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.

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