Thursday, March 3, 2016

Day 5 - 3 light races in big waves

I'm not exactly sure why I was able to sail one good race and follow it with two bad races. They weren't that different, although the mode of sailing in the waves changed a tiny bit I think.

In the first race I started near the boat end, found a clear lane heading right, and sailed fast. I was focusing hard on constant angle of heel and found a nice slow rhythm of leaning against the pressure in the sail as I sailed up a wave, then leaning in to ride the bow down the back side. I took one or two little hitches in when I felt knocked on port, but otherwise went to lay line from pretty far out because I felt I was in good pressure in my corner. I over stood a little bit, but rounded in 4th and managed to hold on to it. Since the waves were pushing us pretty hard to the right downwind, and it was very light wind, I stayed hard by the lee on starboard on the down winds and did not get passed.

In the second race, I tried to do the same thing, but finding a clear lane was much harder, and I don't think I had the same speed. Downwind I was losing a bit here and there and I'm not sure why. I never found the same smooth rhythm either upwind or downwind for the rest of the day. I'm sure it didn't help that when I felt uncertain about what the fastest mode was, I spent time trying different things to find it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

no racing today

We never got quite enough win today to hold a race.  I was looking forward to practicing my light air big wave technique, and I did get some practice in while we were waiting around on the water.  Racing was going to be very unusual in those conditions.  I practiced focusing on constant angle of heel. Hopefully we will race tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It is very discouraging to finish almost last in every race of a day. There is no doubt about that. Also no doubt that my speed today was slow. The conditions today were tough as usual - big 2.4 meter high fast moving waves with about 8 to 12 knots of wind. The apparent wind was all over the place - hiking or leaning out - then scooting into the boat - then back out again for every wave. Although I have spent time sailing in waves this big, this apparent wind adjustment in these conditions is not something I have mastered.

I am trying to keep in mind that my own improvement is impossible to measure against a fleet of sailors who are putting more time and money than I am into this sport.  I look around at the people I am sailing against they just look like a bunch of regular teenagers - what could they possibly know that I don't? But they aren't regular teenagers, they are the ones who started early, excelled, and are supported by their families and national sports federation, and they are able to devote more time than I am. So what do I expect? To improve faster than they do? On days like today it can feel like I have simply gotten worse at sailing over the last couple years, but it might just be that I am actually improving, just not as fast as this international crowd.

So tomorrow is another day. 2 races. The goal is first to nail 2 good starts - which means focusing on the details of the start. Second, try to focus on speed and always maintaing constant heel, perfect sail trim, and not stalling the blades. It's hard to sail head of the boat and do this at the same time of course.

Here is a link to pics from the first day:

Monday, February 29, 2016

Day two - first day of racing

We had three races today in 15-20 knots I think. The waves were huge and fast, and a bit sideways. Most of our surfing was done on the top reach, going with the waves.

I am exhausted - got cold while we waited for a squall to roll through before starting the last race, and then it took over an hour to sail back to the yacht club.

The day was squally there were pretty big shifts, but it was sometimes hard to tell which squall was going to dominate the beat since there were often just windy rain clouds everywhere. Sometimes it was obvious, but after the second beat of the first race, I realized that the shift from the squall didn't come until you were practically under the cloud. Paige said she was surprised by the same phenomenon.

Everything about the day seemed hard. I never felt particularly fast in any direction, upwind on port was head on into very big waves, and on starboard they would roll under you sideways and sometimes they would push you sideways so your sail luffed.

Downwind was very hard because you could reach on starboard and catch a wave, but doing that more than a few times would send you off the course completely. By the end of the day I think I had a slightly better grasp on how to sail downwind. I found that it seemed good to sail hard by the lee on starboard, and as a started to push you, you could head down the wave for just a second to get some speed, then turn back by the lee and let the wave roll under you. This way you were never surfing waves completely, but using them to get a little speed and take it back by the lee to get towards the mark.

Three more races tomorrow probably, the forecast is similar, but dying in the afternoon. My goal is first to get to the line earlier when there is more space and execute better starts. I didn't have any good starts today, and I think I was getting to the line a little late when there were only a few or no good spaces left.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

day 1 Europeans

Postponed on shore for too much wind and big waves. The squalls roll through periodically and it goes from sun to rain to sun.  The wind gusts are big but it it hard to tell what the conditions are out on the race course.  The rumor is that the waves are too big for the race committee to set marks. Not sure what will happen, maybe we will get to race.

We did not race today. I went for a bike ride after they cancelled us to look at the conditions. The waves were definitely big, but it didn't seem that windy. Hopefully we will get to race tomorrow - the forecast is similar to today.

It was nice to get a little local weather knowledge from Robert Hopkins who lives here in Las Palmas. This is what I learned: In the summer the Canaries are in the trade winds which blow from the northeast. In the winter the prevailing wind is also from the northeast because the Azores High sits to the northwest, but the weather is dominated by frontal systems - which is what we are seeing right now. When the wind is from the north or northwest, it channels between La Isleta and the main part of the island and is accelerated along the shore, but then it fans out as the shore bends south. This morning he advised looking for the squalls and recognizing which side of the squall you were on and that the breeze would shift correspondingly, and die on the back side of the squall. As we were waiting around the velocity changes as the squalls passed by were pretty big. He also talked about the local current, which is primarily wind driven, but is affected by the shore line which creates eddies and swirls that often change during racing. He advised paying attention to clues about the current while racing to try to understand how it is affecting you at that moment.

Sails down while we wait for them to send us out:

Now everyone is packing up:

Map of course area:

Some waves onshore near our race course:

Here you can see the next squall heading toward us from La Isleta:

 The beach on the other side of the peninsula:

Mom, I figured you would take a lot of pictures of this door:

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Europeans begin tomorrow

I arrived here in Las Palmas yesterday morning and had to take 2 buses from the airport to the yacht club. In my jet lagged state, I left my wallet on the bus. I managed to track it down with the help of 4 different bus drivers who called the dispatcher and drove me to the bus station. I wasn't really awake enough to remember how to speak spanish well. It took a little bit to figure out that the bus driver was calling the dispatcher for the blue bus company and looking for my wallet on blue number 01 instead of the yellow bus number 1. Eventually they figured it out and took me to the yellow bus station and I got it back! It's a nice feeling when when you lose something valuable and it gets returned to you thanks to the good graces of strangers.

I got back to the sailing center and picked up my charter boat and all the different spars and blades and fixed the small things that needed fixing on my boat. I didn't have time to sail yesterday, but today I did after measurement and registration. About 18 knots and big waves. Similar to a big wave day at third beach, but these waves push right downwind as opposed to the left biased ones I am used to practicing in. Our course area is pretty far away, which will be fine for getting out to the racecourse for the next few days since it is downwind, but the sail home will be long. Hopefully I can snag a tow.

Racing starts tomorrow at noon, and we have six days of two races per day. Here are a few pics:

View of the race area from the bus:

Measuring in:

The apartment where I am staying:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

What it means to compete

When you say "She's super competitive," many of us would think you are talking about a woman who is driven by a desire to win, and can't bear to lose. But I think there is more depth to the truly competitive athlete. A true competitor is the person who values what tough competition brings out in all of us - a higher level of performance - and always seeks out the toughest competition and challenges themselves. A true competitor prefers finishing second in a tight battle that raises the level of competition to an easy win.

For me, doing an Olympic Campaign is a challenge that raises the bar and gets me closer to reaching my potential. I did not finish well in the first half of the Olympic Trials (the Miami World Cup Regatta). And I am not in a position to be in the running for our country's Olympic slot, and yet here I am in the airport on the way to the Laser Radial Europeans to compete in the second half of the Olympic Trials. Many sailors wouldn't bother competing if they felt they had no chance at winning, but I feel that it is important to do my best right up until the end of my campaign. The goal was to get to the Olympics, but the goal was also, and still is, to reach my potential, or at least get as close as I can given my resources.

I have learned a ton in the last few years, and I have definitely improved, but I don't feel like I have been able to execute everything I have learned at a big event. This regatta is my chance to put it all together. If I can put together a good event with good starts and decent speed and tactics, I will really feel like I have accomplished something. If not, it will be another learning experience. I know that competitive sailing is something that will be providing learning experiences for me for many years to come, and it is something that I look forward to.

As always, when I get to Las Palmas, I will be there to compete, to try my hardest, and to enjoy the challenge of competing against the best sailors!

I will post more regular updates when I get there, so stay tuned.