Rolex Miami Olympic Class Regatta: #1 Ranked Spot on 2011 US Sailing Team Alphagraphics and Only US Windsurfing Representative at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico
This year, the Rolex Miami OCR was the qualifier for the US Pan American Games Representative spot and the 2011 US National Team (2 spots). Needless to say, I accomplished the ultimate goal for this event: Top American Finisher. I finished 15th overall, in one of the most competitive, yet small fleets on the world cup circuit. Out of the 31 competitors, there were:
3 Olympic Medalists
7 of the top 10 internationally ranked RS:X sailors
Behind me in the standings was the 10th place finisher at the 2008 Olympics, the 10th place finisher at the 2004 Olympics and three other Olympians. Undoubtedly, this was the best finish of my life. More importantly, however, this was a “pressure event.” Meaning, there were serious opportunities on the table and I performed to my ability to fully capitalize on this once in a lifetime opportunity. Looking forward to the Olympic trials, it is important for me to know that I can perform well in a high-pressure event. With this result I qualified for the number one ranked spot on the 2011 US Sailing Team and the only US men's windsurfing spot at the 2011 Pan American Games.
My sailing was consistent with my results: very strong. I had very impressive starts and my speed seemed to be in line with the fastest sailors in the world. Furthermore, my transitions were smooth, my tactics were sound and my board handling was crisp.
As my sailing continues to progress and as I get better, the skills that I need to address become more specific. For instance, the 2nd day of the regatta, which was sailed in a nice 15 – 20 knot easterly, was a bit challenging for me. After racing, I discussed with my coach that I was having trouble adapting to the different wave sets that we were seeing on the course. The “chop,” or waves, at the bottom of the course were small; however, near the top of the course, the waves were steep and confused. Typically, I am very good in both of those conditions; however, I was having difficulties making the transition without adjusting my sail and board settings (it is very difficult to change your settings in a race, as sometimes it requires you to stop sailing to make adjustments).
The list of topics that I need to work on is extensive, but getting the results is a huge motivator to work smarter and harder than my competition in order to bring home a medal at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara Mexico, qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games and bring home an Olympic Gold Medal!
Highlight of the Regatta:
Heading into the last day of the regatta, I was in 15th overall, 14 points ahead of my American counterpart. I knew I had a nice lead, but one very good race would give me a significant amount of breathing room going into the last race and nearly secure my spot on the 2011 Pan American Team. The breeze on the final day was coming directly over downtown Miami, which caused it to be rather shifty, i.e. huge variations in velocity and direction across the course. Shifty and puffy winds make it very difficult to maintain a lead. I had the best start of the regatta; I won the pin and was in the top 5 shortly after the start. However, due to the inconsistencies in the breeze, I found myself rounding the first mark in about 15th, only one spot ahead of my American counterpart. I pumped hard on the downwind, spiking my heart rate to around 190 bpm and made some gains, but so did my American competitor. From that point on I needed to “cover” my American counterpart around the course. A cover is essentially putting myself between the person I am covering and the finish. Ultimately, this strategy makes it more difficult for him to pass me. However, unlike traditional sailing, the high speeds of windsurf racing make covering particularity difficult. One bad transition, or one simple mistake can blow the cover very quickly. Fortunately, I executed the plan with precision and 4 other competitors passed my American counterpart, but didn’t pass me. Therefore, I put an additional 5 points on him heading into the last race, which was exactly what I needed to do in order to give myself a cushion.
The last race I sailed very conservatively and scored a 16th, while my American counterpart scored a 9th (his best race of the regatta). I still beat him by a comfortable 11 points in the overall standing to lock in the top spot on the 2011 US Sailing Team Alphagraphics and the only US men's windsurfing spot on the 2011 Pan American Games Team.
So where am I going next?!?
Well, originally I was suppose to head to Brazil today for 12 days of training and racing then take 10 days off, then host a 5 week training camp here in Florida. However, as always, plans change. As of a few hours ago, I will be departing for New Zealand Monday February 9th on what will be a trip of a lifetime. After speaking with my coach extensively, I believe this new schedule will be the ideal recipe to keep me ahead at the first event of the 2012 Olympic trials and beyond.