Sunday, May 24, 2015

Brest is the Best

For the past few weeks I've been training in Brest, France.  This Atlantic coastal town is located just about as far west as you can travel in northern France, and it's one place where I spend a lot of time training.  The best thing about Brest is it's a really interesting place to race and train.  It can be extremely windy or very marginal and shifty, and there is usually a ripping current going through the bay.  There is also a great group of enthusiastic and skilled young sailors to train with.

The countryside is also really lovely - dotted with small towns, harbors, and there are many farms that grow delicious strawberries.

However, a lot of the time Brest looks like this:

Is that really France? Let's compare to south France for a moment:

I guess living in Brest builds character.  The food is great though.

Here I am working on technique and strategy in a group.  Since the conditions are so diverse, there is a good amount of thinking that needs to happen during each stage of an exercise.  All the thinking happening now is actually helping to create automatic responses to different events during a race.  It is great preparation for the RS:X Europeans coming up in Sicily.

Last month I also trained in Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain, which is one of my favorite venues.  Here I worked on technique and equipment with a fast group. Both sessions have been productive and not too bad on the budget.

 Being on a budget means your $50 wetsuit from Decathlon is also 6 years old. Anyone want to sponsor a new sailing wardrobe?
I'm looking forward to training and racing in Sicily.  The event isn't "important," as it's not a qualifier for either the team or the country, but it will be very competitive and therefore a good test of the skills I've been practicing this month.  It will also be a performance benchmark before the Worlds, and will serve to delineate the most important things to improve before entering the major events of the fall and winter.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hyeres World Cup

I recently competed in the Hyeres Olympic Week, the first ISAF World Cup event using their new format.  This event was limited to the top 40 girls in the world, and as such it was highly competitive. There was no room for mistakes in any race, and the technical level of the fleet was similar.

I spent the lead-in time before the World Cup regatta doing some training sessions with the Polish windsurfing team, who are ranked among the top sailors in the world. It was great to see my speed in training was equal to the very best.  With world-class speed, my focus for the event was to improve tactics and strategy.

Photo: Will Ricketson

Although I knew that this preparation was good, I felt a little out of sync during the regatta.  Given the high caliber and small fleet, there was no room for mistakes in any race. Everyone was sailing fast and good results were based on making few mistakes and having solid tactics and proper strategy for the given day. As such, the racing was very tight.  Normally, I was well placed during the first half of the races, however, I made one or two small mistakes that lead to poor finishes.  Because my speed was quite good, it was easy to register these tactical or strategic errors during the regatta.  My results in this regatta do not reflect my improvement over the past year.  However, given the new racing format and my experience from this regatta, I now know that I need to improve my race day process and my mental approach. I have discuss this with my coach and we are ready to address it as well as continue to improve my speed.

Photo: Will Ricketson
My next event is the European Championships in Sicily next month, and after that, the Rio Olympic Test Event.  Prior to that, I have three training camps with two top coaches in Spain and France focusing on what we learned in Hyeres. I’m looking forward to this training and believe it will be very productive.

I am confident my hard work is paying off and will benefit the US Olympic windsurfing program for Rio and beyond.