Throughout the duration of my New Zealand experience, there one was theme that was consistent day in and day out: Have fun. And that is exactly what we as a group did. Despite how enjoyable every aspect of the trip was, the training, however, was more intense and challenging (mentally and physically) than any training I have ever done. Fortunately, the nature of the group and the environment made the training extremely enjoyable, challenging, scenic and productive.
My intent going into the trip was to emphasize working on my technique (especially light air), then adding power to my technique, in addition to adopting a “fight for every inch” attitude in our speed tests (especially in heavy air). Reflecting on this trip, I can comfortably say that my light air technique has improved dramatically and I am feeling even more confident in my heavy air sailing, after sailing with the best sailors in the world day after day.
Typically, when I do a training camp, the training consists of the same things: Speed testing, intervals and practice races. However, in New Zealand we included another dimension to our training, the completion of “missions.” Some missions took all day, while others only half an hour. We concluded that windsurfing to a spot, or around an island added to the excitement of the training and kept our minds fresh. Alternatively, sailing in circles gets a bit tedious. The most memorable mission and the longest started at Manley Bay and took us across Whangaparaoa Bay through a channel with the shore line on one side and a group of small islands on the other, finishing at Mansion House Bay, or Kawau Island (see attached map). Over land, the distance was about 40k, over water we sailed 100k. We pulled into the scenic bay after 2.5 hours of sailing and the image was spectacular. Imagine clear blue water, with a white sandy beach backdrop followed by a forestry island. We were all a bit tired from long downwind sail. Fortunately, there was a café on the island, so we ate lunch, took a short nap under the tall straight pine trees and among the peacocks, had a cup of coffee, then headed back on the water for upwind trek. The sail home took us about 3.5 hours and we got back to the beach around 6pm.
Another mission, included a sail around Rangitoto Island (see attached map). This mission, albeit shorter than the Mansion House Bay mission, was just as exciting. The initial plan was to sail half way around the island then walk the 50 meter gap with our equipment and then come home. However, as we sailed near the gap in a sunny, warm, 20 knot easterly with big waves, we decided to go all the way around, an additional 15k or so. On the back side of the island, the waves began to crank up a bit. And as we sailed through the channel on the southeastern side of the island, we were cruising downwind in 8 – 10 foot swell. JP, the kiwi windsurfer in the group and my partner for this mission, was a few hundred yards ahead of me at this point and when we were both in the wave troughs, I could only see the top quarter of his sail (the sail is about 18 feet tall). It was fun!
In addition to sailing, our daily activities included Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), surfing and Mountain Biking.
Throughout all of my sailing adventures, I dramatically improved all aspects of my sailing and I am feeling more prepared then ever to win the Olympic trials and bring home the Gold!
Tuesday Night Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Board Races:
Every Tuesday, at the venue we were training out of, an organization hosted a SUP racing series. The event drew around 50 competitors every Tuesday. It was ideal for us, as we would finish our training, grab a quick bite to eat and compete in the SUP race, which was an excellent form of cross training. The last SUP race was a charity event for an organization called CanTeen that supports young people in New Zealand living with cancer. All the proceeds from this race went directly to the CanTeen organization. Furthermore, for this particular charity event, all of the competitors were urged to dress up (Halloween style) and race. Understanding that we would be competing for a good cause and we had a sociably acceptable reason to dress up, the three of us windsurfers went to the local dollar store and all bought superman costumes, kids superman costumes. I was Batman. To make things more challenging, we thought it would be a good idea to race on one paddleboard as tandem team. Initially, we tried 4 people on one board, but that was a dramatic failure, as we couldn’t even make it past the shore break. The race was more physically demanding than all of us anticipated; however, both of the tandem teams finished in fine form. In general, the charity event for the CanTeen organization was a huge success, raising more than $6,000 kiwi and everybody had a fantastic time.
I decided to skip out on the Spanish World Cup stop, as it seemed like it would have been a bit too much before my Olympic trials prep. Therefore, I am taking 2 weeks away from the board and spending my time here in Chicago. While in Chicago, I am emphasizing my fitness and intend to take advantage of some resources I have here that are not available in Europe.
I plan to fly to France on April 14th for the French World Cup stop, then at the end of April, I will travel all the north to Weymouth, UK where I will situate myself at the site of the 2012 Olympics for nearly 6 weeks and train with the same group I was with in NZ in preparation for my Olympic trials.