As athletes, we have learned that preparation is the key to unlocking our full capabilities on the racecourse. Training, planning and conditioning combine to form readiness which leads to performance. We recognize that this should not be left to the last minute, but this is what happened when we decided to put together our plans for a World Championship at Aarhus just one month prior to the start. Our scores reflect this, but this event was exactly what we need in order to move forward by highlighting our weaknesses and our strengths.
Most teams prepare at least a year in advance of an event of this magnitude, for example, by setting up and sailing in a progression of training regattas and by relying on familiar coaching, well-oiled logistical support, and a program which permits their sailors to concentrate on their sailing.
By contrast, we started out for the event with no boat and a new coach. As it worked out, this uncertainty turned out to be our strength. First, we purchased the boat from an Australian 470 men’s team who stopped campaigning to design submarines. The boat was immaculate.
Networking with the Australian sailors gave us an opportunity…after the Aarhus World Championships…to meet with a boat builder in Germany. In his boatyard, we measured the new masts that we’ll need later in Japan and learned more about custom modifications for the boat that are specifically geared towards team perfect vision sailing.
Starting with the Australian sailors, networking was one of the most valuable “take aways” from the event. Everywhere we went off the water, we met people who were willing to assist us. Perhaps we did not seem very threatening in this regatta, so we took advantage and asked lots of questions, payed attention to what our competitors were doing.
Second, our coach, Israel’s Eyal Levine, agreed to travel to Denmark prior to the World Championships to help us with what we deemed our biggest weakness: sail setup. Levine, a former Men’s 470 competitor who represented his country in this class at the 2016 Summer Olympics, taught us several different modes to sail, introduced us to the class measurers and provided instrumental tips to move forward.
Sailing in a World Championship offered an unmatched opportunity for us to pit our skills against other elite sailors and see how we measured up. That was far from all. There were many other smaller take-home messages that no other event could have taught us and that we now know never to do again.
● We were invited to join a training group of about 15 other 470 teams, mostly men. In the very first practice start, we ducked and hit the stern of one of the other teams. Although embarrassing, we did the right thing and arranged to have the hole in their boat repaired. It was tough to continue racing, to build our confidence up after that, but we shook it off, and we learned what to say to each other to refocus and keep moving forward.
● Boat parts are very expensive in Europe. A Harken traveler car (a piece about 2” X 1”) was over three times the price in Denmark that we could have purchased it for in the U.S. Traveling with a stock of spare parts is essential.
● The psychological component of the sport affected other teams in different ways. We stayed calm for the most part, and used adrenaline at the appropriate moments. From this we improved the way that we communicate with each other in tense situations. Discovering how to manage nerves and emotions was a lesson well learned.
● We received a scoring penalty for forgetting to check in after racing. The ramps were absolute chaos with Finns, 470 Men, 470 Women, Lasers and RSX sailors all in one place. This day, the Finns and Lasers returned at the same time we did. We helped several of them and took care of our equipment as well, meaning a thorough wash down and measuring settings. In doing so, we missed the time to return our tracker and sign in. The penalty was one point. That was the last point we will loose that way.
Here are some of the extremely positive reflections that have us fired up and confident moving forward:
● Our Starts: The starting lines were chaotic as crowded starts, aggressive sailors and fluky winds were challenging for us. Our plan was pick our space, time the race and own the start. The final day of racing, we had several practice starts in fluky winds. For each of these, we were one of the only boats smack dab right on the line and not over, thus avoiding something that would have bogged our point score with a black flag penalty.
● Cross Fleet Work: By owning the start, we gain opportunities to cross the fleet. The one time we did were able to do this in the regatta, we came to the windward mark in the top 10. Because we missed the opportunity to do this, we have built close boat crossing into our training program.
● Upwind Speed: Our speed upwind is great. We never came off the water thinking, ‘dang, we were slow today’. Both of our coaches throughout the event continuously told us we were fast sailors and quick learners.
● Tactics: We make good tactical calls, and when we didn’t we knew what the right move would have been.
● Our Potential: After the first day of racing, we weren’t too jazzed about our scores. The upside, however, is that we were scouted by another coach to join with his team this winter as a training partner. He recognized our potential, which gave us confidence.
What we did well
One of our primary goals was to simply to get it done. Before the event, to pick up our boat from Germany, to transport it to Denmark, to register, have our sails and boat measured, figure out where we were staying, train with our coach, rig the boat. During the race, we planned to arrive at the starting line on time and start each race! We didn’t have any breakdowns and checked our rigging/settings every day, we were successful in ensuring our boat was always ready to race and always controlling the variables we knew and could. We have pieces of the puzzle, and are confident with our speed and starts, the parts of our race that need to fall into place can all be corrected with time on the water, communication among ourselves and our coach, and tactical coaching.
The most difficult thing for us right now is to have patience. Patience, that is, that effective time in the boat will bring results and patience with ourselves knowing that we have a great foundation that will keep us on an upwards path.
We will be leaving for San Francisco to train during September and October with an excellent coach and the top German Women’s 470 team to make use of the US Sailing Team base at Treasure Island. After that, we move back to Miami to meet with training partners and prepare for the next Sailing World Cup Event in January. This January event will be our chance to officially qualify for the US Sailing Team.
Thank you for giving us your time, your energy, your resources, your knowledge and your support and for simply being there for us as we follow our dream of medaling in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.