Soul Searching, Soul Sailing

Hi everyone,
It’s been several weeks – even months at this point since our last post here, but during the radio silence we’ve been busy at work off of the water, really reflecting on our first year of sailing together as a team, and our paths looking forward.  After a poor performance at the Miami OCR, our post-regatta process has been a soul searching endeavor, touching on aspects of sports psychology, daily meditations, and for both of us, several introspective weeks getting back to the roots of what makes us happy and productive, and reflecting on the mental challenges at play.  The whole journey so far has been an incredibly informative one, and through our passions for sailing we are excited to continue to forge ahead.

For the last year, we have pushed very hard with an emphasis on spending as much time on the water as possible.  Our focus at practices was on learning everything we possibly could about the 49er, and our learning curve was off the charts for the full twelve months.  Between January and September of 2014, we sailed almost exclusively at home, pushing the limits of the boat and building our understanding of what the 49er is capable of.  We sailed rudderless, we sailed blindfolded, we sailed wing-on-wing downwind with the kite – every drill during every practice was aimed at building feel in the boat.  In September, we got our first experience sailing with the entire 49er fleet in Spain at the World Championships, and at first the experience was overwhelming, but after returning home and digesting all of the data from the event, we set about narrowing in our focus for maneuvers and boat speed techniques, practicing more practical skills for racing.  Before the January Miami OCR, we had a few practice sessions with other teams on the water, during which we were able to start putting our speed techniques to the test, and by the time we got to Miami we felt that we had very competitive speed and boat handling.  After some very successful practice races, we were confident going into racing, but during the regatta, our teamwork broke down, and the resulting performance was extremely frustrating – disappointing even given our strong lead up.

For me, the time off has been an opportunity to reflect on how this Olympic sailing campaign fits into the broader context of my life at this moment in time, and in the future.  Our time in Miami this winter was an emotionally draining experience, but taking the last few weeks to recharge my batteries has opened my eyes once again to what a truly incredible experience and opportunity this campaign is.  The path forward is one that is bound to further refine my understanding of sail trim, and tactics, but more importantly, it is one will continue to develop my understanding of what drives me, what drives other people, and how I can share my passion and experiences with the people around me.  Our learning in the next few months will center around how to draw peak performances out of each other, and how to achieve the “zone” state of mind on a regular basis.  The next obstacle in our journey is one that is applicable to such a broad range of endeavors, whether sailing, academic, business related, or otherwise, because it relies on the ability to understand and modify our mental routines and habits on a subconscious level.

On Monday we rigged our boat up for the first time since January and went for a rip along the Santa Barbara coastline.  The excitement of speed is an awesome feeling, and it is a relief to be back training on the water, but this time we’ll be focusing a lot more inward, to really understand the mental playing field as well as we understand the physical one.

I feel empowered by the community of friends and family who have supported us in this endeavor as well as all of my past adventures, and I can’t thank you all enough. Through sailing, I have learned the power of setting goals – of establishing a firm plan and process, and relying on that path to achieve an end result, while spurring personal growth.  To me, the Olympics represents an opportunity to push this skill set farther than ever before.

With our new challenge defined, we are beginning to build a process to work on our weaknesses, and if we can achieve the same kind of improvement here that we did in the first year, we will have a good shot at meeting our performance goals in 2015.

Thank you all for the support so far!

Best,

Willie

Author: A Salty Brother

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment