Worlds Wrap Up


At 22:00, we pull out of the Airport Marriott parking lot… Finally on the way to Pwllheli with ten sailors, two drivers, and four sail tubes crammed into ten seats!  After a quick stop to grab food, I follow Annie Merson’s car down the freeway for about an hour until her GPS directs us to exit and we begin to follow a series of winding side streets to get to the hotel for our first night in Wales. 

Fifteen minutes pass, and the road gets narrower and windier.  Thirty minutes; no sign of the hotel.  An hour passes, and we figure out how to use the GPS in our car, which tells us we’re only half way there!  Max, who is sitting in a foot well in the second row begins to feel sick from the winding road and the smell of traveling sailors…

Finally, as Max is getting ready to roll down the window and lose his dinner, we come around a curve in the road, and see the hotel!  Success!

After checking into our rooms, the kids go to get settled while I pay, and the receptionist realizes that we’re not supposed to be in one of the rooms.  Kids re-locate into new rooms. 

2:30am…  I make one last round to check on everyone and make sure all of the sailors have a bed to sleep in.  California kids are rooming with Florida kids.  Ten sailors are crammed into six small beds.  Everyone is smiling and joking about the situation, and spirits are high.  After a grueling day of travel, I can’t believe what a positive attitude the whole team has.


Over the last two weeks in Wales, there have been almost two hundred teams on the water each day with identical looking sails, identical hulls, and many talented athletes among them, but every morning as I motored out to meet the team, I could spot my group from a mile away.  They were the six boats clustered tightly together, speed testing on starboard first, then on port, then in groups of three splitting to each side of the course to test the pressure difference.  They were always among the first boats on the course, and supported each other both on and off of the water.  The team’s relaxed and supportive attitude on the first wild evening of countryside driving and “musical-hotel-rooms” set the tone for the remainder of the adventure in Wales, and really exemplified the strength of this team that gave them an edge on the international stage.

Reflecting on the lead up to the event this summer, I think that we did a lot of things right, and the results reflected this.  The sapling, US Sailing Olympic Development Program brought together and provided coaching for an awesome group of top talent in the correct venues to hone heavy air boat speed tuning and techniques.  These camps were complimented by windy regattas in the Gorge and San Francisco with teams from the East Coast, West Coast, and Canada.  In Wales, the heavy air preparation paid off in the qualifying series, which saw two days of big breeze and massive waves.  In the final series, Chris and Wade finished 1st and 2nd in the two windy races of the series, with the rest of the team not far behind.  The ODP group training approach really pushed the bar high for all of the teams who were involved in the windy training camps, unfortunately our lead up wasn’t quite long enough. 

This is the first year that the US Sailing Olympic Development Program has existed, and as such, the national effort to bring together the top talent did not begin in earnest until the June ODP Camp at Saint Francis Yacht Club, leaving only two months to prepare for the start of the 29er Worlds.  While teams had all been working separately for some time, the combination of top teams and consistent coaching immediately sent the learning curve skyrocketing.  With the time constraints of working to peak at the worlds, the windy venues made for ideal training grounds, because we knew that the venue would have a lot of breeze for much of the regatta, but as a team, the lack of time together in light air was evident when the breeze dropped for the first two days of the final series at the Worlds.  The team approach to pre-race research kept our teams afloat through those light air days by keeping our scorelines more consistent than most of our competitors’, but ultimately, our lack of time in light air was a major detriment to our overall results.  With a calendar full of ODP events throughout the next year, and training across the full spectrum of conditions, I think that the outlook for the team is extremely positive at the Worlds in Medemblick next year!

The story of the regatta is a podium finish, with three teams in the top fifteen, and five in gold fleet.  It’s a story about a US team who demonstrated that they can compete head to head with the Aussie and Kiwi skiff squads across a wide range of conditions.  Ultimately thought, I think that the biggest story is one that the results don’t show; the story of twelve talented sailors coming together in a few short months to push each other, support each other, and build a body of knowledge worthy of a podium finish.  Among the skills that we had time to practice, I think that our guys proved that they are the very best in the world.  Chris and Wade led the charge with their third place finish, but without the support of Nic and Ian, Max and Andrew, Sam and Michael, Jacob, Rhodes and Evan, and Shane and Pere, the scoreboard would have told a different story.  I am thoroughly impressed by the team effort that all of these sailors put in to make this happen, and I can’t wait to where it takes us as a national squad. 

Out Of The Gates

The sun set over Pwllheli as the final boats wheeled up the beach back to the club.  After a six hour postponement on shore and three super challenging races, the sailors in all of the fleets were ready for dinner and an early bed time.

Today was a challenging day mentally both on shore, and on the water.  Light, shifty wind coming from over the land made for a jumbled fleet, with unpredictable wind shifts and big position changes throughout the day, but the US squad battled hard for several good opening-day score lines.  One of the highlights of the day, was the battle at the front of the fleet in race two, when Max and Andrew rounded the first mark in fourth after a clean start and first beat, and then proceeded to pick off the remaining three boats one at a time, in a series of close quarters, tactical battles around the rest of the course. 

Currently Chris and Wade are leading the American charge, sitting in 3rd overnight, while Max and Andrew sit 6th, and Nic and Ian 7th to round out our top 10 performances so far.  Tomorrow is moving day, and with slightly more wind forecast, we're in a great position to jump up in the rankings.  Check out the full results here, and wish us luck!


Waiting Game

When the AP flag goes up, the waiting game begins; which teams team can stay relaxed, stay hydrated, and retain the ability to switch back into race mode when the flag drops?  Yesterday we spent the day sitting around the couches upstairs at the sailing club, playing cards, putting together our "fantasy sailing teams" for next year's 29er teams, and waiting for the wind.  At one point the breeze looked promising and the RC sent the fleet out, but it quickly faded, and shortly after, racing was cancelled for the day.

We're back in the café upstairs at the club this morning, waiting for wind on the first day of the final series, and while the bay looks glassy at the moment, the forecast is calling for late breeze, so we're staying sharp, and waiting for the next update from the race committee.

With the scoreboard basically back to square one, there's everything to play for today, so wish the team luck!

Qualifying Series update

It has been a whirlwind week-one, so I haven't had much time or energy to sit down and post about our adventure, but now that we've settled into the rhythm of racing, I'll try to post daily updates for the remainder of the event.

Today was day two of the qualifying series at the World Championship, so for the last two days, the fleets have been seeded and divided into four, roughly even fleets of about 50 boats each.  Yesterday I was on Course A with Sam and Michael, Chris and Wade, and Ian and Nic, while Leandro covered the other three teams on Course B.  With about fourteen to eighteen knots and lumpy chop, the goal for the day was to put up some keeper scores, and to get settled into the rhythm of big fleet racing.  All three teams did an awesome job getting to the course early, working together to get tuned up, and working hard  between races to figure out which side was favored, and where to set up on the line.  Overall, day one was a fairly low drama day, with the Team USA boys executing strong starts, and rounding many of the marks first, second, and top ten.  The whole team sailed very well, with Chris and Wade leading the charge by leading all three races at some point.

Today was breezier, with massive waves contributing to significantly more drama on both courses.  Big wipeouts by the leaders were common, and at a few of the leeward marks, boats piled up flipping one after another as they came in to round.  In Red fleet, Nic and Ian spent the day in an epic battle with the top Kiwi team, swapping bullets (first place finishes), and in the last race swapped the lead in the race on five different occasions.  In Yellow fleet, Max and Andrew put up some solid scores, leading one race by a healthy margin until capsizing on the downwind.

One more day of qualifying before the final series starts, and the forecast is for much lighter breeze.  We'll keep you updated.

Current results can be found here

Photos here

We Finally Made it!


Wales welcomed us with a deluge of rain on Saturday morning, prompting an unscheduled trip to the local Millets Outdoors store, where Team USA picked up 13 pairs of "Wellies" - the local rain boots - before heading to the boat park to collect our yachts. After losing the prior day to canceled flights, delayed bags, and a host of other issues, we worked late into the evening pounding lead, drilling foot straps, and splicing on new blocks and lines to get six new 29ers up to racing standards.  Most of the team has raced in Europe before at other events or in other classes, but the excitement of being in a foreign country for a World Championship, surrounded by 100 other teams creates an energy in the boat park that's easy to get swept away in, so productivity was low and by 2100h a few teams were still trying to get their boats up to the class legal weight limit by adding lead. 

Our already compromised concentration was wavering, so we packed up the boats and headed for the nearest grocery store to grab some food and check into our new home.  We are staying in a caravan park, that feels like Disneyland might feel if you replaced the Disneyland resort hotels with a big trailer park.  Inside the main gate to the caravan park there are water slides, go karts, mini golf courses, ropes courses, arcades, and all kinds of other toys for the British vacationers who stay in the park.  We have four small apartment units with kitchens, and a few bedrooms each, about seven minutes from the sailing venue, so we should be pretty set up for the rest of the time we're here.

Looking forward to getting on the water!

Mental Toughness

After three flight delays, a cancelled flight, re-routing through Scotland, four lost bags, a five hour rental car drive on the wrong side of the road (left!) from Scotland to our original destination, a mix up between an online booking company and our car rental company, which resulted in me not being able to rent a car, being rescued by team-mom-of-the-year, Annie Merson, a few wrong turns and one wild ride through the rainy Welsh country side at 2AM, TEAM USA HAS FINALLY MADE IT TO WALES!  And that's the condensed version of my first 48 hours back in Europe... 

In the next fifteen days of training and racing here in Wales, UK, I will be updating this blog with the latest news and adventures on and off of the water, to keep everyone back home updated on the progress that all of the Team USA athletes are making over here.  Right now it's creeping up on 3AM, and after cooking and cleaning up from our first "home cooked" meal at Hafan Y Mor, and given that I'm running on about 8 hours of sleep in the last 70 hours, I'm going to keep this post short and sweet, but check in tomorrow and I'll have an update on Day 1 of the UK Nationals!

Thanks to everyone who has supported us already on this trip, including all of the amazing coordinators from the US Sailing Olympic Development Program who have been on the phone sorting out our logistical nightmares, and all of the parents who have helped get everyone here, especially the one who drove for 6 extra hours to sort out our car rental in Manchester, and ensure that all of the team made it safely to the sailing venue! 

Finally getting breakfast/lunch/dinner at 1:30 AM at the finest dining establishment on the way to Pwllheli...  Talk about a "happy meal"!

Finally getting breakfast/lunch/dinner at 1:30 AM at the finest dining establishment on the way to Pwllheli...  Talk about a "happy meal"!