Our game plan, simple, our goal, well known. The European Championship in Palma de Mallorca, Spain was our second trials event in order to qualify for the Olympic Games. The pressure was on for our team as we were leading heading into the event. We are happy to report we tackled the pressure head on, getting 4th at the European Championship and have officially qualified for the Olympic Games!!
Coming out of the blocks day 1, the enormity of what we were about to take on set in. The forecast for the week looked like big breeze, but we found ourselves waiting around to start the event. After being postponed on land for about an hour, we were sent out to try to three races for the qualifying series. Since it was the common sea breeze direction, our game plan was hit the left hand side which seemed to consistently have pressure and shift. After getting flushed off the line in both races, we were forced to battle back both downwinds and second beats to get two keepers with a two and a nine.
Day two brought very chilly weather and a frontally driven breeze. So much so, we had a variety of 23-0 knots within 10 minutes of the other. We sat out on the water for about 3 hours trying from every wind direction to get a race off. On the water, we were having a contest of “who looked the most miserable” which we soon came to the conclusion that it may indeed have been us. After the race committee got fed up, we headed back to shore to warm up and wait for the breeze. We waited for about 2 hours until they called it off for the day.
Day three was the last day of qualifying. There were three races scheduled and lot to sail for. Our goal for the day was three top 8 finishes which we were able to achieve with tricky off shore breeze and unpredictable shifts. We were involved in a port starboard situation with the other American Girls team which resulted in a DSQ for their boat. The fleets were then split into Silver and Gold and we would not race them for the rest of the event.
The first day of Gold fleet racing seems like a blur. We were extremely consistent finishing ninth in all three races. With it being the last year of the quad, the level of all of our competitors has raised considerably. Points are closer, top marks are getting more crowded and you can tell everyone is in their final push towards the Games. Though we came off the water feeling a little defeated, the points were still close going into the last day.
Final day brought just as close of racing and even bigger swell. With three races again scheduled, it was a battle of wits. Out of the blocks, we scored another 9th which we had quite a good laugh on our boat. The direct quote was “at least we are consistent!”. Gritting our teeth we pulled off two more top 10s as the sun set the last day of the final series. We had two breakthroughs during this event; sailing calm and prepared under pressure and not having a bad race. With consistency throughout the whole event and keeping our risk taking in check, we were able to keep every score under 10th, something that will be crucial during the Games themselves.
Medal race day was upon us and we had a great chance at a bronze and much less at a silver. During the start, we were vying for a spot with the French and the Slovenian Girls. The French pulled the trigger a couple seconds before us and we were stuck in a tough lane off the line. After getting ping ponged in the middle for a while we rounded the top mark in touch with the group, but a little behind. After getting clear air and playing a right hand shift the second beat, we were more in touch with those around us and used our downwind speed to our advantage. At the bottom mark, we were able to gybe on the inside of the reach to the finish mark to pass 3 boats and maintain our 4th place finish.
To be honest, it has still not sunk in that we are going to the Olympics and it may not until we are standing at the Opening Ceremony with the entirety of the American Team. It is from all the support you all give us that we are able to continue when our minds and our bodies are telling us “no”. It is the message you send up to dry up our tears after a rough day out on the water and the environment you set up to keep us strong.
Step one is to qualify, step two is to keep the pedal down, and step three is to medal. We’re not going to stop here. We have so much work we can do.