Saturday, February 4, 2017

Loving the Process and Thinking Big

Last week we raced our first international regatta, Sailing World Cup Miami. We sailed 12 races over 4 days and came away in 14th out of 16. For those of you following results that may have seemed like a hard blow to all the work we have been putting in on the water these past few months, but at no point did we take SWC Miami as a blow. We pulled our boat up the ramp every afternoon grinning and are feeling energized as ever to keep pushing on the water. As far as we are concerned right now results don't matter. We have a plan in place, our "Big Picture Process", that is focused on just that, the BIG picture (i.e. the path to Tokyo 2020), and that's what matters, not our result in the first event of the first year of that process.

So, here it is: the four year plan, the Big Picture Process:

Year one Objective (that's where we are now): Learn as much as we can about the boat and how people are sailing it. This means logging hours and hours on the water and trying as many things as possible; and that's exactly what we are doing. This january we spent 60 hours on the water (most teams average about 45 a month at this phase of the quad) and have been nailing down our upwind speed and maneuvers with lots of on the water drills and theory discussions on land.

Year two objective: Refine and polish the skill set developed in year one. After year one we should have a lot of boat handling experience, and year two will be about turning that experience into bulletproof, consistently-executed maneuvers and speed. At this point we are good at a couple of different styles of tack; by this time next year we will be working on having one style of tack that is fast every time and that we don't even have to think about.

Year three: Implement that bulletproof boat handling on the race course. At this point we should be fast enough to not have to think about it, so we can think about racing (woohoo!) So this year is about racing racing racing and filling out a play book that can be executed time and time again.

Year four: Operation Domination. Put the pieces together and shed.

Caroline about to fall out of the boat... she didn't. 
From our boat SWC Miami was a success because we got to test the skills we have built against (literally) the best sailors in the world and on the things that we have worked on thus far, we aren't too far off the winning pace. There is and always will be plenty more work to be done, but it is so cool to see that when we really focus on going as fast as we can, we can roll over the top of some of the fastest girls out there. Over the four days of racing we improved on one big piece of the upwind puzzle each day and by the end we were able to put together some very successful beats, which, given our upwind focus over the past few month, was our regatta goal. Highlights of our regatta included consistent starts, smart first tacks, moments of pure speed and most importantly the proof that we can and do improve when we work hard at something. You can see that improvement in the upward progression of our scores and we can feel it in the boat. We never went into SWC Miami focused on results and we are not coming away from it focused on them. Instead we are focused on this big picture project of ours and loving it.