Last week I competed in the second World Cup Event of 2018 (the first in October of 2017 in Gamagori, Japan). This event is always close to my heart because it is the only World Cup Event held in the United States and the venue, Miami, Florida, is only a short forty-fives minutes away from where I grew-up. Every year I enjoy showing off my home state to international friends and competitors making sure they hit all the local spots down in Coconut Grove. It is an awesome feeling to have so many international athletes come to compete on our home waters and want to experience the American culture.
This years event was unlike previous years. In November, Category 5 Hurricane Irma, ripped through Florida. Miami had suffered severe damage and flooding across the city. In fact, Regatta Park and the U.S. Sailing Center were completely underwater after the storm with debris and boat remnants strewn across the area. After such a blow, World Sailing was hesitant to let U.S. Sailing host the event fearing that Miami would not bounce back in time. Nevertheless, the Coconut Grove community and U.S. Sailing came together, cleaned-up the Grove, and by the time the regatta came around the area was almost as good as new. It always amazes me how people come together after such a heart breaking disaster. It really shows the good in the world.
During the event, we had a mix of challenging conditions. Racing was canceled at 1:30PM the first day due to no wind on the course. When racing is canceled so early, sometimes it is hard to know what to do with the rest of your day because as an athlete, you want to keep your head in the game but also use the time to relax. Doing just that, I went to the gym and did a light workout, then I headed to a bookstore to catch up on some reading. The next day, I woke up feeling even more ready than the first. That day we had about 6-10 knots on the race course and lots of sunshine! In the first two races, I struggled getting off the line but managed to fight my way back into the leading pack. With the wind being unstable and seventy boats racing at once, scores in the top twenty were keepers. It seemed like everything was lining-up and my day was going to be going well. However, in the third race of the day, I struggled again getting off the line and then collided with a port boat. This set me far back in the race and forced me to the opposite side of the course. From there, I couldn't manage to find a clear path back into the leading pack. This is definitely something I plan to work on in the future because the sailors that can chip their way back into the top twenty after such a set-back are the ones that come out on top in the end.
The next day, we were blessed with a bit more breeze (~17-20 knots) but still had challenging oscillating wind conditions. Again in the first race I was able to secure a top twenty. However, not finishing in the top pack lit a flame of urgency under me. As a result, in the second race I pushed the starting line a bit too hard and was Black Flagged (BFD). This disqualified me from competing in the following race. As much as it pained me to not compete in the next race, I decided to get rid of the emotion in my head and be objective and identify what the issue was. I had been suffering in races due to starting. So, after the second race started and my competitors cleared the starting line, I stayed out and used the line to practice my starts. After about 30 runs at the line, I felt confident going into the next day of racing.
On day four we arrived at Regatta Park with the wind howling (~ 27-35 knots). Instead of rigging boats, all the competitors sat around wondering if we would be delayed ashore. Sure enough, the AP Flag went up and once again we found ourselves waiting on shore for the race committee to make the call on whether we would sail that day. With the wind strengthening and the sea-state becoming more aggressive throughout the day, it became clear that we were not going to leave the dock. After five hours of waiting, at 3PM racing was canceled. With no racing and strong breeze still forecasted for the following day, I made sure to keep my body active with a light gym session and some stretching to prepare for the three races scheduled tomorrow.
It seemed absurd that we had only sailed five races in four days. However, with three races scheduled the following day, it meant that about a third of the regatta would come down to the final day. Knowing this, I went out determined to focus on getting off the starting line clean and I did just that. It was extremely rewarding to see just thirty minutes of extra time on the water pay off instantly. Nevertheless, I soon discovered that I had another skill set to master in the 18-23 knot range. Even though I was getting off the line clean, I struggled to find my way up the course tactically. I was extremely "head in the boat" never really looking around me on the race track for information that could have been useful. In other words, I was too set on going fast that I missed tactical opportunities to make a gain. The great news about this all is that I was FAST in these conditions. In the past, stronger breeze has been a weakness and I have been working really hard to perfect my technique. Finally, I have made progress on that front and it is a huge relief. The next step is to now get myself looking outside of the boat.
Overall, I finished the regatta placing 31st. Though I am disappointed in the result, I am not disheartened. The event brought out areas that I have improved on and areas that I need to work on before the 2018 World Championships in August. Taking in the positives, this event was a great starting point for the year and now that I know what my areas of focus are, I am committed to making them strengths prior to the Worlds.
Thanks for reading along and following my journey! #IWILL