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.

Blue

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.

ISAF SAILING WORLD CUP, Miami

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.

Miami: Week 1

Last weekend I drove down to Miami to begin a three-week training camp after taking a month off. During October I worked on fitness, and rested my injured ankle while receiving physiotherapy and acupuncture therapy. The drive down was very easy and glitch free, we took an inland route and managed to miss all traffic and weather brought on by Hurricane Sandy. I arrived in Miami to sunshine and temperature in the mid 20s. It is a true luxury after spending October in rainy Toronto. Upon arriving in Miami I moved into a small little beach cottage with my fellow training partners. So, now I am in full training mode to get ready for the upcoming 2013 season. The training group includes Evert McLaughlin (CAN), Robert Davis (CAN), and Charlie Buckingham (USA), as well we had Chris Dold (CAN) join in the sailing for the first three days. We also had the pleasure of having US Sailing Team coach Leandro Spina running the training.

Over the last week we had a mixture of conditions starting out the first couple days with some bigger westerly breeze left over from hurricane Sandy. With blue skies and 15-20 knots we were able to start off with picture perfect sailing and that was really enjoyable. The end of the week was much lighter wind. So the week was a real success and I’m feeling comfortable in the boat after taking time off. There is always room for improvement and I have found a couple specific weaknesses that I plan to improve over the next two week in Miami.