It’s always great to get back home. In my life I’ve probably spend close to a year on those waters. (yes, probably somethings like 365 days, at least). The US Sailing Center of Martin County is where I first learned to sail a dinghy at summer camp. Where the high school sailing team that my sister and I started would practice. Where I poured my guts out during the 2004 Olympic Trials. The brackish water of the Indian River has a lot of my blood, sweat, and tears in it. And this year, it was really special to bring two sailors from the Rocky Mountains down to compete in what may be the most competitive club 420 event on the US circuit, and there’s no better time than mid-February to retreat from Colorado and spend some time in South Florida.
The Club420 MidWinter’s Regatta is an event that always presents a challenge. I think this was my 6th time at the event (3 times as a competitor, 3 times as a coach) and this year was no different. Bringing a team of young (in experience, not age) sailors called for a lot of preparation before each race. Lots of re-evaluation, lots of adjusting expectations, creative incentives, and pathways toward motivation. As a coach, this event stretched me in new ways. Which is good: athletes & coaches need to stretch, right.
Here are some takeaways from the event:
- The Set Up- The boats in our community sailing program in Colorado are not at the level of the other competitors. Our team learned very quickly what changes and new adaptations needed to be made on the boat (topping lift, trapeze wire setting, spin halyard modifications). We also learned very quickly how difficult it is to step into a new boat set up, our “toothbrush” modification was definitely a fail. This set us back during rigging on the practice day and first day of the event. This is an important lesson. I think the Dave Perry quote is something like, “The sailors who win the regatta have already done so before they hit the water.” We definitely learned the value of good preparation.
- Technique- Our team started and finished the regatta as different sailors. It was amazing to see the progress and development they made in such a short time. Every time we hit the water the goal was to become more comfortable and efficient. “How many steps did it take to tack?” “How many times did my hands touch the spin pole?” “How could I have completed this job more efficiently and faster?,” is a question we should always ask. This goes back to practice days before the event. Approaching practice with the right amount of focus and goal setting helps refine all the movements so that once it’s regatta time, the technique is not a deficit in your race.
- Communication-Something we always need to work on. I notice teenagers, especially when stressed, yelling orders at each other. More often than not a skipper will yell at her crew, all the while focusing more on their teammate than their own responsibilities. How can we fix this issue? Open conversation and telling your teammate, “I’m doing this…” is a lot better than saying “Do this now, you son-of-a….!” A successful team can work in unison both silently and while speaking, this obviously just takes time. And let’s face it, even the pros yell at each other.
In the end, our team overcame a tremendous amount obstacles during this event. For me, it was a huge success. And now these sailors will bring their experience back to Colorado and share their stories and hard earned knowledge to uplift the skills and culture of our small sailing community. It was great to get back to Florida and catch up with many of my sailors and their parents. I can’t wait to go back net year and bring an even bigger team from the Rockies.