Just this past week I came home from the 2012 World Championships in Cadiz, Spain. Cadiz, situated in the Andalucían region of southwestern Spain, boasts a vibrant culture and offers fantastic sailing in the Bay of Cadiz. The sailing venue, however, was across the bay from Cadiz in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Albeit, Puerto de Santa Maria did not quite have the same amount of lively energy as Cadiz – it was still a unique spot and very rich in history. As many of you may know, El Puerto de Santa Maria is where Christopher Columbus departed from in his expedition to North America (Hint: Columbus’ vessels were named – The Nina, Pinta and The Santa Maria).
I followed the training program that I have used so many times for key events: show up early and train on site for 15 – 18 days before the event. I was pleased with the progress I was making during training and I was accomplishing the goals I set out for myself before hand. I did, however, run into a bit of a speed bump – I got sick one week before the event with a simple head cold. I took the necessary steps in order to “kick” the illness: plenty of sleep, no training, water and rest. Fortunately, I recovered after only two days off the board.
The racing in Cadiz was very unique in comparison to the training conditions we experienced earlier that month. This seems to be a reoccurring theme for competitions. A common phrase from the locals during an event is, “oh, the conditions are never like this here!” Prior to the event, we were sailing in primarily light – medium conditions; however, during the event we were greeted with a very strong gradient wind unique to the region called the Levante.
The first day of racing, I was very happy with how I sailed. The conditions were very unstable as the wind was coming off the land and we were seeing 15 – 20 degree oscillations and 10-knot velocity variations. I sailed aggressively and consolidated my position on the racecourse at the right times to minimize my risks. The first day I scored a 22, 8, 22 and was sitting in 30th out of 120. Due to the fluctuating and inconsistent winds, most sailors had at least one really bad race that day – I did not and was in close proximity to the top 15. You can’t win a regatta on the first day, but you can certainly lose one. The remainder of the races we sailed in a consistent 25 – 38 knots (28 – 44 mph) of Levante breeze.
I don’t necessarily consider windsurfing to be an extreme sport. However, racing a windsurfer in 25 – 35 knots certainly qualifies as an extreme activity. I was having some difficulty with my speed in the demanding conditions. I had not sailed in 25+ knots since I was in Australia a few months ago and I simply did not have the best boat speed around the course. Additionally, I had a few hiccups during some races that kept me back, wipe outs and anchor line issues (I hit the anchor line of one of the marks and went flying over the front of my board). I had plenty of setbacks during the last few days of the event, but I was pleased with how I recovered mentally from race to race. Peter (my coach) and I did a very good job of evaluating previous races, recognizing and acknowledging the missteps we made and formulating solutions for the upcoming races – a crucial process for improving throughout an event.
We sailed 2.5 days in the Levante wind, but the remainder of the event was called off as the wind failed to subside. The last two scheduled days of the event was a hard 45 knots – too much wind to properly race. I finished the event in 45th out of 120 - a bit disappointing considering my solid start to the regatta
Windsurfing wipe outs are very common while sailing in the extreme conditions that we had in Cadiz. The most common form of a wipe out for an RS:X is a “blow-up.” While sailing upwind, wind rushes under the front of the board at a high speed (boat speed + wind speed). For instance, in Cadiz we were traveling on average about 15 mph upwind into a 30 mph wind so there was approximately 45 mph of wind rushing under our board. The technique for sailing in these conditions is maintaining a significant amount of pressure on the mast foot, which is situated near the front of the board. Ultimately, this sustains a certain amount of weight on the front of the board, essentially keeping it from getting blown out of the water. However, there are instances were the mast foot pressure is released or something out of the sailor’s control happens and the oncoming wind literally lifts (like a plane), the entire board out of the water, sometimes as much as 2 feet or more. Ultimately resulting in the sailor getting slammed back into the water with a uniquely strong whipping force. There were some remarkable blow-ups during our racing. And yes, I was a victim of a few of them myself.
I am leaving for Europe today for a shorter training block. I intend on spending one week training in Palermo, Italy followed by 10 days in France training and then competing at the French World Cup. Following the French World Cup event, I will spend 5 days at home resting, and then I will ship off to Weymouth, UK to start preparing on site for the 2012 Olympic Games!