Monday, October 3, 2016

Thoughts from the Coach Boat

At age 22, we have both spent at least half of our lives racing sailboats, and that means that we have spent at least half of our lives in the presence of some of the most influential people in our lives, our coaches. For us, coaches did more than tell us to trim in our sails. They welcomed us into the world of high performance sailing, challenged us, brought us through failure and to success, and made us the people we are today, as well as the sailors. So whenever we have the opportunity to coach we assume the responsibility to do what our coaches did for us, to deepen the sailing community that has given us so much, and to create a safe, inclusive, and inspiring space for young sailors to grow and learn. This past weekend we got the chance to work with a wonderful team of youth sailors out of Seattle Yacht Club and can only hope that we lived up to our responsibility. 
Skiff sailing is hard, and starting out in skiff sailing is even harder. It's incredibly repetitive, you capsize, you get bruised, you get cold, you get wet, and the only way to get better is to right the boat, and do it again. We were lucky enough to work with a group of sailors this weekend who were truly committed to getting better. Over the course of the two day we worked with them the SYC Race Team reminded us of just how far determination and grit can get you in this sport. They maximized their learning potential both on and off the water and worked as a group to pull those below them up and push those above them even farther forward. As we move forward in our own training, working by ourselves and with other teams in the US, the standard set by these young sailors will be one we hold ourselves too as well. We will push ourselves, we will learn, and we will take as many opportunities as we can to strengthen the community that taught us how to do that, knowing that we are better for it as well. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Regatta Report: US Nationals

When we began this campaign we planned our training and competition through September. We divided the summer into two block, West Coast training and East Coast training. The US National Championship, hosted by Oakcliff Sailing Center, was the last event on our summer schedule. Since putting together our schedule in early May, we have looked at Nationals as something of a final assessment of all we learned in over the summer. Regattas are competitions, but they are also one of the few times we go out on the water with the intent of doing everything and "stringing it all together", rather than just practicing isolated skills. They are the final project after a semester of learning. This is how we are thinking about regattas during this phase in our FX sailing career. Rather than focusing on results and evaluating ourselves against other teams we are evaluating ourselves on how well we are able to implement the lessons we have learned together as a team so far. We have had good regattas and bad regattas this summer. At times we excelled on the race course because we were able to successfully connect different aspects of our training; at other times we found ourselves struggling because of a failure to connect different training focuses. This past regatta, the US Nationals, we are happy to say that we were very successful in "stringing it all together". As far as final projects go, Nationals was a great one. 

The three days of racing were in super light to medium light conditions and held in Cold Spring Harbor. The the venue and conditions gave us a lot to think about with regards to connection puffs, playing geographic shifts along three different shorelines, and managing current. The FX fleet was very small, only two boats, so our start was combined with the men's fleet, making for five boats racing at a time. We managed to win all 12 races against the other FX, making us 49erFX national champions. However, we were especially happy to be truly racing against the men's teams as well, despite the difference in our two rigs. Cumulatively, when counting scores from both the men's and women's teams, we finished second, only two points out of first. Not bad for having a mast that's a meter shorter. On the water we felt that one of our strengths was shifting between light air mode and powered up mode. Tactically we also think that we did a good job implementing the skills we learned at North Americans about small fleet management and managed this same sized fleet well. 

Over the course of the regatta and the few days of pre-regatta training in Cold Spring Harbor we were lucky to work with US Sailing Olympic Development Team Coach Willie McBride. It was a wonderfully productive week of training and racing and we are very excited to train with Willie in the future. The next step for us is to go back to the West Coast, first to San Francisco and then to Southern California, where we will continue to work with Willie and push ourselves in a variety of conditions. Going forward we are feeling super motivated to make ourselves the best sailors we can be and can't wait to get back on the water. See you in the Bay! 


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Regatta Report: North Americans

The 2016 North American Championships were held in Newport, RI this year and brought competition from the US and Canada. Though the FX fleet was not as large in Newport as it was in CORK we raced seven races in challenging conditions and learned a lot. We finished fourth, out of only five boats. It was not the position we were hoping for, but points wise we were only one point out of third and two points out of second. Needless to say the racing was close and we were happy to be challenged by our competitors. 
in case you were wondering, there's a rock there.... woops
There seems to be something of pattern in Newport of "windy for training, light for the regatta" and we certainly saw that play out while we were there. We raced three days in light to medium conditions with long, shifty races. Tactically we were not at our best and missed a few key wind shifts upwind. Our down wind legs, on the other hand, were strong and the conditions let us play through a lower range of downwind angles, which by the regatta's end were feeling especially fast. 

Our biggest take away from the 2016 North Americans is the importance of forming friendships and fostering community within the 49er class. The importance of community was underscored at this event in particular as this was the first North American 49er and 49erFX class championship dedication to one of the fleet's dearest friends and most remarkable competitors, Trevor Moore. Trevor represented the US sailing the 49er in the 2012 London Games and remains one of the greatest sportsmen and talents the North American and International 49er fleet has ever had the privilege of racing against. Trevor coached both of us in the Opti and was a pivotal figure in our junior sailing career. He was the first person Caroline sailed a 49er with and fostered countless other sailors in all dozens of classes. He is the best example of the impact an individual can have on a community. Trevor went missing in the waters of Biscayne Bay last June, a loss felt deeply by all those who knew and loved him. Throughout the regatta, displays of the type of friendship Trevor helped build within the fleet kept popping up. One specific example involving us happened on the second day of the regatta when we did serious damage to our center board. We would not have been able to finish the regatta if it weren't for the generosity of Scott Ewing from the men's fleet, who immediately lent us his board on the simple basis that more boats sailing is better for everyone. Thank you Scott for helping us finish the event, and thank you to all of our competitors, without whom this sport and passion would not exist, and thank you to the North American 49er class and Sail Newport for allowing us to honor the memory of a mentor and friend with this regatta. 

Regatta Report: CORK

The Canadian Olympic Regatta, Kingston or "CORK" is a mainstay of the North American skiff sailing circuit. Canada has a thriving skiff community, especially in the 49er and 49erFX, and it seems like they all come out for CORK. This year saw eleven full rigs competing and nine FX's, making for a full starting line for both fleets. The four days of racing saw the full spectrum of conditions, from postponed mornings of drifting to full on heavy air conditions, and everything in between. Additionally, the race committee and regatta organization team ran as professional an event as any. Between these factors, on the water competition, full spectrum conditions, and top tier event management, we were able to put our training to good use and get down to racing. We finished third overall in what was very close racing among the top teams and were very happy to see pieces of training that we had worked on earlier in the summer starting to fall into place.
some awkward faces at the top mark....

We approached this summer's racing, CORK included, with the mentality that a regatta and a finishing position are only as valuable as the insight they give you into your next training block. In other words, scores don't matter as much as lessons learned, so with that in mind here are the top three lessons we learned in Canada.
1) Be ready to make that shift.
~With extremely variable wind conditions we were changing the rig tune and settings between almost every race. With only around 10 minutes between our finish and the next start we had to discipline ourselves to cross the finish line, take down the kite, and then turn up wind to check our rig setting and make the appropriate changes. There is no rest for the well tuned skiff team. While we were mostly successful in dialing in the rig tune the other shift that is just as if not more important to make when sailing in varying wind conditions is the mental shift, and that is something we are still working on and will keep in mind while training. Setting up your mind to sail in 18 knots, even though it just finished a race in 10, takes just as much deliberate effort as setting up your boat.
2) Race from the start.
cursing along with the green kite
~Getting from stopped to full speed is a tricky business in the skiff; mostly because as a boat they don't like to stand still. However, the conventions of racing necessitate that we do stop and then get to full speed and much of our training in San Francisco focused on the nuances of that acceleration process. We saw that training definitely paying off on the starting line at CORK and we felt as though we had more agency in our down speed maneuvering than many other teams. However, one thing we were naive to before starting against other boats our own speed was the boat on boat dynamic of the start. If you want to win, winning the start is a good first step. This means not passively crossing the line at go (which in and of itself is easier said than done) but positioning yourself to race others off the starting line. It means getting aggressive, getting close, and getting bow out. As we move forward we will be reminding ourselves that every starting line, whether its in practice or a race, is an opportunity to hone these skills and we will not be taking the easy way across.
3) Take care of what gets you there.
~You cannot compete in a regatta if you and your equipment cannot make it to the regatta. To that end, check your tire pressure and get an oil change. Our trusty (actually not so trust, at this point) regatta-mobile for the East Coast, a Honda CRV with 230,000 miles on it, strongly objected to the concept of towing a two boat trailer from New York to Ontario and back. Just over the Canadian boarder she completely ran out of oil and we saw our competition prospects flash before our eyes. The car, lovingly referred to as the Millennium Falcon, made it and is now officially retired from all towing, but the incident was a reminder that even if the vehicle is not a racing machine, like our boats, it still requires love, attention, and routine maintenance.

There are many more regattas and many more lessons to come for us so stay tuned!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

So long, and thanks for all the wind

Our month in the Bay is over and we are moving on to the next regatta, the Canadian Olympic Classes Regatta in Kingston (CORK). There we will be sailing against other FX's for the first time all summer (woo) and take part in another US Sailing Olympic Development Program clinic. We are really looking forward to training and competing at CORK but we are going to miss the Bay.
The training conditions here have been incredible. Not once in our month and two days of sailing out of Richmond Yacht Club did we have to take a land day because of a lack of wind and only once did we decide that it was too windy to continue our training session. We got experience in a myriad of wave states from short chop to three foot breakers, and we got to practice in everything from zero to two knots of current.
Family selfie with the Moodys. Thank you guys!
What we are really going to miss about the Bay though is the people. We could not have asked for more supportive, welcoming, and helpful people to have spent the last month around and we consider ourselves so incredibly lucky for that. Contrary to what we told our parents at the time, the whole "plan" to go sail in the Bay was loose at best, and we mostly made things up as we went along. Honestly we just sort of showed up in the RYC parking-lot, smiled, and it all seemed to work out. It is only now, as we are writing this reflection of the training block that we are realizing all the little (and also really big) pieces that fell in to place for us because of the amazing people here. There are some big than yous for us to throw out here.
In "The Office" (aka the RYC parking lot). Thank you RYC! 
Thank you to the Moody Family for housing us and feeding us and treating us as two of your own. Thank you to the Skiff Sailing Foundation for the use of the 49er we sailed all month, use of a trailer, and for your infinite wisdom and help on our fundraising project. Thank you to Richmond Yacht Club for not kicking us out of your boatyard (or showers) when we showed up unannounced and set up an encampment between your Opti racks. Not only that, but that you RYC for inviting us to your Wednesday Beercan Races and providing a comprehensive and happy space for all sailors (us included) to do what they love and have fun. Thank you to the RYC Junior Program, especially Dan Brand and Merrill Piece, for sharing your space, your tools, and your joy for this sport; and for rescuing us all those times we flipped in the inner harbor and got stuck in the channel. Thank you to all of our donors. Without your support we would not have been able to take this time to travel, train, and compete, in the Bay and beyond, and chase our dream of representing our country at the highest levels of sailing competition. And thank you to the vibrant sailing community of Richmond and San Francisco Bay for being interested in what we are doing and helping us spread the word about our team and high level skiff sailing in general. We honestly love talking to you all about our boat and this sport and are just tickled that you would take the time to ask us questions and chat.
As we venture on in our sailing we will be hard pressed to find a place like Richmond and the Bay. It has given us so much and we are better sailors and people for it. We hope to be back soon, but until then, so long, and thanks for all the wind.

Bye everyone! Hope to see you all soon :) 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Getting Squirrely

This weekend we took a break from the 49er and opted for something a little bit bigger and with more buttons. We got a ride on The Secret Squirrel, a canting keel Schock 40 out of Richmond Yacht Club, for the YRA 2nd Half Opener Regatta. Two races over two days and two bullets makes for a good weekend either way, but we had an especially good time on The Squirrel. It was our  first time on something with a keel like that and we geeked out over the hydraulics for longer than we'd like to admit. The boat has some other fun stuff going on too, like a bow rudder and some pretty serious runners. Besides being tutorial is sweet big boat systems, this weekend of racing was great for us insofar as it gave us alternative perspectives on how top level sailors are talking in the boat, what they're talking about, and what they're thinking about around the track. In sailed angles The Squirrel isn' that different from our 49er, so hearing discussion about the current in the bay and what is meant for lay-lines was especially helpful for us. Hearing a bunch of pros talk about the shape of a flat head mainsail (same style as the 49erFX) isn't a bad way to spend an afternoon either. Off the water too, the conversation about boat tune and maintenance really opened our eyes to the level of fine tuning and organization we can bring to our own program. Finally, sailing The Squirrel reminded us of just how much fun a boat full of sailors can be. We get a bit lonely sometimes with just the two of us so being around such a smart, funny, and happy crew was awesome. Thank you so much to Zach Anderson and Will Paxton for having us on board! We loved it.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Time off the Water...

reattaching batten plates on our practice sail
Another major component of sailing and racing the 49erFX is fixing the 49erFX. We are lucky, our boat here on the west coast is a solid one and we have had very few "fix it" days (knock on wood), but we still have ours. Today we had a solid off the water day in the boat yard patching, filling, drilling, and Dremeling. We were both pre-disposed to arts and crafts as children, and we consider this an extension of that early passion. Our projects for the day: patching and reenforcing the luff of the main where the bolt rope had started to rip through, drilling some nicer holes in the wing for our control lines to run through, and making a set of tiller extensions. Thank you to Quantum Sails in Richmond for your expert help with project number one, and thank you to Whale Point Hardware for having an unusually complete selection of West Systems Epoxy; it was just the thing for project number two.

Paging Doctor Boat-Work....
We estimate that for every four hours of sailing we put in an hour of boat-work, and when we compare the two our boat-work learning curve about matches our sailing learning curve. At this point we have the skills to fix almost anything that we can break, and that gives us the confidence to really send it on the water. We can also make the additions and modifications necessary to have a fast and competitive boat, which is a big part of racing in this fleet. From splicing all of our own sheets and control lines to patching our sails to doing fiberglass and carbon repairs we'd say we have come pretty far from our square-knot tying opti days. We still have a ton to learn, off the water and on, but today was good proof of progress for us.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Time on the Water

One of the messages from our coaches that really resonated with us last week was the need for time on the water. This boat is a trip to sail, just making it go forwards requires an incredible about of concentration, but we're looking to do more than just sail. We're looking to race. To that end we need to log those hours sailing now so that when we get to the race course we can think about racing while knowing that the boat is still going forward and turning as it should. This part of training, this logging of hours, this is the grind. Don't get us wrong, we love sailing, but somewhere around figure eight 45 of the day we don't love it with the excitement and bliss of our junior sailing days. We love it for the sweat dampening our wetsuits from the inside out, for the the holes we rip in our knees from falling again and again, for the minute of breathless silence in between sets that we spend doubled over and panting, boat head to wind. We love it for the 9:00 bed times we keep because we can't stay up any longer, and we love it for the aching shoulders we squeeze back into our trap harnesses the next morning, ready to get back to the grind. This isn't the glamorous part of skiff sailing. It's the part that they would make into a montage if they ever made a realistic movie about sailing. But in the boat we don't get the montage. We live every hoist and rounding in real time and sometimes have to remind ourselves that we love it. We do.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gorge Gorge Gorge

      Sorry for the radio silence. We've been somewhat off the grid camping out (literally) in Cascade Locks, OR at the Colombia Gorge Racing Association (CGRA). But, now we're back in the tech capitol of the world with plenty of wifi and will be posting up a storm, starting with a recap of Gorge 2016. 
Sticking the bear away and going for the kite halyard
         The Gorge is one of the best sailing venues in the country. It's a broad stretch of river half way between the sea and the desert. It's a beautiful place and also happens to be perfectly situated to get one of the sweetest thermals in the country. A typical summer day at CGRA sees 18-35 knots on flat, warm water so it's no mystery that sailors from all over make the pilgrimage up there as often as they can. We made the trip, along with 8 other 49ers and around 30 29ers. While we were the only 49erFX sailing this past week we were definitely in good skiff company, and that provided us with an awesome opportunity to compare our boat handling to others'. Over the course of the week we worked with Zack Maxam, Grant "Fuzz" Spanhake and Morgan Larson on maximizing our speed potential. Thank you so much US Sailing for lining up these awesome coaches. 
hoist, hoist, hoist!
         The week was divided into two parts, a three day clinic first and then a three day regatta. As we were the only FX we trained and raced against the boys in the full rig 49er for both, but with a coaching line up like we had that was hardly a detriment. The Gorge delivered its usual 18-35 every day on the water. During the clinic we worked on fine tuning our upper wind range rig tune with a lot of video and photo feedback from our coaches. We also had the opportunity to practice starting with a full start line, which was huge for us. During the regatta we put that tuned rig and spruced up starts to good use. Racing in conditions ranging from 12 to 35 knots (more wind than we have ever sailed in in this boat) we sailed three hard, rewarding days coming out 5th overall. Considering that our FX mast is about a meter shorter than any of our competitors' (the boys in the 49er full rigs) we are pretty happy with that result. Our week of San Francisco Bay training prior to the Gorge definitely helped us stay upright in Oregon and that was a huge factor in the racing. We had our moments of swimming, but overall we were one of the more upright teams on the water and our results reflected it. 
got that kite up and are ripping downwind in 25 knots of breeze
          Thank you so much to all of our coaches this past week, the US Sailing for organizing a fantastic clinic, to CGRA for running a fantastic regatta, to Kate's parents for showing up to our campsite with food halfway through the week, and to all of the men's teams who pushed us over the past several days. We are back in the Bay now for more training and are feeling motivated and ready to take what we learned in the Gorge and apply it to our every day sailing

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Traveling Skiff Circus

Trying to explain what exactly this boat is to the Oregon trailer authority....
We made it! Yesterday we towed three boats and a truck load of camping gear from Richmond Callifornia to Cascade Locks, Oregon. We arrived late and had to unload and set up tents in the rain but waking up to this place made it all worth it. We love the Gorge. It's a hot, windy, freshwater venue, which is all great, but beyond that the Gorge has this awesome vibe of fast boats and good friends about it and that's the true magic of the place. The camping is another added layer of fun too... at least we think so. We are lucky enough to have a pit crew and a welcome party here as well. James Clappier drove up with us and brought enough tools and chemicals to fix anything and everything we might break here. Kate's parents also came with groceries and a very happy dog; provisions and moral support are key in this game.
After rigging this morning we got on the water for a quick sail before the US Sailing clinic started tomorrow. The conditions were mint and we are also sailing around other 49ers for a change, so we are learning a lot by watching and talking to the other guys. US sailing lined up an awesome coaching staff for the clinic here and we are really looking forward to picking all their brains as well. Monday is day one of the clinic and we are feeling happy, fast, and ready to go.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

And on the third day in Richmond the Skiff Sailing Foundation gave to me....

   A trailer so we can get ourselves and the boat to the next adventure!
a nice day for a picnic in the (boat) park

After some boat work (and breakfast) in the boatyard this morning we got on the water for a short sail in what started out as big breeze. We are feeling better and better in the heavy air and spent a lot of time today focusing on heavy air maneuvers with circle drills and figure eight drills. We also logged a good bit of straight line time working on our steering through waves.

As the wind tapered off we came in and got to planning the next step of Operation West Coast Adventure: getting everything to the Colombia River Gorge. Once again, the Skiff Sailing Foundation is helping us out, this time with a trailer. A couple other skiffs are making the pilgrimage to the Gorge with us on Saturday, so we opted for a big trailer designed for a Marstrom32 and retrofitted with some very high tech 2x4s. Thank you to David Liebenberg and James Clappier for really getting that project going, including replacing all the trailer lights and wires. Tomorrow is our last day in The Bay for a while but we will be back. In the mean time we are looking forward to road trip shenanigans and great sailing with great people in the Gorge.

And so it begins....

After four years of dipping our toes into the 49er FX fleet, we have finally got our show on the road.
We set out last Sunday from Seattle and drove down the coast to San Francisco based on the promise of a boat and breeze. Happy to say the Bay delivered.

Our west coast car, an aging Ford Ranger named Franz, protested through the mountains and around sharp corners but made it safely to Tiburon in good time. Thank you to our Bay Area hosts, the Moody family for your wonderful hospitality. 

The next morning we headed to Richmond Yacht Club to find our boat and Chad. Chad, along with the Skiff Sailing Foundation, is like the fairy god mother of skiffs, and he's been granting our wishes left and right. He hooked us up with a sweet ride and after a day of rigging we got on the water for what we came for: the breeze and waves of San Francisco Bay. We were not prepared.

Day one on the water of our west coast adventure was spent mostly upside-down in the channel. On the plus side we didn't get run over by any barges, all boat parts are in one piece, and we were still smiling coming into the dock. We also got in a pretty sweet run before all the flipping.

On day two The Bay was much gentler to us. We spent the morning tracking down the perfect line for a new main sheet (the one we had on the boat was short and a probable cause of the previous day's upside-down adventures). We found it at Easom Rigging and could not be happier with the line or the guys at Easom. If you are in the area and in need of rigging wisdom, those guys can hook you up. Day two also brought our first race of the summer, Richmond Yacht Club's Wednesday night Beercan race.  And we won! woohoo! With a little bit less breeze than the day before our evening race was the kind of sail that keeps us coming back for more. Thank you so much to Richmond Yacht Club for letting us join your series, we had an awesome time and are feeling so welcomed by everyone at the club. Also, thank you for the bottle of wine trophy and thank you to all our new friends who helped us drink it! We have a few more days here in the Bay before heading up to the Columbia River Gorge for the first stop on US Sailing's Summer Skiff Tour but we will be back.

We are looking forward to all the big air practice to come!
Send it,
Kate and Caroline