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!

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