The Games are over and done with. Can we say either of us is happy with the outcome? Probably not. Can we say that this campaign has been one of the best experiences we have had… More
From what we can see, each team/country has a pre-race routine. They do a 720 to get their heart rates up, check in with their tuning partners before the start or get their head to wind number before the 5 minute sequence. Though we have our own variation of pre-start routines, one thing is for certain: Zinc is on once we leave the dock.
We like to think of it was war paint of sorts, ready to go out to battle and prepared for everything. Looking back, it is hard to know where this procedure began! Briana has always been “sunscreen cautious” as we like to call it and does a great job of applying often. We think that this may have been the beginning to our routine that we know so well. Once we launch, we know when Bri is going to take the Zinc out of the bag, Annie will stick out her finger and Bri knows just the right amount to squirt for the perfect war paint.
Though this is a small part to our program, you will see us at the Games rocking the white Zinc!
It takes a village, or in this case a Lake. Lake Beulah and everyone around the ILYA have been by Briana and my side from the get go. The sheer interest of the sport sparked by the belief you have in our team has helped us as we have grown and learned the 470. As many of you know, sailing is an expensive sport and the 470 highlights this aspect. It is the most technical boat of the Olympics and therefore has more gear and equipment to be tested. We are at an exciting time in our campaign where we are finalizing our Games sails. We have officially chosen a main sail and are working towards picking our jib and spinnaker. With your support these past 4 years, we have been able to not only hire Dave Ullman as our head coach, but also have developed an amazing support system who keeps us sane through the ups and downs of our campaign!
Back down to Rio we go! We have a new home away from home in Niteroi, Brazil. The Olympic venue of Guanabara Bay separates Rio de Janeiro proper and Niteroi. Though the regatta venue of Marina Del Gloria is on the Rio side, we have found Niteroi a little safer and much quieter.
When we arrived on May 10th, we sailed a coaches regatta with all of the key player that will be at the Games. The only boats missing were the Swiss and the Polish who were doing some speed testing outside. Since we were on a similar tide cycle to when the Games will take place, the coaches set up most of our races inside the bay. With light air and minimal current, we were able to sail conservative and smart and came away with the WIN! This mini regatta was an ode to our college sailing days with the shifty unstable breeze. Go Eagles 🙂
The following week, we tested some sails with a young US men’s team to nail down which main we will use at the Games. Big shout out to Wiley Rogers and Jack Parkin for making the journey down and for putting up with our antics. We had lots of good laughs with an overall productive week. Looking forward to spending more time with these goofs in the next couple months. Keep an eye out for this team in Tokyo 2020, they are great sailors and even better company.
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.
To sum up Team HP’s regatta experience in a few words: long days, challenging conditions, weeds everywhere and shifty offshore breeze. All of these factors amounted to an unpredictable and extremely challenging week!
We began with a bang, starting out the event with two keepers and leading going into the 2nd day of the event. With light air shifting all over the river basin, we sat out on the water for 4 hours, waiting for more stable breeze to fill in. When the race committee began the only race of the day, it was 6:00 at night! After battling back from a bad start, we were able to come back to 16th in a light air race with the O flag up (full pumping conditions for the crews!).
The next couple days presented different challenges. Like we mentioned in our previous newsletter, weeds had engulfed the river basin and were a formidable opponent themselves. With one more race under our belts on the third day of racing we managed to crack the top 10. The fourth day of racing was all about navigating through the weeds, which our team did not succeed at. After two rough races, we rallied back with a top 10 and were still in the hunt!
We woke up in the morning of the final day of regular series to thunder and lightning storm. Once again, we sat on land, waiting for a later start time. At 3:00 we were sent out for the start in offshore shifty breeze and constantly changing pressure. Before the start of the first race of the day, we found ourselves dealing with a twisted spinnaker, causing us to miss the 5 and 4 minute guns. Our time to distance the line was therefore distorted and we ended up having to gybe out at pin layline. Compounding the prestart errors, we hit the windward mark and had lots of weeds on the reach. Even so we battled back for a keeper score of a 15. Once again, we pumped ourselves up for what turned out to be in the final race.
After a great start, we held our lane all the way out to the previously favored left hand side. Though we executed our game plan, the right won big and once again we were in catch up mode. Battling back, we ended up the race with a 10th and were in 8th going into the medal race.
With this event being our Olympic Trials, our sites were set on the other American Girls who were in 6th place heading into the medal race. We managed to get to the race course quite early and had a very good grasp on what the big picture conditions would be. Off the line, racing was tight as boats started to settle into their own gameplans. We were able to weave our way through the traffic to be leading boats coming back from the right hand side. During the beat, there was a big left hand shift and the two boats who came from that side gained. We rounded the top mark in a close third, and rounded simultaneously with the leader around the bottom. On the beat, we positioned ourselves well and were winning half way up. After hitting a bad weed patch and slowing down, the Polish girls passed us and rounded in first. We finished up the race in 2nd and moved up to 6th place overall, beating the other Americans by two places!!
We learned a lot from this event. Always keep fighting. Teamwork and communication can help get through anything. And we can win a medal if we keep the pedal down.
Summer time down in Argentina is beyond hot! Some measures had to be taken to make sure the heat was not a factor during races. The trip to Carrefour, a Walmart equivalent in South America and Europe was filled with coolers, umbrellas and lot of ice! Our umbrellas even said “78 Sailing Team” the year our coach, Dave Ullman won his second World Title. We took it as an omen for what was to come!
In early January, we headed down to San Isidro, Argentina to train where the 2016 Worlds will be held. What we found was short steep chop, fresh brown water and A LOT of seaweed. Heavy rain in the middle of the country caused an invasive species of seaweed to trickle down the river to Club Nautico San Isidro. Sailing out of the harbor was quite a feat with seaweed so thick you needed a tow. Even worse was the fact there are water snakes hiding in the weeds!!
When leaving the harbor and headed to race course where the Worlds will be held, the density of the weeds was much less. Even so, there was plenty to learn about the best way to clear the rudder and centerboard! We are very happy we got down there early to get acquainted with the difficult conditions.
When we first learned that our World Championships were to be sailed in Haifa, Israel we had no idea what to expect. For us, a lot of mystery surrounded this part of the world. What we were met with was a diverse city, warm weather and shallow extremely choppy seas. So choppy that during breezy days, waves at the beach were breaking making our docking quite interesting!
Day one of the World Championship we were greeted with puffy shifty breeze, the most we would see the entire event. After a solid first race using our downwind strength during the final run, our pre regatta jitters started to die down. The breeze was difficult to see, but was crucial in the dying breeze at the start of the second race. A new neutral number caught us off guard during the first beat and we were in catch up mode from there. We split with the fleet during the first run and lost some boats. A clustered gate mark rounding caught us some boats, but we were still dabbling in the 20s coming up the second leg. After a great top 1/3rd of the beat and a good reach, we found ourselves holding a 14 and heading into the second day in 6th.
Unfortunately, the rest of the regatta would be quite light air with lots of chop caused by the two men’s fleets in front of us. We struggled quite a bit with speed, making our tactics even more crucial with the puffy tricky breeze. The second day, we got out the gates just fine, getting a keeper right away. The next race was a little bit of a different story. After a rough start, we found ourselves getting ping ponged up the middle and forced to sit in bad air for most of the leg. We rounded the windward mark in the deep 30s, fully in catch up mode for the rest of the race. Catching a handful of boats each leg we turned a 30 into a 16, which was a hard fete in the close racing with 40 boats.
The third day of the event we found a burst of speed sailing the outer trapezoid in smoother water finishing the day with two 3 places. The rest of the event was a bit of a blur. Struggling to hold lanes off the starting line lead us off in incorrect directions and poor boat speed had us rounding the top marks in mid fleet. We kept our fighting attitude and battled back each race. We ended the event in 7th place but have a new list of things to work on. Back to the drawing board!
While getting to travel to the different venue sites, we often do not take enough time to really get acquainted with the culture and learn about the place itself. This time around, we were convinced differently as we were so close to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, a once in a life time opportunity! After finishing up the Israeli nationals, placing 4th, we jumped in our rental car along with the Australian Team and headed on a journey south. Our eyes were glued to the windows of the car as we got a taste of what the “real” Israel was. We were taken aback by how diverse the landscape was, driving though barren desert one second and green fertile land the next. Some highlights of our travels were seeing non domesticated camels, the biggest guns we have ever seen and a text message saying “Welcome to Jordan” making us immediately question our navigator!
Once we arrived to the Dead Sea, our convoy stopped to take in the view, it is incredible not only how large the sea is, but the landscape it overlooks. The sea itself has receded almost 400 meters leaving massive mountains on either side. Sink holes can be seen due to the presence of industry, extracting salt and minerals from the Sea as well as massive date farms alongside of the road. After stopping by the Dead Sea scrolls and realizing how many baths were taken and how red wine was consumed, we headed down to get our float on.
The sensation of walking into the water is intense; your legs feel as though they don’t want to touch the ground, similar to trying to push two magnets together. Once you get deep enough, slash brave enough, you let your feet go and you pop up like a cork. Your skin feels slimy and your body is weightless. Our group ventured out to where you could not touch ground and found that not only could you not touch ground if you tried, but you could also hold your hands above your head and have your face not even come close to the water.
After about an hour of being in awe of how light we seemed, we decided to give the mud a try. Some in our group were keener than others to lathering our bodies head to toe, but with some slight convincing we managed to cover everyone. After letting the mud dry, we headed back into the Dead Sea for a final rise before hopping back on the road.
The way back home, we had planned to have some time to walk around Jerusalem, but due to some recent violence and closing of some gates to the Old City, we thought better of it and choose to drive around instead. It was incredible to think about all of the history that had happened in that one city. The ancient walls stick out quite dramatically as opposed to the rest of the city. One of the Australians in our group was a history major, informing us of all the historical significance of a lot of the structures as we drove by; Thanks Amelia! Some of the highlights were, the Dome of the Rock, Mount of Olives and driving by the ancient walls.
We have arrived in Haifa, Israel home to about 600,000 people. A great city for surfing and sailing. For us probably more the sailing than surfing! We have unpacked the boat and are excited to head out on the water tomorrow.
It has been an exciting week for us as we christened and splashed our new 470 in San Diego! This should be the boat we will send to RIO next summer if all goes to plan. We have been training hard this past month with a goal of improving our sailing in varied conditions. Two weeks in San Francisco with lots of wind really helped us with our downwind speed. All the time we have spent in the gym paid off some 30 knot days. Then it was off to San Diego to rig the new boat and put a few miles on her before making the drive to Miami. It was a great opportunity for us to compare and fine tune our techniques optimizing our sailing in the different conditions. We will now spend two weeks training in Haifa with coach Dave Ullman preparing for the 470 World Championships that will begin on Oct. 10th and concludes on the 17th. We are still riding our “high” after winning gold at the Olympic Test Event in Aug. and hope to capture another medal in Israel. Thank you to our all our supporters we appreciate each and everyone of you.