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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Santander Prebrief
Aug27

Santander Prebrief

1200 hours on August 11th, we hit the dock for day one of our final, four day block of training before heading to Europe for the ISAF World Championship in Santander, Spain.  As soon as we got the sails up, and pulled our first gybe off of Ledbetter Beach, I began to feel the rush of excitement, accompanying an imminent breakthrough that has been so frequent over the last 11 months of sailing the 49er.  As I pulled the kite across the boat, I made a new connection between the driving force gybe and the light air gybes that we had practiced the week earlier, which suddenly brought a torrent of past advice from mentors and coaches flooding into my head.  “Fast hands make consistent gybes,” and ” sneak the kite through the forward triangle” were among the renewed adages, and suddenly I could feel that a breakthrough in our gybing technique was close. Ever since we began putting in a full time effort about 6 months ago, this has become the predominant rhythm of our training cycles.  Intense focus on seemingly minor details set in motion big picture lessons, which draw from many of our past experiences to refine our overall technique in the boat.  So far, our progress has been very rapid, and as we head into this next adventure in Spain, our learning curve shows no sign of slowing. The plan for the next month is to maintain this routine of improvement, in Santander.  While for many Olympic hopefuls, the ISAF Worlds will be a peak event for the year, we hope to use the opportunity to spur growth in a new branch of our training program, which we will be able to bring back to Santa Barbara to develop over the winter.  As such, we will be pushing our minds, bodies and boat hard in the next three weeks to soak up as much information as possible.  While we are very confident in the tools that we have been working on, this event will be a huge opportunity to test many variations of techniques in racing situations to build a clear pathway to focus on as we prepare for the Olympic trial process to start next year. With the boat all packed up, we officially have 441 hours in the book.  We have completed 3363 tacks, 2577 gybes, and we have gone swimming on 44 occasions.  I’m headed out to Newport, RI now to make a pit-stop before meeting Dane in Spain, but we’ll be back on the water sailing in the Bay of Biscay in no time!  Stay tuned for more travel blog updates soon! Photo Credit: John...

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A Pilgrimage to the Gorge
Aug20

A Pilgrimage to the Gorge

In June, we spent five days adventuring in the outdoor Mecca known as the Columbia River Gorge. A sailing, kiting, windsurfing, hiking, outdoor playground unlike any other. This was the locale for the 29er Gorge Speedfest, a clinic and regatta that Dane and I were lucky enough to be coaching. We squeezed in 49er practice time and a little kiting, hiking and even were able to make a few new friends in Hood River, holy ground for the kiting community worldwide. To support the Mcbride.Wilson campaign, please consider making a donation by visiting...

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Between Air and Water
Aug12

Between Air and Water

By Craig Wilson. Sailing is complicated. Not the type of sailing you’re probably thinking about, which might include the grandiose America’s Cup, or the painfully dull meandering wine and cheese bar that typically depicts “sailing” in Hollywood rom-coms. The type of sailing I’m referring to is the all-consuming kind. The kind that engages mind, body, water and air completely. There is no activity as dynamic as sailing. It requires a communion and interplay of a wholly fluid environment. A dual environment of water and air that is entirely unpredictable, chaotic. And yet, within any given moment, when done well balance is struck, energy harnessed, and harmony achieved. If ever there were a metaphor for mindfulness this might be it. This is why the photograph above serves as such a powerful allegory. The sailor frozen in a moment of perfect harmony of mind, body, water and air. The interplay perfect and the entirety of forces at play unique to the moment. The only thing the sailor is required to bring to that moment is their full attention. There is literally no other way to play the game other than being present. As a sailor, the quest is to constantly be in tune, that’s the magic of this type of sailing, riding that edge balancing the interaction of a multitude of forces. Not controlling them, rather responding with them. Craig Wilson is a life long sailor, coach, entrepreneur, and author. The photo above is of Willie McBride, in the foreground, and Dane Wilson, eclipsed, training for the US Olympic qualifiers, striking a moment of balance. Published with permission from Mind + Matter....

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Night Sailing
May20

Night Sailing

On a hot summer day in 2007 around six o’clock in the evening, a full moon began rising above the Ventura coastline, and some friends and I got the idea that it would awesome to sail to Santa Cruz Island at night. We called our parents, grabbed sleeping bags, and in a few short hours, we were leaving the Santa Barbara Harbor under sail as the sun set.  For me, the memories of laying awake in the back cockpit, warm breeze on my skin, listening to the water, with friends barely visible in the faint glow of the instruments and the soft moonlight, is one of my best memories of high school. Last week, I struck out again under a full moon, this time sailing the Olympic class 49er with Dane. Sailing at night is a crazy experience.  With less ability to see the boat, you rely more on movement and sounds to tell you how the boat is moving, and everything seems to happen at an accelerated rate.  The vast expanse of water makes it extremely difficult to judge distances, and it’s easy to lose track of where you are relative to the shore.  To keep the boat balanced, instincts must rely on feel rather than visual stimuli, so the experience is very introspective and zen-like. On our way out to the ocean, we towed a wetsuit clad, John Kelsey behind the boat while he snapped away on his camera.  As the sun went down, he recorded video, and snapped photos until we started losing his black hooded head amidst the dark water.  As the last bit of light slipped away behind the Mesa, John hopped into the coach boat with the rest of the support team, just in time to catch a glimpse of a whale spout in the distance.  We chased the whale up the coast for about 15 minutes, before heading back in the direction of the harbor.  On our way, we were escorted by a group of dolphins, who darted back and forth beneath our boat, putting on a show in the dusk lighting. Just after sunset, an orange glow began to emerge on the horizon, as a massive moon poked up over the hills.  At first, it didn’t cast much light on our boat, but it didn’t take long before our lines and sails were lit up, and our shadows fell over the sails. Half way through the night, we noticed a set of running lights heading straight for us.  After a minute, the craft that they were attached to began to materialize out of the night, and we realized that the Coast...

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