In mid-November I was able to head to Australia and bring a long eagerly awaited 5 week training session. I was eager to get sailing again and was physically fit from intense fall training at home. Ready to take advantage of the spectacular Sydney weather, I joined an international group of sailors under coach Brett Beyer. In the following weeks I worked on various skills in the fresh conditions with some sessions topping out at 5 hours in duration. I was able to make great strides in my boat speed across the wind ranges and truly elevate my thoughts while sailing to break down what going ‘fast’ means.
Stretching out in the open ocean
After two weeks of windy training in Sydney harbour I competed in three back to back regattas. Getting to the first regatta meant a 12 hour drive to Melbourne. In the Sail Melbourne warm up regatta (where not everyone participated but it was still great practice) I executed well tactically and finished 1st.
The ISAF Sailing World Cup main event in Melbourne ran December 9-13th and attracted some of the world’s top sailors. We raced in all sorts of conditions from light shifty to windy and wavy but I struggled in parts around the race course. The result was a disappointing 13th place – just out of the medal race. I let many races slip out of my hands with flawed decision making and inconsistent downwind speed.
Going downwind at Sail Melbourne
The final regatta of my Australian trip was Sail Sydney. Back in Sydney, I only had a couple days to rest before the racing began. On one day off we took the coach boat out and watched the SOLAS Big Boat Challenge which is a big boat race usually done by the largest boats competing in the Sydney to Hobart race. Since I would not be around for the start of the distance race, this was an amazing opportunity to see the 100 foot supermaxis in action. I later found during the Sail Sydney racing we would see them again, this time cutting right through our course!
SOLAS Big Boat Challenge – Perpetual Loyal and Ragamuffin 100
I had great speed during the racing but sometimes did not fully commit to the favoured side of the course. This slightly conservative approach means I did not lock away my leads and come back from a deficit as easily as I would like. I ended up 5th place with a lot to take away from the racing, but overall happy. I had done lots of training in Sydney Harbour but the racing was next level hectic. In every race we were dodging motorboats, ferries, 18 ft skiffs, 100 ft supermaxis all while trying to surf their wake upwind. It really made for some interesting racing!
On the way home I spent a wonderful two days visiting family in New Zealand before heading back to Toronto for the holidays. In the New Year I will be heading to Miami to begin preparations for the ISAF Sailing World Cup – Miami regatta.
In the months following a strong 2nd place and top Canadian finish at CORK in August I have been hard at work training with Canadian Sailing Team teammates Lee Parkhill and Matthew Ryder in my hometown of Toronto. The time at home has allowed me to focus on specific skills and movements which I found needed work from the previous season. I find it very useful to have dedicated training blocks not close to any major event so that I can try new things and experiment on the water. Luckily the weather cooperated (could have been much worse) and we were able to sail in relative warmth up until the end of October.
Training with coach Steve Mitchell
Training on the water has been followed up with extensive work in my home gym of Quantum Crossfit, where I have been building strength, endurance, balance and cardio health. Additionally I have been making regular trips to the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario for fitness testing and physio visits.
Pushing through the cycling test
Over the last two months I have also been keeping my skills sharp through training for and competing as main trimmer in the Canadian Match Racing Championships held October 16-18 at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Match racing is very different from fleet racing in that it is a who-beats-who battle between two boats. This type of racing emphasizes strong crew work, stellar command of the boat and superior knowledge of the rules. Match racing has helped me stay sharp when there are no Laser regattas going on and has greatly improved my knowledge of the rules.
Match Racing Recap
Next, I will be travelling to Sydney, Australia in early November to join an international group to train and prepare for the ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta in Melbourne, Australia. The trip will include 5 weeks of training and 4 regattas. I am confident the training and coaching I will receive will help refine my skills and push me to the next level. I will be home for Christmas and New Years before heading to Miami to prepare for the next Sailing World Cup regatta.
Thank you to all my supporters who continue to follow and fund me on this incredible journey! My next training update will be from Sydney.
The Laser North Americans was held in Manteo, NC from July 30 – August 2 this past weekend. It was the first time back in the Laser after 3 weeks off for the Pan Am Games and I finished 3rd overall.
The competition was not nearly as difficult to the World Championships, but it was one of the most challenging events mentally and physically I have ever sailed. All the competitors were battling the strong breeze and 35+ degree temperatures, but I had significant trouble especially the first day with a migraine the evening prior, a bad cough, and severe dehydration without being acclimatized to the heat at all.
These factors all led to the worst muscle cramps I’ve ever had where I could not open my hand to grasp ropes, vomiting between races and seeing stars and blue lights. Good times on the outer banks!
After a long month of competitions, focus is back on fitness over the next few months – aside from racing CORK in Kingston August 15-19.
The Pan Am Games experience ended with a fantastic and windy medal race held in the Toronto Harbour – finishing 3rd in the race and 5th overall (10 countries). The event ran from July 12 – 19, 2015 and featured 148 competitors from 21 nations spread out over 10 classes. All classes competed in an opening series consisting of 5 days of racing, and a final medal race in Toronto Harbour.
My crew Alexandra Damley-Strnad and I began the racing with two 3rd place finishes but were not able to consistently finish near the top for the rest of the races which left us in 5th going into the medal race. The medal race was quite a thrill as there were 50+ RCYC boats and other supporters out watching the race in the harbour. In addition, there were hundreds of supporters lining the official spectating area on Sugar Beach. On top of all the spectators watching, the Snipes did not know racing was over an hour ahead of schedule and all got to the race course right as the start sequence began. The rushed preparations, windy conditions, strong competition and short course made for an exciting medal race!
Hiking at the first windward mark in medal race
All in all, I am very happy with our performance at the Games. Our initial goal was to make the medal race in the very competitive international fleet, and even though our strong start made me hope we could possibly medal we ended up finishing where I expected. In a boat as technical and finicky as the Snipe, I was very happy we were able to make the medal race with the little experience we had. Our main mentor and training partner Augie Diaz has been sailing the boat longer than I have been alive!
When I heard the Games were coming to Toronto I knew compete in them however possible. This incredible journey led me to sail double handed for the first time, learn a brand new boat, meet some amazing lifelong friends, and have the superb opportunity to represent Canada in my home city and at my home yacht club.
Father and son discussing weather and winds between races
I would like to thank first and foremost my crew Alexandra Damley-Strnad for making the decision 7 months ago to sail with me in our first regatta, and for committing herself completely to the campaign trail right up until the end of the medal race. To all the family and friends of both Alexandra and I, thank you for the help and support you have given us along the road to the Games. For all the sponsors – Royal Canadian Yacht Club, Port Credit Yacht Club, University of Miami, Quantum Crossfit, Elevate Me – thank you!
Finally, congratulations to the Canadian medal winners! Silver – Terry McLaughlin (J24). Silver – Luke Ramsay (Sunfish). Bronze – Lee Parkhill (Laser).
Pan Am Sailing Info
This past weekend concluded the TS&CC Icebreakers Regatta // Toronto Pan Am Games Trials for the Snipe, Hobie 16, Lightning and J24 classes. My crew Alexandra Damley-Strnad and I sailed well enough in the Snipe class qualifying for the Pan American Games this July in Toronto! On top of that, my father Terry McLaughlin qualified for the Pan Am Games as well in the J24 class!
In February, I placed second in the Laser Pan Am Trials so it was great to get redemption in the Snipe class. At the beginning of May, I returned from Laser training in Lake Garda, Italy turning my attention full time to the Snipe. My crew and I worked long hours for two weeks fixing the boat and improving our boat handling ahead of the trials. We sought advice from top Snipe sailors from around the world and made sure we that were sailing without fault.
At our previous regatta together – the Snipe Midwinters – we were the top Canadian boat. We hoped to continue that at the trials. Even though we had been fast this winter, we weren’t sure of our boat speed. In the first race, the Jury gave us a yellow flag for an infraction right before the race started. This meant we had to do two circles as the fleet raced away from us. We realised we had good speed when we caught up from last place to 3rd in the race! Following this first race, we won the next six races thereby securing the regatta and trials victory. The racing was very close and great practice for the Pan Am Games. We won one of the races by only 1 meter!
Off to a good start
I am thrilled to be able to represent Canada in my home city. Qualifying for the Games is only the first step as we need to be very fast at the Games. Moving forward, I plan to continue training in both the Snipe and Laser full time until Laser Worlds in the first week of July, and the Pan Am Games in the middle of July. We have some great training organized already where we will work on speed, starts and boat handling leading into the Games.
A BIG thank you to my supporters who have kept be going thus far. In addition to my personal supporters I’d like to thank Volvo, Helly Hansen and Quantum Crossfit here in Toronto. I am so glad to have organizations, family, friends and RCYC members behind us as we compete for a medal. We have much more work before the Games so your continued support is appreciated!
Congratulations to the eighteen athletes who have qualified for the Games! Full list here:
Twenty-two teams from 7 countries attended the 77th Snipe Midwinter Championships, hosted by Clearwater Yacht Club on March 15-17 in Clearwater, FL. As four teams present had already qualified for the Pan American Games the regatta was a great opportunity to get a feel for the competition.
Over 3 days we got nine races in 5-13 knots of breeze, providing great conditions for racing. Having not sailed the boat recently, my crew Alexandra Damley-Strnad and I began the first day with speed and starting issues but were able to constantly make positive adjustments to our technique and sail trim throughout the regatta. These improvements led to consistent finishes with all but three races outside the top 5.
The regatta highlights were holding off two multiple Snipe Midwinters past champions Augie Diaz and Ernesto Rodriguez in Race 4 to win it, and coming back from 13th place in Race 9 to finish 3rd.
Canada was well represented with 6 boats led by coach Thomas Fogh. We sailed well enough to finish top Canadian – giving us some momentum we hope to carry to the Snipe Pan American Trials at the Toronto Sailing and Canoe Club in May.
We were happy with our 5th overall finish given the high level of competition. Congratulations to Snipe legend and mentors Augie Diaz and Kathleen Tocke for winning the Championships. The fleet now heads on to Miami for the Don Q regatta but I am heading to Palma de Mallorca, Spain to prepare for my first European Laser regatta.