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.
After concluding in late October that Toronto’s waters were too cold for sailing, fellow Canadian Sailing Team member Tom Ramshaw and I drove down to Clearwater, Florida on November 10th. On the way down we stopped in Charleston, South Carolina where we were able to train in a new location with Quique Arathoon (El Savador) and Stefano Paschiera (Peru). Charleston was a beautiful city, and it is always very productive training with people of other nationalities.
As soon as we arrived in Clearwater we resumed normal training of 3-4 hours each day on the water with Canadian Sailing Team coach Steve Mitchell. Training in a small group allowed a lot of focused coaching and feedback from Steve when working on technique and speed, while we were able to also join the other Canadian sailors for starting and racing practice. Part way through the camp, members of the Norwegian Sailing Team arrived to train with us. It was fantastic to learn from them as their sailing styles and boat set up can vary in many conditions. On one day with a northwest breeze of 15-20 knots, we all sailed a downwind down the Floridian coast for about 30 miles to Madiera Beach. After then de-rigging the boats waist deep in water, the boats were towed up the inter-coastal back to Clearwater. Long downwinds provide great opportunity to repeatedly work on a skill and improve my downwind speed.
In between the pair of two week camps, I headed home for a week to rest and to take my wisdom teeth out.
On December 5th, I was back down for the final two weeks of training. We started with a training regatta at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron. Racing was light on both days – less than 10 knots – and the shifts were large, and sometimes unpredictable. I was able to put up a few good races including two race wins, but was inconsistent in others and finished 5th place. Unfortunately, I had to be on quite a bit of medications during the regatta and in the first week of the following camp because I had an infection from the wisdom teeth removal. After making a full recovery, I ended the training camp strongly, working hard in the gym, and on the water on speed in the mostly light air conditions, as well as practicing a lot on starting.
I am home now for the holidays, recovering, working out, and visiting physiotherapy and massage at the Canadian Sports Institute of Ontario. On January 2nd, I will be back down south cross-training boats by racing a Snipe in the Miami Snipe Invitational in Miami, Florida. After, I will be back in my Laser and training hard in Miami in preparation for the ISAF Sailing World Cup – Miami on January 26 – 31, 2015.
My first World Championships was held at the Al-Mussanah Sports City, 100km north of Muscat, Oman. The resort-style venue was an incredible place to eat, live and train with beautiful weather and consistent breeze. On the days off, we were able to explore the close surroundings, go snorkling at nearby islands, and engage with the locals.
The event started well, putting up solid results in the windy qualifying days, but a DSQ and a couple bad races kept me out of the Gold fleet for the Final Series races. I was punching off the line quite well, and had good boat speed upwind through the chop. As well, I was happy with my windward mark approaches – always making gains and minimizing major mistakes.
I felt that I moved consistently through the fleet when the shifts were oscillating, but sometimes did not react properly to a persistent shift/puff by jumping ship and going to the other side of the course. This caused some horrendous races which were hard to come back from. Additionally, I need to work on speed in light/medium conditions, especially in flat water.
One deathly harsh lesson I learned is… do your 720s. The whole thing. After getting flagged off one qualifying race start, I started my spin with a gybe instead of a tack like I normally do upwind. Since I was used to ending my upwind 720s with a gybe, I finished my second spin after only a gybe, meaning I missed the last tack from port to starboard. I ended up catching up a ton and having a good race actually, but was DSQd for not completing my two spins. It need not be said I will never make this blunder again.
Transitioning from smaller North American events to the Laser World’s is not an easy task, but I was happy with most starts and breezy boat speed. Looking forward, I need to work on light air boat speed, starting right at the favourite end, and recognition of persistent shifts. Next up, training in Florida before 2014 Miami OCR.