple of times we were lucky and there were also a couple of times we weren’t. We’ll take the way the day went, but for us it could have been a touch better.”

Led by skipper John Mollicone (Newport, R.I.), the J/24 team recorded first- and third-place finishes to move into first place with eight net points through six races. Joining Mollicone on the J/24 are Geoffrey Becker (Arnold, Md.), Daniel Rabin (Charlestown, Mass.) and Paul Abdullah (Jacksonville, Fla.).

Skipper Greg Thomas (San Diego, Calif.) and John Williams (Long Beach, Calif.) on the Hobie 16 also enjoyed a strong day with back-to-back third-place finishes to stand fifth overall, just two points out of third.

“We’re just going to keep improving as the week goes on,” Thomas said. “We don’t have a lot of time on this boat, so every day and every race that we spend on the boat we’re just going to keep getting faster, and that’s obvious from what we did today.”

Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.) turned in a second straight solid performance in the RS:X Women’s (Windsurfer) class with a third- and a second-place finish. Hall is third overall through six races.

While several boats are well positioned through six races, the U.S. sailors know there is still work to be done. “There’s only a point or two separating three boats,” Jody Lutz said. “The competition is tremendously hard out there. We’re happy just to be in the lead right now, but things can change quickly.”

Each sailing class is slated to race twice per day, with the exception of a scheduled off day Thursday. The medal races, reserved for just the top five in each class, are set for Sunday. The low point total at the end of competition will decide the medalists.

Visit for complete results. (


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pan American Games

Since my return from Bulgaria, the past few weeks have been filled with action. September and October are usually a time for a break from sailing; instead the focus is catching up with sponsors and making a new plan for the winter and spring season. However, this winter is filled with important events: our last Olympic qualifier in Perth, Australia, and the Pan American Games, which start tomorrow in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Having a big winter season meant that I had to crunch all the normal fall activities into a training camp to prepare for the Pan Am Games. I flew a training partner, my friend Max Wojcik, from Poland to Annapolis to spend a week and a half helping me with technique. Luckily, the fickle Chesapeake wind cooperated for us, and although we had a few really cold sessions, we ended up with a wide range of conditions to work in. The Severn Sailing Association in Eastport kindly supported our training camp, and we were able to store our gear and launch there. We had a busy backdrop of the Annapolis boat show, and a full harbor of cruisers. It was a great feeling to finally have a training camp in my hometown, and two windsurfers out on the water was a curiosity to many people. We attracted a lot of attention and questions!

The week was also successful for networking as we did a photo shoot for my sponsor, Compass Marketing, and attended a few company outings. Gregarious Max kept everyone entertained and was the star of the show.

Immediately after the training camp, I flew to Houston for team processing. Being around many athletes from other Olympic sports was thrilling. I felt that I belonged - I am as fit and train as hard as any of them. We had a few debriefs and received our team clothing, which was exciting. Bob Willis, the USA men's RS:X competitor, and I flew all our gear, plus two duffel bags each, on the flight to Puerto Vallarta. I had five pieces of checked luggage, the most I've ever had. It's a relief that the US Olympic Committee is picking up the tab for the extra gear!

Upon arrival the team took a coach bus to our hotel. Most of the athletes are staying in a hotel that's serving as the "Olympic village" for the sailing, beach volleyball, open water swimming, and triathlon venue. The hotel is on the beach, and has a lap pool and small gym. The athletes are filling an entire side of the hotel, and security is tight. Police with machine guns and metal detectors surround the premises. The sailing venue is at the Vallarta Yacht Club, a 30-minute coach bus ride north of the hotel, complete with armed police escort!

Racing starts tomorrow and I've had a few promising days of training already. Puerto Vallarta is a new kind of venue for me. The weather is extremely hot and staying hydrated is of utmost importance. The wind is light, a choppy ocean swell comes into the bay, and a strong current runs with the wind. I feel that the most important aspects of the racing here will be getting a good start in the current, and pointing high in the gusts and swells. The event is also very small; we have seven girls in the RS:X fleet, including some fast contenders from Brazil, Mexico, and Canada. Racing should be really interesting and I'm looking forward to getting started.

My internet is really spotty so I can't upload pictures now, but I'll try later in the week. Keep updated on all the racing on the USSTAG Facebook page!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011



ANNAPOLIS, Maryland; October 6, 2011 – Windsurfer Farrah Hall and Maksymilian Wojcik from the Polish national sailing team are training this week in Annapolis. Hall is the top-ranked windsurfer for the USA after finishing as the top American in the RS:X Female class at the Sail for Gold regatta in Weymouth, UK in June.

Hall has recently been in Europe competing in windsurfing competitions in Britain and Bulgaria. Later this month, Hall will compete in the 2011 Pan American Games in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico from October 17 to 23. After the games, Hall will head to Australia to begin training for her next qualifying regatta, the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships. There she will compete to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

John White, Chairman & CEO of Compass Marketing is proud to sponsor Hall: “Farrah’s success does not come as a surprise considering the hard work and determination that goes into everything she does. Her success is a direct result of her ability on the water as well as her strong character and conviction in life. She is a role model for everyone by persevering and working hard to accomplish her dreams.”

About Farrah Hall

A natural from the start, Farrah Hall acquired a love for the water when she began sailing small sailboats at the age of 13. A devout athlete participating in sports from soccer and lacrosse to basketball and swimming, Hall became involved with triathlons at age 16 and participated in local Olympic distance events around the state of Maryland. Continuing her love for sailing throughout her college career, Hall attended St. Mary’s College in Maryland known for their sailing program and quickly shifted her focus to windsurfing. During the summer of 2002, Hall started racing and soon moved to St. Petersburg, Florida where she began her Olympic campaign. In January of 2011, Hall earned the number one spot in the Miami OCR and recently finished training in Cadiz, Spain with teams from Poland.

About Compass Cares

Compass Marketing has a long and active history of giving back to the community for a variety of causes through its foundation Compass Cares. Whether it is working with JDRF, the United Way, the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, Pathfinders for Autism, Cystic Fibrosis, the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) or many others, Compass Cares brings together clients, customers, employees, family and friends to help make a difference.

About Compass Marketing Inc

Compass Marketing, Inc. is one of the leading marketing and sales company for consumer products in the country. Chairman & CEO John White founded Compass Marketing, Inc., headquartered in Annapolis, MD, in 1998 while working out of his home. For more information visit

To learn more about Farrah Hall, go to, become a Farrah Hall fan on Facebook and follow her blog at

For press contact please contact:

Alisa Greenwood at

410.268.0030 ext. 200

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Seafront park in Burgas, Bulgaria

The RS:X European Championship is held this week in Burgas, Bulgaria, a place where most competitors have never visited. Going to a new place is always a bit tricky, but when I arrived I was happily surprised to find the Bulgarian town a paradise for windsurfers.

Bulgaria, like most East European countries formerly under the burden of communism, is in the midst of a rebirth. New buildings, roads, and parks are everywhere. Burgas is a summer resort town with a very local flavor, an affordable and accessible place for Europeans on a sunshine break. Summer is hot, sunny, and breezy, and with a few miles of sandy beach adjoining a grassy park, a perfect launch for windsurfers. Not wearing a thick wetsuit every day is a welcome change from most of the European events!

Training here has been easy and because the conditions are similar every day, it's a perfect opportunity to test fins, masts, and sails. I participated in a training camp with the Polish team, and have also been tuning up with the sailors who showed up early. We competed in the Bulgarian Championship Regatta, which saw some big wind stirring up big swell, making launching from the beach challenging. However, the scary launch was worth it - it's been a while since I've had so much fun surfing and jibing down big waves in warm weather!

The European Championships is well-publicized and reporters wander the venue and interview sailors daily. They are most interested in hearing how foreigners find their city to be, and a frequent question is "Are you considering making an investment in property in Burgas?" Foreign real estate offices are prevalent downtown, and property prices haven't risen to the extent of other countries, making Burgas attractive to investors. Indeed, a Polish friend of mine has been meeting with agents already! Burgas is a bit too far away for an American, but living here for three weeks has been very pleasant.

Grassy venue

Living here has increased my appreciation for friendly people and community - as a rather introverted person, I don't normally get forced to interact at a local market buying the daily veggies, or hang out with my local travel agent and landlord's family. However, I've made friends with a lot of the people I've had to ask for help, in the market, in the park, and at the windsurfing club, proving that making friends isn't as difficult as I think it is....and I'm not starving, either! I'm enjoying the shift, enjoying the weather and training, and looking forward to a great week of racing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Olympic Test Event: Predicting the windsurfing outcome of the Games?

Last week top Olympic sailors wrapped up the Olympic Test Event at the Weymouth and Portland International Sailing Academy. The regatta came with a few significant changes from the format of a normal World Cup regatta, including a week-long venue closure immediately before racing, a staggered schedule for the different classes over more than 10 days, and daily course changes for each Olympic-class fleet.

Affecting the boards the most was the daily course change. Although most sailors hadn't previously trained much outside of the harbor, the fleet adapted well to sailing in the new areas and conditions. After training solely inside the protected harbor, most of the boardsailors welcomed the chance to see the big outside world of Weymouth Bay. The race committee did a good job of keeping the boards on the closer courses, as they recognized the disadvantages boardsailors have when being towed by a coach boat, or having to sail long distances to get to a course. Altogether, the boards used three different courses: the Weymouth Bay West Course, the usual Portland Harbor Course, and the stadium-like Nothe Course.

The Weymouth Bay West Course differed the most from the harbor. Big cliffs on one side of the course make it extremely puffy and shifty, and the encroaching big Atlantic swell enters the bay perpendicular to the wind, making planing upwind and working the waves more challenging. It's a course that needs a bit of extra time to get rigging and technique dialed into the conditions. Like the harbor, there was a strong coast effect near the cliff walls on the right side of the course, making that side favored for most of the racing. The course was about an hour's sail downwind from the launch at WPNSA, making pre-race preparation more critical - especially when it came to packing food, water, and warm clothing for the long sail or ride back. After sailing in a civilized fashion in the harbor for so long, this course seemed much bigger and wilder, but I had prepared well in San Francisco by sailing in the cold ocean swells outside the Golden Gate Bridge.

The most challenging racing was found on the Nothe Course, which is also the course where the medal races are held. This course is similar to sailing in a stadium - the course is enclosed between the outside wall of the Portland Harbor and the headlands of the Nothe Fort, a Victorian-era military structure atop a big, grassy hill. For spectators, the course offers a supreme and almost bird's-eye view of the racing; for the competitors, it means an incredibly gusty, shifty and challenging day. I tend to enjoy this kind of racing because it requires a lot of thinking and deciding where to go. Sailors can gain or lose a lot of ground by virtue of one decision, and when you're behind, there is always an opportunity to make up distance.

Altogether, the course changes didn't affect the outcome of the racing too much. Successful Olympic-class sailors need to sail strongly in all conditions, and the RS:X women's fleet leaders weren't affected by the unusual conditions found on the new courses. Over the course of the last year, the fleet leaders have been working on the weaknesses in their sailing, and the leaderboard is finally beginning to shuffle around a bit. Most noticeable is the sailing of Zofia Klepacka, the eventual gold medalist in the event. Coming to her full strength after the birth of her son over a year and a half ago, she has an incredible, relaxed attitude. Her performance in light wind has improved drastically, and as she has always dominated in a breeze, her event was about as close to perfect as it comes. The new conditions suited her entirely. Zofia awed the crowd watching the RS:X medal race when she took an early lead after the first leg, which kept growing, reaching almost three quarters of a leg in front of the rest of the fleet at the slalom finish. She finished 16 points ahead of Marina Alabau of Spain, the silver medalist. Taking the bronze medal was Bryony Shaw of Great Britain.

Zofia celebrates after winning the medal race and regatta

In the men's fleet, Dorian van Rijsselberge of the Netherlands fought it out with Nick Dempsey of Great Britain the entire regatta, swapping places every day in an impressive battle of fitness and tactics. Dorian eventually took the gold with a one-point lead over Nick. Powerhouse Polish sailor Przemek Miarczynski inched into bronze with a one-point lead over New Zealand sailor JP Tobin, who won the medal race.

With the fleet leaders so close in points, it is difficult to predict the actual order of the medal count. However the order, the outcome of the actual Olympic Games will be similar. No matter the condition or course, the fleet leaders are sailing consistently well, and their level will only advance as their countries single out resources for them in the upcoming Olympic year.

Although I'm not leading the regatta, I was extremely satisfied with my performance. Competition is really tough throughout the middle and even rear of the fleet, and many technical problems I was experiencing in the beginning of the season have been ironed out. I'm going faster and I've got a whole new set of items to work on. I'm pleased my coaching program has worked out well this year, and I'm making a new plan for the fall and winter. Everyone is looking forward to the Europeans in Bulgaria, the next event on the schedule, which will be very competitive.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pre-Olympics Begin in Weymouth, UK

Coach Britt Viehman and I are ready to race

This is my fifth regatta at the site of the 2012 Olympic Games, and along with many other competitors, I'm very familiar with the venue and how to get around. However, this time it's not just racing as usual here in Weymouth, UK. The Pre-Olympics are run exactly as the Olympics are meant to be, and many changes are evident, both on the racecourse and the organization of the event.

I had two weeks of training in Weymouth before the Pre-Olympics, and the build-up to the event was vastly different. The organizers completely shut down the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy for a week to prepare the facility for the competition, which left a few sailors like myself, out of a place to train. One week of training, organized with a French coach, Christophe Boutet, and a training partner, ended up a little confused. Because we weren't given exact instructions what to do, and were under the instructions that one ramp at the Academy was still open, we sailed from there until we were kicked out. We finished the week with our gear stored in the coach boat every day, rigging wherever we could!

After the Academy was re-opened, we received credentials and, finally, a big tent to store equipment, complete with sweet rubber matting to rig on. All the boats at the Academy had been moved out for the event, including the community kayak and windsurfing programs. Although there are many international teams competing here, with only one team per country and an offset racing schedule, the venue is strangely quiet.

Setup for the boards

The US Sailing Team has been preparing for this event as well and our storage facility is recently redone with new rooms, a TV, X-Box, PT room, drying room, gym equipment, and a giant vinyl USA national flag on the wall. The USSTAG PR team is here along with our team leaders, weather guy, trainers, and best of all, a chef! We now have optimal external conditions, and although I am still financing housing, food, and coaching myself, the structure here makes it easier to focus on training and racing.

Britt and I get interviewed by USSTAG's PR guru Dana Paxton

Not only are changes are evident to infrastructure, but the racing has changed drastically for the boards as well. For the past three years I've raced here, the boards have raced solely in the harbor area. Now, the organizers are switching the courses daily for all the classes, so the womens' RS:X fleet is racing outside the "kiddie pool" of the harbor the entire week. It's a whole new world outside the fast, flat water and walls of the harbor, and yesterday we were racing in the big swell, chop, and big gusts of Weymouth Bay. The courses are far from the harbor for boards, and sailors without a coach boat are left with the potential for more than an hour's sail out to the starting area. The change was a big surprise to the entire fleet; everyone trained for months before the event in the harbor only. We're all in the same situation, but apart from the long distances from the harbor, the new courses are a good change to the racing.

Racing has begun already and we've had one day of good planing conditions in big swell. I'm doing a lot of things right, but my speed upwind still needs a lot of work. However, I was pleased with my performance yesterday during starts and choosing strategies. I really enjoyed the interesting conditions and am looking forward to sailing on another new course today.

Check out the USSTAG's new website where you can find updates from the racing, results, and a report from yesterday. At the bottom of the interview, there are links to the USSTAG's Facebook page and Twitter. Check out this video interview as well! If it's not the current video, you can find it by scrolling down on the sidebar.

Monday, July 11, 2011

San Francisco Classic / UltraNectar Challenge

I've had a great few weeks training in San Francisco working on heavy air board handling and technique. The time has been really productive in developing more confidence in big breeze and getting valuable water time applying techniques to improve consistency of speed and control over chop.

The weeks culminated in a local regatta that is one of the most unique events I've ever participated in. Held at the St. Francis Yacht Club, the San Francisco Classic / UltraNectar Challenge is a distance race that spans the San Francisco Bay west to east from the Golden Gate Bridge to Berkeley. Sailors have to get all the way down to Berkeley after racing a two-lap triangle, and they have to do it via a giant slalom that spans the entire width of the bay. This is the "San Francisco Classic" portion of the race.

Course map (slalom course is black line)

After the downwind giant slalom, the objective of the second half of the race (the UltraNectar Challenge) is to get back upwind to a finish line at the St. Francis Yacht Club.

San Francisco rolled out some classic conditions for the distance race. The wind was about 15-25 and we began the race in foggy, cold weather. Since the tide was flooding, the chop wasn't too bad and getting downwind was really fast. I really enjoyed the aggressive reaches across the bay and was able to hang with some of the kiters going downwind. Being on the RS:X required a bit more patience, as I was a good deal slower than the Formula boards. It was a good thing the sky was full of brightly-colored kites to mark the way around the somewhat complicated course!

Going back upwind was a bit more difficult against the relatively strong current, which maxed at about 3 .2 knots that day. I planned a route in advance by looking at the tide charts and tacked up the side of Angel Island on the north side of the bay. I managed to stay with the same group of kiters; however, I got too enthusiastic about staying out of the current and sailed into a hole on the west side of the island, losing a few of the kites.

Sunday's racing was normal course racing, normal except that during the last two races the committee combined the windsurfers' start with the kites. Local Formula sailor Seth Besse's advice about the start was to just ignore the kites and start as usual. It's a little concerning when you as a windsurfer can't see the kite lines, but the kite sailors have good visibility and spatial awareness of their equipment.

I really enjoyed racing with the kiteboards and seeing their abilities and tactics. The St. Francis Yacht Club made yet another progressive decision when beginning the kiteboard series and combining it with the windsurfing events. I've never seen a closer and more understanding relationship between kiters and windsurfers than in San Francisco. The forward-thinking attitude towards pushing new improvements and working together in both sports has created a fun and unique community, which is the way both watersports should ideally interact. I am excited to return to San Francisco in September to reinforce some techniques and board handling before the Pan Am Games in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, this October.

I am now en route to Weymouth, UK, where I will be training prior to the Pre-Olympic Test Event, beginning in early August. I'm looking forward to getting some good time on the water with quality training partners and continuing my adventures on the road to the 2012 Olympics.

Techno Training Camp Video

Check out some of the action from the Bic Techno training camp in San Francisco. I'm not the best creator of videos, but this captures some good moments.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

USA Bic Techno Fleet gets ready for the 2011 Techno Worlds!

On July 17-24, more than 200 kids from 30 countries and 5 continents will descend on San Francisco Bay for the 2011 Bic Techno one-design World Championships, held at the St. Francis Yacht Club near the Golden Gate Bridge. The regatta is a big moment for the USA's windsurfing program, as it will provide a boost to our fledgling junior development program. The windy and rough conditions and dramatic scenery of San Francisco Bay will be an unparalleled experience for most sailors attending, including some of the USA's youth sailors from the East Coast.

Under the leadership of youth coach Britt Viehman, I assisted in coaching a Bic Techno clinic last week for American kids competing at the Worlds. Nine kids showed up, from both San Francisco and Florida. We had abilities ranging from fairly advanced to beginner, which is a typical skill range for American youth sailors. Each group of youth learned something new by participating in the training camp.

Sailors from Florida were wide-eyed after the first day of training in San Francisco. For many of them, it was the coldest and windiest conditions they had ever experienced. These sailors focused on planing technique up and downwind, tacks, jibes, and planing starts. A major factor contributing to the success of their training was developing confidence in the rough conditions. A few sailors spent time learning to make confident, fast runs upwind and downwind in a straight line, and develop sail handling techniques in windy conditions.

The local kids already had a good grip on the usual conditions, but what they didn't initially understand was the concept of sailing teamwork. For a few, it was the first time experiencing coaching on a schedule, two sessions a day, with a debrief after sailing. By the end of the camp, they were better about being on the water on time and keeping together in a group for drills to learn from each other. All the kids tuned up their equipment in the breeze, and learned more about San Francisco's famous currents - how to start in big current, and which side of the course would be favored by observing the action of the current in various stages of ebb and flood tides.

The only major flaw in the training camp is that it was too short as time and funding are limited at this point. The kids really needed a few weeks at this venue to further develop skills and confidence. However, the stoke was high as everyone is looking forward to returning to the City by the Bay and the Bic Techno Worlds.

(I wish I had more pictures for this blog, but we were really busy! Video coming soon.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weymouth: Culmination of a Season

The US Sailing Team is breathing a collective sigh of relief at the end of an incredibly tough week of regatta in Weymouth, UK. Sail for Gold, the sixth event on the World Cup regatta circuit, was also the first qualifier for the Olympic team (one of two events) and also a qualifier for the sole berth to compete in the Pre-Olympic Regatta, an Olympic test event held the first two weeks of August. I'm happy to say that my event went well and I finished as the top American RS:X woman and will compete in the Pre-Olympics.

Although I placed 19th in the Silver fleet, qualified for the Pre-Olympics and felt that in general, I sailed to the best of my ability, I am looking forward to better results in the future. A few factors affected my results, including technique in the windy, planing conditions that persisted throughout the week, and the high level of the fleet. With the exception of the first day, we had planing conditions for the remainder of the regatta in winds of 15-25+ knots! Although I had many days practicing in planing conditions and was able to sort out my technique, I still need more practice to apply the proper technique during racing. During an event, recently learned techniques are difficult to apply consistently, as I and other sailors often revert to the muscle memories we are most familiar with. Before the regatta, the wind was light for almost the entire week, as it was for most of my training in France. In France, I made major improvements to my sailing in marginal and non-planing conditions, which we saw almost none of during Sail for Gold. However, during the last few days of the event, I made improvements to my planing technique.

The overall level of the fleet was extremely high, as many countries are using Sail for Gold as an Olympic qualifier and peak event of the season. The windy conditions meant that the results were more mixed up than is usual, and many sailors had a truly difficult event. In the women's fleet, several teams as a whole had a better performance and a few had worse. This was exemplified by the New Zealand team, who had a few members in the Gold fleet, more than they usually have; and the Italian, British, Chinese, and Netherlands teams, who had less than average performances. The usual strong European competitors, the French and Polish teams, dominated the fleet.

Many US sailors had a tough time in Weymouth last week, and most of it was due to the windy conditions, the high level of the international fleets, and the focus on beating other team members in the first Olympic qualifier event. Closest home to my event in the RS:X men's fleet, Ben Barger placed behind Bob Willis, who has strong finishes in planing conditions. Both boys had a challenging time in the competitive fleet. Many US team members placed slightly lower than where they normally finish, including men's 470, Laser and Laser Radial. Although results may have been slightly "off," performances by the US team reflected their best efforts in the crazy conditions and top-level fleets. Achieving decent results despite our team's shortcomings is a great accomplishment for sailors as individuals. The "arms race" against fully-funded teams is difficult, and US sailors have many more issues to deal with than most of the top international sailors, all of which have an impact on our team's results. We all fight hard to sort out our funding, logistics, and other personal problems to do our best to prepare physically and mentally for competition. In the end, we are working with a management system that structurally is unable to support team goals as a whole, and too-new and unstable programs.

Fixing a gasket and fin before the event

Although we all have a challenging road ahead to stay abreast of the international fleet, we are all very positive and excited to improve and move forward. As the Olympics approach in one year's time, I'm really anxious to improve upon my training program even more. I'm happy with the progress I've made and am looking forward to getting the water time and coaching that I need. Next week I'm spending some time in San Francisco to get time in the extreme breeze, chop, and cold water, which I'm certain will advance me in Weymouth conditions. I'm really stoked about going to the Pre-Olympics and can't wait to get back to Weymouth to train.

Click here for results; click on a tab to view full results for each Olympic class boat or board.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

French Training; Taking Care of Business

The pace of training and logistics accelerated during the past few weeks as I finished up a successful training camp in Brest, France, and shipped my rig back across the English Channel to Weymouth in preparation for Sail for Gold, our first Olympic Trials regatta. Training in Brest was highly productive and with the help of a very good French coach, filled in a number of gaps in my knowledge and gave me insight into another very successful sailing program.

The French have one of the most advanced sailing programs on the planet. In Brest, sailing is taught to most residents at a young age, and is integral to the culture, which could go as far back to over hundreds of years. On top of that, they are completely nuts about windsurfing, more so than any other country I've experienced. On any given windy day, you can see 50 recreational windsurfers bombing around, in Brest and its surrounding small villages. From this base, sailing is developed further at the club and national level under some very smart program directors and coaches (all with successful competitive careers). There are a good number of national training facilities, one of which is newly built in Brest. It's very difficult to rise to a level high enough to compete on the French National Team, and sailors competing at this level are extremely talented. Seeing the technically advanced level of their youth sailors gave me a very clear picture of the excellence of their training and coaching. The French have an advantage over almost every other country in the sport of sailing, and just keep pouring more resources into their program.

Bad picture of the Brest harbor stolen from the internet - I've lost my camera!

For all the advantages of the French system, they keep their methods and training guarded. Usually, outside sailors have to be careful not to overstep boundaries when training with their teams. We were not allowed to use their facility, and kept our equipment in our coach's shop. Training with the youth was acceptable as long as we didn't become too many, but I expect that it would be very difficult to secure an invitation to train with their national team. Other than those few rules, the sailors and coaches were happy to see us. It contrasted with my experience with the Polish, who are much more open about their training. However, as the Polish team becomes more prominent and professional with the addition of better resources, they are experiencing some growing pains and may become more closed. Both the French and Polish teams compete at a high level, and while I found the French may be better on a technical level, the Polish have a closer-knit team and support system, which is equally as important.

After sailing in Brest, I was ready for a short break before starting the final taper into the Weymouth Sail for Gold regatta. As with all breaks, time is filled with logistics and trying to accomplish all the things that need to be done off the water in a short time. The journey began with a ferry ride to Portsmouth, where my coach, Britt, and I stayed with a friend. We washed, unloaded and re-loaded equipment, and dropped the boat at the dealer's shop for a servicing. We inventoried items and went shopping, and tried to get some needed sleep. After a stop-and-go commute to Weymouth, (bank holidays!), we were ready to move in and get the equipment sorted.

All the time before Sail for Gold will be spent training lightly and acclimatizing to the conditions in Weymouth. So far we have seen a very windy week - almost 25 knots for days at a time. The weather is changing now, and we're not sure what will be in store for the regatta. I'm looking forward to the event, which should have a really tough fleet. Sail for Gold is the international peak event this season!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Acquiring Building Blocks: Coaching after Palma and the French Olympic Week

After my event in Palma turned out poorly, I finished up a little frustrated. However, one of the keys to getting quickly past frustration is analysis, checking over all the aspects of the regatta to figure out where the weaknesses are.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the major factor that affected my Palma event was recovery. After a really tough training camp in Cadiz, I didn’t get any physical therapy and remained pretty stressed for a few days afterwards with driving, ferries, and getting adjusted to routine in Palma. I didn’t want to go into the event tired, but I was distracted enough to affect my rest, and thus my focus was a little impaired. With this in mind, I set out to create a better training plan for myself, with speedy skill acquisition in mind.

As a science person, I find analysis to be an entertaining challenge. The trick is applying physical skills to meaningful data. My coach and I identified the skills that are most critical to having a good race, and assigned a numerical value to them representing my comparison to the skills of the fleet’s top sailors. We graphed the data simply to visually identify the skills I need to improve upon the most, in a few different conditions. I then created a table depicting every day I worked on each skill in each condition, starting upon my arrival in Hyeres, France, for the French Olympic Week. At the end of the season, I’ll know relatively how long it’s taking to develop a skill, or the number of days I was able to work on a particular item. All in all, a relatively simple way to keep track of learning.

Having a consistent checklist improved the quality of my training before the French Olympic Week. I made significant headway on a number of items in about a week of training before the event. Any new skill is a building block for each race, and the proper assembly of these blocks is what creates a good race and overall event. I can’t say that I put together a great result, but I certainly performed well for a definite number of skills, and sailed much better in this event than Palma.

The French Olympic Week saw mostly light and marginal conditions. We had only one fully-planing race on the first day. The committee did a good job of getting all the races in, and made some good calls on scheduling. Every day had a different start according to how the committee felt the wind would develop that day. In the qualifying series, we had three races on the day with better breeze, and one race on the lightest day. I found that I’m able to put together marginal-planing races together a bit better than light wind races, thanks to a lot of time training in Miami this winter.

In addition to the challenging conditions, the women’s fleet here was very big – 75 boards total, making two fleets. Many teams use this event as an Olympic qualifier, and it’s also a good venue for developmental sailors to compete. In short, this event had the best fleet quality of almost the entire 2012 quadrennium thus far (maybe with the exception of the 2010 Worlds in Denmark). The growing difficulty of the sport makes rapid learning a necessity, and my attempts to organize different systems for training will hopefully create a method that works well for me, and facilitates rapid assembly of skills critical for racing.

I’m now in Brest, France, beginning a training camp with local French sailors and youth men, and two sailor friends from Canada and Hungary. I’m confident that this will be a good week for learning. Afterwards, I go to Weymouth to begin training for the Sail for Gold Regatta, our first Olympic qualifier.

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

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sailor Profile: Farrah Hall, Olympic Class Windsurfer

This video is an excerpt from Sperry Top-Sider's "Passion for the Sea" series, narrated by Gary Jobson. It was uploaded to YouTube by the new National Sailing Center and Hall of Fame in Annapolis, Maryland. The National Sailing Hall of Fame is honoring its first class of inductees on October 23, 2011.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Going fast downwind in 25 knots, Cadiz, Spain

At a training camp with the Polish youth team from Sopot. We've seen almost every kind of condition this week, from this windy extreme to very light wind and sunny weather.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Time zones, logistics, budgets, and Garmin GPS

Life would be a lot easier if someone took over the responsibility of planning my campaign, and all I had to worry about was training and racing. However, like the majority of Olympic hopefuls who don't have a team of support personnel, planning, logistics, and budget management falls squarely onto my shoulders.

Without missing a beat, the day after the Rolex Miami OCR, I attended a USSTAG meeting to learn about what they had planned for us regarding training camps, logistics, and coaching. As is the norm, the boards are the least-funded Olympic class, and only $10,000 is allocated for our coaching budget, a total of two regattas for both men and women RS:X sailors. (All the other boat classes have coaches for most of the World Cup events.) With this shortcoming in mind, I set to work raising money for my own program.

Most Olympic-class sailors are well-aware that full-time coaching is an absolute necessity. Without constant feedback, analysis, and support on the water, jumping into Olympic-level training and competition is frustrating and difficult. All the top teams have a fully-planned schedule with a national coach, and most sailors wouldn't think of heading out to a serious training session without this support. In order to compete with the best, my resources must be at the same level, or better, in an innovative way. Both coaching and the logistics of including a coach are expensive and time-consuming, and I can't say that I've exactly found the most innovative solution for myself, but that the resources have come slowly together over the past few years and I'm now in a position to have a coaching program for the spring World Cup regattas.

After the Miami OCR, I spent the entire month of February pushing single-mindedly to get funding. I've applied for a few more grants, and spent a lot of time following up with prospective donors. In some ways, I'm "counting chickens before they're hatched" in that I don't have my full budget, but I'm expecting my efforts to pay off, and put me in the best position possible to make good results for the USA at the early World Cup events, our first Olympic Trials event, and score the boards more funding for the 2016 quadrennium.

Apart from fund raising, my next challenge was organizing a coach boat, transport, housing, and other necessities for three months in Europe. Appraising my budget, the first glaring expense was coach boat charters - almost $30,000 a year to charter a boat at each event, plus a major hassle sourcing these boats. Through creative financing / deficit spending, I've been able to acquire a coach boat for this season. Given the fact that a boat costs much less than $30,000, and finding boats can be stressful, buying a boat was almost a no-brainer, although very difficult, decision. Being a frugal person by nature, I'm tortured by expensive decisions!

I was very pressed for time in February from all the fund raising, some training in St. Petersburg with our youth team, and getting very sick for a week. This made it necessary to acquire the boat sight-unseen in the UK, and prepare my van, also in the UK, from afar. This required some acrobatics. Luckily, a very generous friend from Hayling Island, UK, picked up my van from Weymouth, had the oil changed, and installed a tow bar. The friend also inspected a boat I found online, approved it, delivered it, and found a really nice trailer and covers for it. I'm really excited about my boat, which is a Solent RIB, made by a local company for the south coast of the UK. Not to mention, it has a nice, efficient engine, and very pretty colors!

Very happy about the new boat

After picking up the boat and running around for a few days at Hayling Island to insure and register it, I was ready for the road. One ferry ride and 1,500 miles later, van, boat, and I were safely at our next destination in Cadiz, Spain, where I will be training for the next two weeks with a few teams from Poland. Driving 1,500 miles in the US is relatively easy on our interstate system, but over here, the same distance takes almost twice as long. Slower speeds, toll highways, winding roads and massive hills make driving much more difficult (and expensive!). Luckily, I was still adjusting to the time difference, so it was easier to stay awake at night. Adding to the ordeal was my GPS, which took me on a few boondoggles, and had me in hysterics with its arrogant directives and mispronunciations of place names. A few lessons my dad taught me about vehicles came to good use on this trip: drive slowly and gently, check the oil and fluids at every stop, and check over the rig carefully. Although I was obsessively careful, my hard-working, 14-year-old minivan suffered; the transmission is definitely on its way out and it's riding pretty rough. With a little TLC it should at least live through the season. It's survived multiple trips across, up, and down both coasts of the USA, and laps around North can't quit on me now!

Van and boat, on a bigger boat

"Roll on, eighteen-wheeler..."

Bridges through the Pyrenees

Although I had a rough drive, the Polish drove almost twice as far and arrived in Cadiz, in the middle of the night, like the walking dead. During that night, a huge party (for Carnaval) raged through the marina and a few drunken revelers decided it would be a good idea to take bikes from their trailer and ride them around. Luckily, the police were on hand to apprehend the thieves and the bicycles!

I'm really excited to be here in a very beautiful town with an impressive sailing facility, training with an excellent team. I'm working with one of the coaches from the Sopot Sailing Club, and some fast younger sailors. Joining us will be some of the women on the Polish National Team and their coach. I'm looking forward to some pretty intense on-the-water sessions and being around a great group of people I consider to be my teammates.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A hard-earned result for the Miami OCR

The Miami Olympic Classes Regatta is the most important regatta annually for American Olympic aspirants. It is one of the first World Cup ranking regattas on the circuit, and it is also a chance for teams and individual sailors to get a spot on the US Sailing Team. Not only did I again earn my #1 spot on the team, but I also had the best regatta of my life.

Pre-race: chilly weather calls for layers of clothing (Event photo)

Miami is never a predictable place for racing. For the past two years, it has been a light-wind venue, but this year we had more wind than normal and even one day of planing races. The week saw a full, fairly classic frontal rotation of the wind from east to northwest, with a different direction every day. The one constant of Miami racing is that the wind will always be shifty and puffy, and there will always be weeds (shedding Florida seagrass and algae) to drag around the course on your fin.

The first few days of racing passed easily, as the wind direction was easterly, giving us cleaner and stronger wind. The second day of racing saw planing conditions in a southeast 15 knot breeze. We easily managed two races in warm, cloudy, fast conditions. I had good starts and since my pointing is a lot better, I had some good finishes. However, the third day proved to be the toughest of the regatta. Any easterly direction pushes a lot of weeds onto the course, so that by the third day, the weeds were floating around in huge lines, ready to trap sailors. The wind was a shifty, very gusty southwest as cloud lines marking the beginning of a front rolled through. These conditions are very difficult because sailors must be very good at transitions, tactics, and making minute adjustments to technique in every gust or lull. My first race was the best of the series, but my second race was the worst. As the breeze died, the weeds and general Miami debris became more and more of a menace to being able to plane. Every sailor had to clear weeds several times during the racing. My Canadian friend, Dominique Vallee, had a piece of cardboard get stuck in her daggerboard well; she had to stop to physically jump in and pull it out so she could put the board up. I tacked going downwind rather than jibing - it was still faster than dragging weeds! I've never sailed anywhere else in the world that has as many obstacles in the water.

Racing in marginal conditions (Event photo)

The wind failed to materialize on the fourth day, and after a long wait on the water, we went in without racing. The front finally filled in for the fifth and last day of racing. We again had two races in puffy, dying northwest frontal breeze coming down from the cityfront. Racing was a little tougher for me today as I was nervous going into the first start, fouled someone, and fell trying to do my penalty turn. I played catch-up for the rest of the race, and was actually pleased with the finish. The long courses and dying breeze of the regatta's final days made for some really long and difficult racing.

I'm really excited about what a 12th place finish in a fairly competitive fleet means. I know the results have come from finally developing the techniques that have frustrated me for years, with the help of consistent coaching from Britt Viehman for the past month. I have been really aggressive about learning skills step by step, and creating lists of short goals. I now have a new list of skills to develop, and am looking forward to February's plan, and March's training and racing in Europe. It will once again be a tough fight to get the resources together to make a comprehensive plan. However, I've already proven that I have unlimited quantities of willpower and fight for the final push to the Olympic qualifier regattas, and much more.

I want to thank my sponsor, Compass Marketing, for making this effort achievable. Compass has shown unwavering support of my Olympic campaign since 2008.