Soul Searching, Soul Sailing
Apr05

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...

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The Deep End
Sep24

The Deep End

At 9 am we roll into town and down the waterfront in our rental van chock full of gear. As we enter the city we are immediately surrounded by signs, posters, tents and flags all announcing the imminent start of the Campionato Del Mundo De Vela.  I don’t speak much Spanish, but a glance around at the local cafes and souvenir shops make it incredibly evident that the town is fully geared up for the festivities of the next three weeks.  As we approach the harbor, a massive island of at least 100 brightly colored, yellow, blue, and orange coach boats, visible even from the opposite end of the harbor, indicates that we have arrived.  To our left, event organizers have set up race offices and notice boards on the local college campus, while to the right, a massive, three story sailing complex casts a long shadow over the road.  Inside the floor to ceiling windows, fully rigged sailboats sit undisturbed by the weather outside, waiting for their sailors to arrive for the day.  A large stadium with seating for several hundred, watches over the currently calm bay, while a sea of masts is visible beyond chain link fences, only accessible with proper accreditation.  While I have seen similar regatta sites in the past, I haven’t set foot in a boat park like this one as a competitor in over three years, and suddenly an overwhelming feeling sneaks into the edges of my thoughts.  I take a deep breath, briefly review the mission plan that has been months in the making, and walk away from the parked car, ready to take the plunge into the deep end of Olympic sailing. About twelve months ago, Dane and I stepped into a 49er for the first time and began a quest for mastery.  Our philosophy: that battling the boat or manhandling it around the course as many skiff sailors have implored, is a futile fight.  True mastery of boat handling comes from understanding what the boat wants based on subtle pressures in the tiller and our feet, and maximum boat speed is accomplished through learning to work with the boat instead of against it, to achieve a balance – a oneness between sailors, machine, and the ever shifting racecourse surrounding it all.  In the months since then, we have spent each day focused on the feel of the boat, trying to understand the relationships between techniques, controls lines, rig tuning, and ultimately, various pressures on the boat.  The month of May offered our first check in, where we got to sail against other boats to find out how our training was...

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ISAF Worlds Day 3
Sep18

ISAF Worlds Day 3

As the boat under my feet bounced violently from wave to wave, submerging the bow every few seconds and throwing what seemed like a sea’s worth of water over the open deck, my eyes burned with salt water, and my muscles strained to keep my body on the boat.  A dark patch of ripples erupted on the water in front of the boat, giving a brief moment’s notice before the sails loaded up and lurched the boat forward into the next onslaught of frothy water.  All I could think about was how to keep the boat moving so that we could make it around the next mark as quickly as possible. That was 9 years ago, at my first ever world championship, the 2005 29er Worlds.  At that event, I think that I did more swimming than sailing, and by the end of 6 days of racing, I was exhausted, frustrated, and disappointed with our result. Fast forward to today’s 25 knot race course, and I felt many of the same sensations as we sailed upwind through the washing machine of chop.  Fortunately though, resolve eclipsed exhaustion, curiosity replaced frustration, and I am more determined than ever to perform at the top level. Sailing is a sport of learning to rebound from losses in a way that makes you stronger and better equipped to handle whatever challenges that the wind and the waves throw your way.  In contrast to other sports, where one team wins and one team loses each match, for the single winner of this regatta, there will be 79 losers, and even that eventual winner will probably have lost the majority of the races in which they competed.  A wise student of mine once pointed out that allowing a loss to occur is not a mistake, but allowing that loss to alter your process or change your frame of reference is.  So far at this event, we have made  improvements during every day of racing, and the data that we are collecting will be invaluable in creating our training program leading up to the next event. After the frustration and disappointment of the 2005 29er Worlds had worn off, I remember being left with a new appreciation for the level of competition that I was facing, and in the following season, that understanding fueled my commitment to attain the next level.  Over the course of the 2006 and 2007 seasons, we won almost every US 29er event on the calendar, and wrapped up the year by earning the right to represent the United States at the ISAF Youth Worlds as the top boys team in the country. Today I am confident that our losses at this regatta are going to pay huge dividends during our training this...

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ISAF Worlds Day 2
Sep18

ISAF Worlds Day 2

With 5 races complete, our qualification round at the ISAF Worlds is over, and with Bronze fleet racing starting for us tomorrow, we are working hard to document the lessons and take-aways from these last two days.  There is no sugar coating our results so far, but when we signed up for the World Championship as our first ever 49er event, we knew that we were jumping into the deep end, and we are confident that our hard knocks now will be one of the key factors in our success moving forward. This morning’s conditions were a far cry from the beautiful, 10-15 knot conditions that we have spent the last month training in, here in Santander, and with 25 knots running against a flooding tide, the sea state made racing impossible on the inside course, and made for some epic photos on the 49er course outside of the harbor. We were the second group to start, and after waiting for the wind to die a little bit, the race committee sent us out in 15-20 knots, which quickly became 10-18 blowing over the shore, causing huge pressure and angle differences across the course.  While speed and boat handling have definitely been a major strength, the shifty, puffy conditions have served to exaggerate our deficiencies in race process, as they demand constant heads-up attention to the changes across the course.  Two rough starts today meant that we were battling from behind in both races, though as we have gotten more comfortable with our racing process, we have been able to use our speed and boat handling to pick off more boats. This fall, we will be working on sorting out the roles and responsibilities of each person on the boat, and we will be developing the right communication process to ensure that we can support each other effectively in our separate roles.  We will be working on starting drills and playbook execution surrounding starting line escapes.  We will continue to push the limits of our boat handling to be faster, and more reliable in tight situations. The last two days have shown us for the first time without a doubt where the bar is, and have made us more determined than ever to reach the top.  We are excited to take advantage of the last few days of final-series racing here in Spain to continue refining our understanding of our strengths and weaknesses, before we get back to the grind in Santa Barbara! Thank you to everyone for the outpouring of support and encouragement over the last year, and to everyone who has made this trip possible.  This is our first step towards the 2016 Olympic games, and without your support, we would not...

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ISAF Worlds Day 1
Sep16

ISAF Worlds Day 1

It’s always difficult to sit down to write an update after a day as challenging as today, having spent a lot of time looking at transoms, but while our problem today manifested itself in several ways, the good news is that they generally can be boiled down to the simple fact that we failed to create the mindset needed to go racing.  Call it nerves, day-one jitters, or just a lack of practicing the racing mindset for the last few months – either way, we know what it feels like to rise to the occasion, and our focus in the next 12 hours will be on finding that right zone to allow us to demonstrate our speed and smarts tomorrow. Several good takeaways from today, but we’re putting results behind us and preparing to sail to our potential tomorrow. Results...

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Coach Quinn Wins Silver at Youth Worlds
Jul24

Coach Quinn Wins Silver at Youth Worlds

In March of 2011, just as Dane was beginning to get serious about training as a skipper in the 29er, I received this e mail from papa Wilson: Quinn really wants to sail on Sunday if that’s still a possibility… Whatever is best for Newt and Dane. Quinn’s time will come. cw Just over 3 years later, Quinn returned home from the ISAF Youth World Championships in Tavira, Portugal last month with his crew Riley Gibbs, bouquets in hand, and silver medals hanging around their necks. With two prior ISAF Youth Worlds experiences full of emotional roller coasters, I’m sure that the silver medal this time has a tremendous amount of meaning to Quinn, and even to me it represents so much.  Over the last three and a half years, it represents thousands of hours of training on the water. It validates our training program, our theories on sail setup, and our methodical approach to strategy and tactics.  It represents a handful of draining, and highly emotional hours waiting nervously for protests to be decided.  It encompasses memories of being stuck in the freezing cold, memories of being surrounded by thunderstorms, and memories of scrambling to repair broken parts.  At this point, I have lived through moments of blood, sweat and tears (literally) with many of the people closely involved, and it is each of these moments which built character, revealed character, and ultimately made this medal so meaningful. I’ll never forget sailing with Quinn for the first time on that Sunday in 2011 in a strange easterly breeze, tacking up the coast towards Summerland in a thick bank of fog.  After about an hour of beating upwind, Quinn had a big grin on his face, as he marveled at how fast we had gotten down the coast, and how he had never been so far from the harbor before.  As Dane and I prepare for our debut on the international 49er stage, Quinn will be pushing us hard from the coach boat to be the best we can be, just as he pushed Dane and Newt to prepare for their international 29er debut, and gold fleet finish in 2011.  In the next several months, Quinn will be launching his next big endeavor and while I won’t give it away, I think it’s safe to say that, I think that he will marvel once again at how far from home he has pushed his boat and his comfort level. Congratulations to Quinn and Riley for their amazing performance!  We are very proud of you and we are so grateful to be a part of such an amazing team of...

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