Winter Update, The Pursuit of Gain(z), And The Road Ahead
April 5, 2017
It's been a while since my last big update, so here goes!
After winning the Orange Bowl Regatta, I had the amazing opportunity to see a bunch of close friends from school and then spent the rest of the month training in Miami. I managed to get a bunch of good training in at a US Sailing Team camp to start the month, then trained for 5 days with 2-time Laser World Champion Nick Thompson in the Dominican Republic, and then went back to Miami to race in the Ft. Lauderdale regatta. Though this regatta did not go as well as I had hoped, it allowed me to figure out what my priorities should be going forward in terms of training. Starting at the Ft. Lauderdale event, I realized that I need to really work on my upwind boat speed in 13+ knots, and have worked hard over the past months to improve in this area. Also, I realized I really need to work on my starts as I couldn't get off the line in a clean lane in any race of that event. I ended up 8th at this event, but know I could have done better.
For the week following the Ft. Lauderdale event, I trained in Miami leading up to Sail World Cup Miami, the first major international regatta of the year! This was a highly beneficial time, both because the people I was training with were very fast and because I started working with Chris Herrera of Jaguar Therapeutics, in order to improve my strength and conditioning. I then raced in SWC Miami and had a bit of an eye opening event. The level of racing in the 60 boat fleet was one of the highest I've ever experienced, and though I had some good races, it was a tough week for me on the water. It reinforced the need for me to improve my upwind boat speed in breeze and also forced me to seriously look at my starting technique, as I found I was severely lacking in this departament. On a positive note, it was good to get "gold fleet" level experience as most of the top guys in the world were at this event.
Following this, I packed everything up and drove almost 2400 miles to South Western Mexico, specifically a sleepy town called La Cruz near the city of Puerto Vallarta. The road trip was an interesting life experience, to say the least, with many hilarious situations arising throughout. Overall, Mexico is way safer than the popular culture opinion, especially if you stick to the toll roads, and avoid the known "hot spots." I had a few Mexican friends who directed me as to which roads I should take and had no problems whatsoever on this drive! Once I got there I began a 2 month training block at the International Sailing Academy with my Canadian training partner, Justin Norton. This was some of the best, if not the best, training I've done since I started my campaign! With every day being sunny, warm, and windy, going sailing was both super fun and very productive. I also hit the gym really hard and made some good gain(z) in the fitness department. I managed to really improve my upwind speed in breeze, and thanks to some great coaching from Vaughn Harrison and Colin Gowland, I changed my hiking posture to be way more efficient and powerful.
Outside of sailing, I also picked up surfing and really improved my Spanish during my time in Mexico. It's one of the coolest places I've ever been, and am all ready excited to go back there and train some more next year!
In the middle of this training block, I made a quick trip to Clearwater, FL, for the Laser Midwinters East regatta. This turned out to be a very successful event as I finished 6th out of 50+ boats and showed some amazing speed at times, especially downwind in light-medium conditions. Though my starts were still not very good, I had generally very good decision making which allowed me to recover and get back to around the top 10 in almost every race. One interesting anecdote I have from this event, is that sometimes it's the races where you are the most screwed that end up being the biggest learning experiences. I had a race in which I was dead last off the starting line, as I had a port-tacker try to cross me and not make it and due to the fact that I had a boat above and below me, I ended up hitting him. This left the 4 of us rail-locked and frantically trying to push of of each other and get racing again. I stayed calm, and made the "right desicion" repeatedly, and with the help of a massive left shift, managed to recover to 12th by the windward mark. Throughout the rest of the race I kept making good decisions, and showed some AMAZING downwind speed to finish the race in 3rd. Looking back, this showed me the importance of staying cool all of the time, and also managed to give me a massive confidence boost! Also, over the last few years I've gotten into the habit of not checking the results during a regatta as I believe that this is just a distraction. I know that if I sail well, the results will be there to back it up, and if I don't sail well, they will only bring me down, so I tend not to check results till after the event is over. So, on the last day of the regatta I had a pretty nice experience when my coach (who is also my Father) told me that I had placed 6th! Overall, I was super happy with this event and this left me hungry for more gain(z) in boat speed.
After Midwinters, I went back to Mexico and trained for 2 more weeks before racing in the WesMex regatta. There I placed 3rd, and had a decent event, considering the lack of competition (my training partners and I placed 1st through 4th and basically just duked it out over the course of the event). This event was the culmination of my time in Mexico and served as a good end point for my time down there.
I then packed up and started a 2 week period of hard driving. First a wild 2800 mile trip home from Mexico which was filled with everything from gut-wrenching sickness that had me throwing up all night on the first night of the drive, to cold nights in the car at rest stops in the middle of nowhere, USA, to taking dirt roads through the Smokey Mountains due to highway closures. I managed to get home eventually, and even got to see a few close friends along the way! After a fun weekend in NYC, I flew to Europe to begin my 2.5 month training/regatta block, though before I could get on the water, I had to drive another 1800 miles from Gdansk, Poland, to Barcelona, Spain, and take an 8 hour ferry to get to Mallorca. This was also quite the adventure, and left me in awe at the beauty of some of the places I saw along the drive (out of the car of course, no time to stop).
After a few days of training in Mallorca on my brand new boat (which I had picked up in October after another crazy drive across Europe), I sailed in the 48th Princess Sofia Trophy regatta. This is one of the biggest Olympic classes events in the world, and one of the hardest events I've ever raced in. I came in with the goal of making silver fleet, but surprised myself with good speed and some great finished to end up 3rd in Silver (63/143 overall). I missed gold fleet by a single point, and although I was disappointed by this, I know now that I'm finally getting to the level where making gold fleet and competing with the best of the best is a real possibility. This gives me a lot of confidence, and has me excited for the future!
All in all, after 5 regattas, almost 3.5 months of hard training, 12,000+ miles driven, 10+ flights, and 2 long ferry rides, I can say for the first time that I've noticed significant gains in my speed in all conditions, and this has definitely buoyed my self confidence! Going forward, I now have a few days of training here in Hyeres in Southern France, followed by a 90 boat Europa Cup event. I will then train for a few more days here before most likely going back to Lake Garda for a second time in a year to train with the Polish National team. Describing myself as excited would be an understatement, and although I very much miss home, my family, and my friends, I know that if I work hard now, I can make even greater jumps in terms of my sailing abilities.