Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Copa Brasil de Vela

US Olympic Trials preparations are underway, and most American sailors competed in the Copa Brasil de Vela last week, held on the Niteroi side of Rio de Janeiro, as a tune-up.  Taking place on the Olympic courses on Guanabara Bay with a strong international fleet, this event was a competitive learning experience for me. 

Lasers arrive at the beach for Copa Brasil de Vela (Fred Hoffmann)
 The trip marked my third time in Rio de Janeiro, and the first time I experienced the transitional weather patterns of the changing seasons.  Rio shifted from spring to summer weather in December, and just about every condition and weather pattern showed up during training and the event.   There was a variety of gradient wind, and we experienced both thermal and gradient-driven effects.  During the first week of training, steady rain occurred almost every day.  In the later weeks, we saw more of a summertime pattern with sea breeze varying with cloud cover and positioning of high and low pressure areas.  Most notably, we also experienced several strong evening thunderstorms.  The strength of these storms often were affected by the topography of the land, and during one night violent wind and rain tore through the valley in Niteroi, causing damage to buildings and trees. 

The intensity of this storm pummeled the sailing venue.  Held from the Sao Francisco beach in Niteroi, across Guanabara Bay, the tents and boats sitting on the beach were entirely unprotected from the blast.  Tents collapsed and several Nacra catamarans sustained costly damage.  As a result, the venue was closed until after the first day of racing. 

Venue issues notwithstanding, racing proceeded smoothly and on schedule for both competitors and organizers.  We had both light and strong wind, all as tricky and gusty as Rio can offer.  The event was a chance for me to make further gains to my strategic and tactical execution, and although I can't say brilliance suddenly occurred to me, I felt that I gained in intuitive ability and understanding. 

Rio didn't only offer me a chance to grow tactically as a sailor - I got to grow tactically as a driver as well.  I found a cheap rental car to shuttle my group around because getting from the club, home, and beach wasn't easy, and we were also schlepping around gear from various locations.  The six kilometers' commute contained so many unexplained traffic patterns, bumper-car drivers, and bottlenecks that it could take from seven minutes to one hour to get home.  Sometimes, traffic signals are optional - it took a few days for me to figure out which ones.  In many places, turning left or right off of main thoroughfares is not allowed, so one ends up driving back and forth around loops of road miles out of the way.  I was making "illegal" turns almost every day until I figured out the pattern.  I say "illegal" because it seems the police in Brazil are not interested in ticketing traffic violations.  I was also clipped twice by other cars, and it was fortunate that the rental car was relatively unscathed.  It was pretty exciting to go out in this Mario Kart environment every day. 

My next event will be the Miami OCR, the first Olympic Trials event.  I'm looking forward to some rest, good preparation, and a great regatta.