Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hatteras Flow

The moment you think you're doing really well mentally and physically is often the moment when your expectations aren't met.  For me, the ISAF Worlds in Santander last month was a really tough event.  The fleet was extremely competent and well prepared, and conditions were challenging with light, unpredictable wind or big offshore breeze and ocean swell.  I was racing well, but not well  enough to achieve the finish I wanted to.  During the opening series, I finished consistently in the top half of the fleet but didn't pull off any top 10 finishes, one of which I would have needed to make the bottom of the Gold fleet in the final series. 

Grinding it out in Santander
 My silver fleet finish undermined my confidence a little with regard to the steps of my regatta preparation.  Before the Worlds, I didn't get enough racing because I lacked the funding to go to the Rio Test Event.  I had one great session of gear testing and a training camp of excellent quality in France.  However, there wasn't enough race focus.  It is hard to justify lacking preparation when I know what I need to do, but there is an added element of frustration when you know there isn't enough money to do it and you're not sure what income you have coming in, or if any will come in at all. 

I believe the best solution for me is complete acceptance of the financial situation and to develop a system to prepare alone or under inadequate circumstances.  I have a few ideas for the winter so far, and all involve a systematic approach to the steps of racing and how training can translate to a direct regatta situation.  The other side to this more scientific approach is mental. 

Finding creativity and freedom is difficult when many external factors cause pressure.  However, with a little mental training one can step into the "zone" or the "flow" upon command.  I found this to a certain extent during the Worlds, even though the racing and general environment was tough.  However, where I really find it is doing freestyle windsurfing, and the feeling can be directly translated to the RS:X.

The past few weeks I attended a few ABK clinics in Cape Hatteras, NC.  Working on freestyle skills is a pleasure, and basic movements can be translated into more and more tricks once muscle memory becomes automatic.  Things can happen so fast that one needs to have built in muscle memory in order to save a move without falling or incorporate blocks of basic elements into one new trick.  The memories translate into mental flow, which can be sustained throughout a session.  The very essence of this discipline is freedom and embodies the liberty of the surf culture, travel, new experiences, and human expression. 

Messing around in light wind
This winter will challenge me to find freedom, flow, and thus improvements to racing.  I am an expert in the scientific approach to sailing and the "grind."  Now it's time to integrate the two in a personal preparation for the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta.

 Small wave fun in Hatteras

Friday, August 22, 2014


Summer vacation is over, and preparations for the ISAF Worlds in Santander are underway.  I have been testing my equipment for the past week in order to select the most optimal setup for the Worlds. After this session, I am participating in a training camp with many top European sailors, including my Italian training partner and coach, in La Rochelle, France.  My goals will be perfecting the elements of racing and focus for the upcoming event.  La Rochelle is a venue with a variety of difficult conditions, so my expectation is that Santander will be well simulated.

In July, I spent time in San Francisco and the Columbia River Gorge to improve my board handling -  my summer vacation. Mostly, I worked in the discipline of freestyle, which is all about maneuvers, balance, and rig control to perform complicated tricks.  I even participated in a local AWT competition in which I definitely didn't embarrass myself.  The discipline expanded my mind as to what is possible in the overall sport of windsurfing, and how that translates to Olympic-class windsurfing.  I am happy to say that I have improved feel with the RS:X equipment and am developing a more intuitive approach to my sailing. 

ABK windsurfing clinic in Hood River, OR
I was also very happy to visit my old Cape St. Claire community sailing camp, the place I learned to sail when I was a kid.  It’s always great to get a rare week at home.  We got to talk about Olympic sailing, how to take your sailing to the next level, and what it’s like to sail full time.  We also had a fun raffle for US Sailing team gear!

Sometimes I feel that I’m living in three or four different worlds courtesy of a plane ride apart.  Europe is a different world from the west coast USA, and Maryland is a third entity.  In each place I have different resources and a different focus.  If I want to entertain myself, I pretend I’m entering another dimension each time!  I’m happy to be back on the Continent and am looking forward to my upcoming training and the Worlds.  I have the feeling that it will be a regatta like no other.

Pistol River wave sailing spot, on the Oregon coast.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

End of the European Season

The European season this year has been slow, but I've made important changes in my training and program that will benefit me in the future.  I approached this season a bit differently then in past years by working with a number of different coaches and training partners.  With this variety, I’m experimenting with new and different techniques and approaches to learning. My race results suffered early on because of this, but overall I am becoming much more competent and the latest results started to show this.

Hyeres, France
 In April and May, I trained and competed in the French World Cup in Hyeres, France, and the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Holland, a Eurosaf Cup event. In early June, I spent time in France with a French coach and Italian training partner.  We participated in a training camp and a French national regatta in Biscarrosse. I’m happy with my progress this year and finish in 6th place (and third country) in the Holland regatta, and 2nd in the French national regatta.

 Biscarrosse, France
I'm now on the west coast for a shortboarding session in order to improve board handling and get some time back in the USA before the ISAF World Championships in Santander, Spain. I have elected not to compete in the Rio Pre-Olympic Test Event this year in order to focus my resources and energy on getting a top result at the World Championships. A top finish at the Worlds will qualify the USA RS:X class a spot at the 2016 Olympics. I'm looking forward to my west coast "break" and getting refreshed for pre-Worlds European training. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Training

I started out this season with two training camps, followed up by the second World Cup regatta of the year, the Princess Sofia Trophy.  This season has been difficult so far, as I have been sick a few times and am still searching for a good coaching situation.  My logistics have also been a little crazy with the winter weather delaying and canceling flights to Europe.  However I've made the best of it, and am still improving.
My first training session was in Marsala, Sicily, with one of the top Italian girls.  It was a great opportunity to work on planing technique, because we had some days with 25 knots and big waves.  We also took a sailing adventure - a windy four hour voyage to one of the islands off the Sicilian coast, Favignana.  We spent two nights there and managed to visit some of the island's beautiful places.


I then flew to Cadiz, Spain, where I spent two weeks training with the Polish National Team.  This session was an opportunity to get competitive and intense racing practice, and extensive physical training. I really enjoy training with the Polish team, as they are professional and focused, and give 100% in each session. 

After Cadiz, my next stop was in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, for the second World Cup regatta of 2014, the Princess Sofia Trophy.  A big, competitive fleet was at hand, including deep youth fleets of British, French, and Chinese sailors, and most of the experienced top women's competitors from Europe, Asia, and South America.  Each year, the fleet grows a bit, and the level is at its highest ever.  We had one fleet of over 50 women.

Palma is the trickiest venue of the circuit, and this regatta was no exception.  The newer format for World Cup events means three races a day regardless of conditions, and the ever-changing wind here meant we spent very long days on the water.  We experienced a wide variety of conditions from 5 knots to 25, and I felt comfortable in them, formed good strategies for each race, and knew what the wind was doing at any given moment.  However, I had a tough time executing some critical moments in each race, and consequently didn't have great results.  In a deep and large fleet, one or two mistakes in the beginning of a race are generally unforgivable.  I also came in overtrained, and the very long days contributed to getting sick again after the event.

Our next event, the Hyeres World Cup in the south of France, will again be very competitive.  I'm glad I had Palma to let me know what to expect for this next event in terms of fleet quality!  I'm looking forward to a few more days of rest and then preparation for Hyeres.