Miami World Cup

This year the Miami World Cup event was more stacked than I’ve ever seen it. There were 44 of the top 50 ranked laser sailors in attendance with a total of 108 competitors, so I knew competition would be as good as it gets.

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The first day forecasted for some big shifty breeze with some storm clouds moving through the course area. Considering I had a few capsizes in the big 30+ knot puffs I finished the day very well with two top ten scores. I was able to depend on my upwind speed to keep me in the top of the fleet.

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On Day 2 the wind was a bit lighter and just as shifty, with 3 races scheduled. I continued to finish consistently close to the top. In the second race I rounded the first mark in about 40th but was able to have connect some shifts up the middle of the second upwind to finish the race solidly in 14th. In the final race of the day I sailed well the whole race just inside the top ten only to mess it up, making a stupid error on my jibe toward the finish. I capsized allowing a group of 12 boats to pass me seconds before the finish. It was a frustrating way to finish what should have been a really good day. Unfortunately, I think I carried some of the frustration into the 3rd day scoring two races in the 40s.

Thankfully on Day 4 I was able to refocus put together a really good race to start the day. The breeze was up and I managed to have a great start and sail fast enough to get ahead of the main pack of boats early on, giving me the freedom to sail my own race. I managed a 4th place which is really good for me in such a tough good fleet.

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The final day was much lighter breeze and we only managed to sail one race before the wind completely shut off. In that race I rounded the first mark in 10th but missed a huge wind shift on the second upwind only to finish mid fleet.

I finished 28th overall in the regatta and top Canadian so despite some big mistake it was still a decent result. The plan is to improve on that finish for the next one and continue to finish top Canadian at every event. Next up is Laser Mid-Winters East, which is also the Canadian selection for the Pan Am Games this summer. So finishing top Canadian has never been so important.

December in Florida

Spending the first three weeks of December in Clearwater was another really productive training block for me.

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The first week was supposed to be a week off since I didn’t have a coach but a few of us decided to continue going out everyday to refine or skills from the previous weeks. We worked mostly on speed with our small group and did our best to coach ourselves. I ended up sailing for 11 days in row, so I was really logging some good productive hours.

On the weekend I made the trip south to Sarasota to compete in the Laser District 13 Championships. District 13 is the North American Laser district for Florida so the regatta normally just brings in a few of the top local sailors from around the state. This year was unique since there were 5 of us from the Canadian Sailing Team and 4 guys from the Norwegian Sailing Team. We all just used it as a training regatta to get in some good racing practise. The first day was super light wind and flat water, a condition I’ve really been working hard to improve on. So with great starts a was able to stay in front and go fast, I managed to score a 3, 1, 3 in the races and be tied for first overall after the day. The second day was a little bit windier and a lot shiftier making it a bit tougher to sail consistantly. In the four races and a had some ups and downs scoring one OCS and also committing a costly foul. Thankfully I still managed to get some good scores and come out with the win on the regatta. Pictured bellow is the podium from the regatta with Kristen Ruth from Norway in second and Mathias Mollatt from Norway in third.

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The following two weeks back in Clearwater I saw a lot of light wind which is really good practise for me. Historically, I’ve had less confidence on the lighter, breeze days, so getting a ton of good light training days is exactly what I needed. I was focusing really hard on straight line upwind boat speed, something that is challenging being a heavier than average laser sailor. So with that I am beginning to be confident to sail well in all conditions.

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The last few days before the Norwegian team left we all got together to do some more short course racing. It’s so nice to see such a drastic improvement over a short time from just putting in the hard work. To sum up the entire month in Clearwater, I would say it was some of the most productive training of the year and I’ve never been so focused on getting better. I spent about 100 hours on the water and even more time on fitness and expanding my sailing knowledge.

On Sunday after some time off to enjoy the holidays I’m heading to Trinidad to train with Trinidad and Tobago’s Olympic sailor Andrew Lewis. I’m looking forward to getting back to some more hard work.

Clearwater Training

The last two weeks I’ve been training in Clearwater, Florida. It’s been great to get back to sailing in nice, warm, breezy conditions after some time off, spent at home in Toronto.

I drove down south two weeks ago with teammate Evert McLaughlin. We had intentions of spending a week training in Charleston, South Carolina along the way, but that was cut down to only two days, since we had a few trailer break downs on our journey. Anyway, it was still nice to check out a new place a get some sailing in before our training block in Florida. We trained with Quique Arathoon (El Savador) and Stefano Paschiera (Peru), they were also nice enough to host us at the house where they live practically right on the College of Charleston campus.

When we got to Clearwater it was business as usual, back to 3-4 hour on-water sessions with our Canadian Team Coach Steve Mitchell. With just four of us in our training group we spent most of the first week working on speed in the heavy winds that were on offer. It’s nice to now have a smaller group on the team. This allows us to make the training a little more focused and personalized. Although we did finished the week with some races where the Canadian Laser Squad also took part. In the first three races I made a few errors that had me trying to catch up for the most part. But after that, the breeze picked up and I was able to win the remaining three races on the day.

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After a day off to rest the Norwegian Laser Team arrived and we had them join our small group for a few days. It’s great to train with people from different places, who have different sailing backgrounds. There is always lots to teach and lots to learn. We continued to work primarily on speed, and it’s great to see how each different style works well in different scenarios. On Wednesday we were lucky enough to have a 18 knot North wind which sets up perfectly for an downwind session. We are able to sail south along the coast for 30+ kilometres from Clearwater Beach to Madeira Beach then de-rig our boats and use the coach boat to tow them back up the inner coastal to Clearwater. This not only allows me to work on and refine downwind technique but also makes for a really fun high-speed session.

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The next three weeks I will be continuing to train here in Clearwater, with lots of on water time and time spent working on fitness both in the gym and on my new road bike. Overall I’m feeling really good and focused, working toward my goal of qualifying for the Pan American Games next summer in Toronto. The qualifier takes place here in Clearwater at the end of February. The top Canadian finisher at the Mid-Winters East regatta gets to represent Canada next summer. Right now nothing would make me happier than being that Canadian representative in my home city. Although the ultimate goal is still of course the Olympics in 2016.

March in Mexico

After Miami OCR I was feeling pretty burnt out from so much sailing, but I ended up sailing two regattas anyway. First the Lauderdale OCR, where I was sick and placed 6th overall, which was pretty disappointing. Then at the end of February I competed in Mid-Winders East in Clearwater, Florida. There I had some good moments but over all still sailed pretty poorly and placed 9th. Once I was done in Florida for the season after the Mid-Winters, I moved down to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to spend time at the International Sailing Academy.

The first couple weeks in Mexico I didn’t do any sailing. I felt like I was sailing so much and seriously that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I normally do, so I figured a couple weeks off would be good for me. I spent much these weeks doing lots of surfing,  and helping out a bit at ISA, which was very refreshing. The first weekend I was there ISA put on the Mexican Masters Regatta. I helped out with doing mark set and it was fun hanging out and getting to know the masters sailors.

I also joined a crossfit gym, which is something I’ve never done before. Normally my workouts are slow and structured in a normal gym with bikes and heavy weights, but crossfit is new for me and I’m really enjoying it. The workouts are with a class and they really force me to push myself to exhaustion. I think its good practice for pushing myself physically while hiking in my laser and I’m feeling pretty fit these days.

Last week I got the opportunity to sail a J/160 for the Banderas Bay Regatta. The J/160 is a 53 foot cruiser/racer keel boat. We did a couple of practice days with the crew leading up to the regatta, where I was placed on mainsail trim. On the first day of the regatta we sailed one ten-mile race on a gold cup course. We had a pretty bad start where we hit the line about 15 seconds after go but managed to sail a really good race as a team and still got the win.

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On the second day we wanted to get a better start seeing as that was our main weakness from the previous day. We ended up getting to the line at the boat end to early and we tried to sail down the line a bit to kill some time. Unfortunately the boat to leeward headed up aggressively right before the start and forced us up. We ended up not having enough time to avoid which caused a collision. When we hit the leeward boat, Mike our tactician fell while trying to fend off and got his legs caught between the two boats. Half the crew jumped to his side to help him while the other half quickly took down the sails marking the end of our race. We motored him to a Marina Vallarta, which has a hospital close by. The trip to the marina took over an hour and I can only imagine the discomfort. It ended up that he had multiple compound fractures in each leg requiring surgery.

Later in the day I went down to the yacht club to help our team in the protest, but for some reason that I can’t understand the race committee cancelled the hearing while we where with Mike in the hospital because they didn’t think we had a case. I thought it was really poor form on their part since someone was injured and thousands of dollars in damage was a stake.

The next day the owners and crew weren’t up for finishing the regatta after such a tragic situation the previous day. It was quite an insane experience over all.

Over the next weeks I am going to get back into laser sailing, to get warmed up for training with fellow Canadian Team sailors Evert McLaughlin and Rob Davis when they arrive in Mexico April 1st. We will be training for the first three weeks of April together and finish off the trip by sailing the WesMex Regatta April 19-21.

ISAF World Cup: Miami

Miami OCR normally sees light shifty winds from a variety of directions. This year however we got great windy sailing conditions everyday so it turned out to be a really fun regatta for me. I ended up placing 16th overall, a good enough position to re-qualify for the 2013 Canadian Sailing Team.

The regatta started off on Monday with 12-15 knots and sunny skies. I ended up winning the first race of the regatta by a huge distance. It was one of those races where every wind shift and gust just seemed to come right to me. The picture bellow Canadian Team Coach Steve Mitchell took of me crossing the line in first. In the second race I got 10th, which had me finish the day in 4th place overall.

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On day 2, things did not go so well for me. I broke my mast on the top reach while in 5th place.  Ontario Team coach Murray was able to help me replace the mast while on the water so I could sail the second race of the day where I finished 9th.

Day 3 we saw winds of about 18 knots. I thought it would be really favorable conditions for me. However I ended up with two races where I placed 14th which was really disappointing for me. I had poor downwind speed all day and was making bad tactical calls upwind; I also had a yellow flag from the jury, which definitely didn’t help.

The conclusion of day 3 was also the end of the qualifiers race series, where the fleet gets split into a gold and sliver fleet. Because it is the beginning of the Olympic quadrennial the class decided to experiment with new ways of scoring the fleet. So, instead of taking the scores from the qualifying series and carrying them over into the final series, they decided to just take each sailor’s qualifying ranking to carryover into the final series. This meant that the 6 races sailed in the qualifying series had the same value of only one race in the final series. For me it didn’t make too much of a difference as far as where I finished, but for some people it changed their final position significantly. Overall, I don’t think the new scoring system was an accurate way to represent how well each sailor competed.

Anyway, in Gold fleet we sailed 5 races, starting with 3 on day 4. That day we had much shiftier winds with less wind in the first couple races. In all three of the races I sailed absolutely terribly. My starts were pretty bad and I followed up on the first upwinds very poorly. Luckily I was able to make pretty significant come backs in all three of the races but my scores were still pretty bad. So after day 4 I was in 22nd place and 8th Canadian, meaning I wouldn’t re-qualify for the Canadian Team in that position.

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On day 5 (the final day of Gold Fleet) I knew I needed to sail really well. The wind was blowing a good 20 knots so as long as I worked really hard I knew I could do it. In the first race I came out flying and was able to finish 6th. I literally crossed the finish line completely out of breath. In the final race I messed up the first upwind and rounded in about 30th place but worked really hard battling through the fatigue in my legs and pain in my injured ankle. I managed to come back and place 11th in the race. Those last two races I pushed myself harder than ever before, beyond what I thought my body was physically capable of.

Overall the regatta was a success, even though I didn’t reach my goal of the top 10. I was happy with how I sailed but still want do much better. Over the next month I plan on training in Miami, Lauderdale and Clearwater to prepare for the Laser MidWinter’s Regatta at the end of February.

Preparation For Miami OCR

Picture 8After spending six days relaxing at home in Toronto I flew down to Miami do begin preparations for Miami Olympic Class Regatta, the second regatta on the ISAF World Cup Circuit. I arrived December 26th to great weather and a busy sailing center filled with youth sailors getting ready for the Orange Bowl. I had decided weeks prior along with some other friends on the CST sailors to compete in the adult Orange Bowl regatta. It is a separate event from the youth regatta and much smaller, most of the competitors are master’s sailors. It was a much more relaxed atmosphere, a great way to start my winter in Florida.

The regatta was a ten race series over the course of four days. Most of the races were light and shifty winds. I had a lot of trouble with consistency the whole regatta. Some races I’d miss an important gust or shift and be trying to catch up the whole time and others I sailed great. I ended up with a couple race wins and a couple races in the double digits as well, so I ended up fourth overall.

After the Orange Bowl I started to train with the Ontario Sailing Team with Murray McCullough coaching. It was a tough camp because there were over 10 boats and a huge range of skill level, from a couple of us on the CST down to guys at the development stage of the provincial level. It can be frustrating training with less experienced guys but I figure it’s really important for them. I’ve been the least experience sailor at many training camps and it is definitely where I learn the most.

When Steve Mitchell arrived, the new CST Laser coach, we were able to separate into two different groups to have more focused training. I hadn’t been coached much by Steve before but so far a really like working with him. Lately I’ve been coached a lot on the technical side of laser sailing but he focuses on a broader perspective, which is a nice change.

Now with many more sailors arriving to get ready for OCR we’re doing lots of practice races. It’s great for me to make sure I’m ready for the regatta next week.

Arriving in Brazil

In August of this summer I met Joao Hackerott during the CORK regatta in Kingston. He promptly invited me down to his home in Sao Paulo, Brazil for a month of Laser sailing. Without hesitation my trip was all booked within a couple weeks. So following the conclusion of my training block in Miami on November 19th I flew directly to Sao Paulo, not knowing exactly what to expect.

Joao picked me up at the airport and we made the hour and a half long drive to the other side of the city where he lives. Sao Paulo is probably the craziest and biggest city I’ve ever been to. The traffic is insane and there is an endless skyline of high-rises and fevelas.

Upon arriving, I got to check out his home club, Yacht Club Santo Amaro on a small lake in the south of Sao Paulo. It is also the home yacht club of Olympic legend Robert Scheidt.

Also on the trip are laser sailors Marco Gallo from Italy and Lander Balcean from Belgium. For the first couple days we got organized for the coming weeks and went to the gym at the University of Sao Paulo. On Friday we drove to Rio de Janerio to check out the venue for the 2016 Olympics and do some training.

So far Rio has been awesome. On the first day we decided to do a long upwind out into the open ocean in about 15 knots and some big swells. After over an hour of upwind the breeze had picked up to 25+ knots. Since our gear we are using is older then we are used to, we decided we should head back and sail close to the harbor incase something were to break. It was just to be safe, since we didn’t have a coach out with us in a motorboat. It was a really fun, long downwind, with huge waves and the wind eventually getting into the high 30s. I think one of the gusts must have been about 40 knots and it may have been the fastest I have ever gone in Laser. Right as we reached the mouth of the harbor Marco’s rudder broke off the back of his boat and was hopelessly drifting downwind before being saved by a passing boat. It still ended up being a great day of sailing, here is a short video.

The last couple days were much lighter wind. They were conditions more typical to Rio. It was very shifty and around 10 knots with strong currents that vary in direction and strength all over the harbor. These conditions will also be expected for most of the Olympic competition in four years from now. So with many marks in the harbor we have been able to practice lots of short course racing which has been very productive.

Plans are not finalized for the coming weeks but we will likely travel to an island called Ilhabela to find some stronger winds. Then there is a regatta starting December 8th at Yacht Club Santo Amaro where we will compete.