Sailing World Cup Miami reView

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TAKING IT ALL IN

It’s taken me nearly two weeks to mentally digest the part 1 of two 2016 Olympic Trials. The regatta that my sister continues to remind me is no longer called the Miami OCR but rather Sailing World Cup Miami presented by Sunbrella. This event may have only lasted a week, five-days of racing with the sixth day for the top 10 finishers in each class. But this week that encompasses over 6 nautical miles of Biscayne Bay, hosting close 713 sailors from something like 62 nations, began a year ago for me. It was something I dreamed about, focused on, and have worked toward daily for a long time coming.

Racing is a dream come true. Honestly. This was my third Olympic Trials: 2000, 2004 & 2016 and I’m so proud to have participated in this regatta by taking time off work and training in the ways I could. I’m grateful for all the knowledge I received from new friends in the class. And overwhelmed by the support I received from friends and family to make this happen. As for the racing, it was a week of pushing physical limits, testing patience, finding motivation, and locating perspective to enjoy the ride. Pretty cool to come away as 5th American in the fleet. Could not have done it with out support from my wife, help from my sister and siblings and backing from Adventure Sports & Magic Marine, along with the friends and family sending lots of positive vibes, sharing floor space, and cooking yummy dinners.

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I will admit, I was feeling low, very low at points. Physically and mentally exhausted. Lucky for me, this pity-party only lasted a day, while talking to 2012 gold medalist Dorian van Rijsselberghe before he stood on the podium at the awards ceremony. He said “This is a really hard board to sail, man.” Knowing that the guy at the top of the mountain recognizes the challenge is incredibly motivating because you know what “it is hard” and it should be.

GET REAL

For most sailors this event is four years in the making. This is the trials for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games and the qualification regatta for North and South America. What was I thinking jumping in at the 11th hour to race against former and future Olympians and the best in the sport? Foolish, right. Maybe. But where there is risk there is the opportunity for reward.

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PREPARATION: YOU’RE JOKING, RIGHT?

My year of preparation was not perfect. Nor was it proper. I recently read that LeBron works on ballhandling from 8:30-10, does a cardio and strength training session from 11-1pm before capping his day off with another 2 hour shooting practice. That is a champion’s training schedule. Lots of focused training with recovery time. (Did I just compare myself to LeBron? Not a chance!)

Days when the race committee boat stood as if atop a glass mirror of Biscayne Bay, with instruments recording wind averages of 3.5 knots.  On those special days (of which there were two and a half), I learned no training or cross training prepares you for a windsurfing event like windsurfing does.

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Pumping for 10 minutes off the start line to get to the weather mark is the forearm burn of rock-climbing el Cap and the core and lower body blast of dolphin kicking the  500. Heart rate jacked. The one-two punch here is explosive strength with the endurance to last. And repeat. And repeat. You have to be a machine.

Could I’ve done more? Of course. And knowing that leaves an acidic burn in my mouth and some pain in my sciatic. Instead of sailing day in and out, I logged a few hundred miles pounding feet to pavement to prep for two half-marathons which I ran with my lovely wife this past year. Truly, the hours spent on those stretches of road paved deeper connections between the two of us and our marriage, something I tapped into to find depth and strength in during the tougher parts of the trials.

FITNESS WITH A CAPITAL “F”

Gold Medalist, Anna Tunicliffe says fitness is the only thing you can control in a sailboat race. I think she’s right. My body is old. Or rather, feels old. I turned 30 this year. Which is light years away from 20 when it comes to elasticity and recovery time. So, I spent more time preparing for and recovering from exercise then I did exercising each day to stave off soreness.
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WALKING IN BIG KID SHOES

It was incredible though to dip my feet into the shoes of the professional sailing world, where the day’s activities and meals revolve around the event itself, along with preparation and recovery peppered with fresh foods and lots of loud, grunty stretch sessions. Pretty sweet way to live.

 

 

SHARED EXPERIENCE

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the entire regatta experience was getting together with my siblings, outside the constraints of a holiday, as adults. The day in/day out of living with them again was a time machine to the past. Cooking, eating, nerf gun fighting. It was quite special to be at an event where Meredith oversaw ‘mission control’ while Luke and I raced, as Nic supported from the coachboat. So many worlds coming together for team Muller. Freaking amazing.

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The next big event, and part 2 of the Olympic Trials is in Palma de Mallorca, Spain is at the end of March. Currently I’m positioned a whopping 20 points behind the top US sailor, Pedro Pascual. Reality bites: Is there any way I can take top spot while being so far behind? I guess there’s only one way to find out….

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Merz at the awards ceremony with Gary Jobson

Been A Longtime Coming, Miami

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It’s not often I make it on the racecourse as an athlete and competitor, but over the past few years a pressure has been boiling up inside me and finally burst. I had to get back in the game. Year after year of watching the affectionately known MOCR, Miami World Cup, from the sidelines I decided last January that I had to do the event this year.

This year’s event being the first of a two part qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio I embraced a “what the hell” kind of attitude as I clicked to pay my registration for the event. Last weekend, during the MLK holiday, the RS:X MidWinter’s Regatta was held as a “test event” for the carnival of chaos that is about to ensue in the Biscayne Bay this upcoming week.

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IN A NUTSHELL

The three days of racing was a perfect prep-event. Saturday was windless, I mean, maybe 4 knots–a totally exhausting pumpfest that kept my heart rate jacked to 180 for what seemed like for-freaking-ever. (After the first race, I shared my exhaustion with 2008 Olympian and longtime buddy, Ben Barger. He laughed and reminded me that “during OCR they’ll run that for 45 minutes.”)

Sunday was maybe the best day of sailing of my life. And by that I mean the most extreme and terrifying and fastest. The RC boat recorded gusts up to 38, yes thirty-eight, during the first race. I’ve never seen the Bay so wavy, with 3ft steep chop rolling down in quick succession. We ran three races, with most of the fleet back on shore because of broken gear or fear of. The second race I was leading the pack coming out of the bottom rounding and focused on getting back up to the top. Halfway up the beat I realized everyone was stopping at the finish line. The race was one lap. I was doing two. First to last just like that. Ha! So I finished the full second lap and chocked it up to practice.

Monday, mixed conditions: windy in morning dead by the last race. So tough to sail in this marginal, patchy breeze. But an amazing exercise in connecting the dots and not over-sailing the course, definitely a physical chess match on the course.

TAKEAWAYS

My brother Nic came down to coach me on the water during this event and sitting with him on the coach boat I experienced a compete role reversal. To receive sound bites of coaching I give out to my sailors in between gulps of water and energy bars, was very informative. Here are some of my big lessons from last weekend.

DON’T FORGET THE NUTS & BOLTS

Like I said, Nic was coaching me in rote: “Get a good start. Look for the first shift. Consolidate the fleet. Protect the favored side. .” All excellent advice, given the circumstances on the course. While racing, I can even hear myself chanting these axioms of sailing.

This is the same type of coaching I would give a 10 year old Opti kid. Is it crazy that I would need the same advice while prepping for one of the most competitive regattas on tour? Absolutely. Because there are basic fundamental characteristics of putting together a successful race. They are called fundamentals for a reason (ugh, it hurts just to write something so trite) But it’s true. This is the connective tissue that pulls a good race together, without it you are racing too much against yourself and not enough against the fleet.

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GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE BOAT

So I did an extra lap, big deal. HUGE DEAL. First to last in a snap, not to mention I lost out on a ton of recovery time between races. It is damn hard to make decisions and think clearly when your burning calories like they’re drops of water on the stove. But take a breath, try and look at the big picture. And for the love of pete, check the course board on the back of the RC boat.

EXPERIENCE IS EVERYTHING

Racing the RS:X is hard. It requires a lot of effort and fitness. Along with all the other experience and technical knowledge any craft demands. All in All, I’m just happy to be out there on the racecourse and glad to have been able to take the time away from work to compete. I know at the end of the event this year, I won’t be faced with the regret of missing another one. But most likely the shredded hands and throbbing ache of accomplishment. I can’t wait.

An ocean of thanks to Adventure Sports USA and MAGIC MARINE for supporting me this event. Please stay tuned on all the action in Miami World Cup this week. Thanks to my friend, Osvaldo Zamora for capturing some of the moments above.

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Help A Brother Out

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http://lukemullersailing.com/

I can’t think of anyone who has inspired me in both sailing and life to work harder, reach higher or dig deeper. My (not so) little brother Luke Muller has committed himself to becoming a world class sailor and first rate student (Go Stanford University Sailing Team). I encourage all of you to visit his site and, if you can, support him by donating to his efforts. WithISAF Sailing World Cup Miami closing in, Luke could use a little help.

After spending over half a decade in the Laser boat, and representing the USA at the ISAF Youth World Championships, Luke has spent the past two years gaining weight and muscle to bulk up for the big boy boat. He’s committed to the Finn class and spent this past summer and nearly all his free time in San Francisco working to meet the demands of the Finn. Check him out http://lukemullersailing.com/ Thanks!

Looking Back/Looking Ahead: Takeaways from OB & 2×15

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Happy new year. In looking forward to the new possibilities of the coming year, this fresh start provides a moment to take pause and reflect on some important lessons I’ve learned that I want to keep in the front of my mind this year.

Lots of us in the sailing world are recovering from the 2015 Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta, a marathon event that is often so much more than just the regatta, but includes several days before of training. This year was my 16th Orange Bowl, combing my years as both a sailor and a coach. This end of year event was special to me, particularly this year.

THE TEACHER BECOMES THE STUDENT

This year I had the pleasure of working with some great young athletes from Key Biscayne YC as well as a team from my Colorado program. Our group fared well and learned a ton throughout the week but we were reminded at the award’s ceremony of the importance of hard-work, dedication, and commitment that culminates into the satisfaction of a job well done, which at this particular regatta translates into a holding silver bowl of oranges.

imageI feel a special amount of pride in having worked with, in different capacities, many of the winners of this year’s event: Optimist RWB, C420 & Laser Radial fleets. Disclaimer: I do not assume to take any credit for these young athletes’ success in this event. They all share an exemplary level of commitment to the sport and train with great coaches and fellow athletes who they work with to attain their goals.

But I have been lucky enough to share some part of their journey with them. Looking back on those moments, I have reflected on some of the lessons these particular sailors taught me over the years and how their role as students and sailors have shaped mine as coach.

THE POWER OF POSSIBILITY- Bella Casaretto 1st Optimist RWB

Amazing to see this young lady, who I met as a smiley and tiny Opti green fleeter, develop into the powerhouse of a racer she has become. And no doubt Bella’s own fiery ambition has been stoked by, among others, talented coaches and sailors like bronze medalist Lucas Calabrese and Dartmouth athlete and leukemia survivor Christopher Williford (woot!).

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Many moons ago, I met Bella in the beginning of her sailing career, her sister Ariel and she sailed on my green fleet team. Green fleet is what it is and that’s not what I want to talk about. Fast forward to white fleet where Bella sprouted up to show a lot of promise after logging countless hours learning to hike and surf during ocean practice off Fort Lauderdale beach. Bella moved up the ranks, even at 10 years old, and worked her way on to one of our competitive team race team.

The event is the Team Race Midwinters in Jensen Beach, Bella is the youngest, by a few years on a team of five. She is our designated “rabbit.” Fast as either a pin end started or a boat end “tack and go right” boat. Our strategy for her is something like “she’s small and fast so let’s keep her away from traffic.”

We had been working on passbacks and hooks at mark 2 for a few weeks leading up to the event. Bella had become proficient but when it came game time, I had not intended to coach her to strike offensively but rather slip through the cracks or up the side and secure a 1,2, or 3 finish. Throughout the event Bella proved she could hold her own with the big boys. Upsetting many top sailors with her mark 2 hooks, specifically in two tough races that took our mid pack team to the top of the silver fleet standings.

We used this newly discovered strategy later that season at the USODA Nationals and beat our the top team from our club, which was very motivating for our young bunch.

At the end of the Jensen Beach event Bella proved something amazing to her competitors, don’t underestimate anyone- even the smallest and smiliest sailor can flip the dynamic of a race on its head with same impact as Goliath’s head hitting the dirt. Respect the small and mighty.

Bella taught me to push sailors beyond their capacities. Not outer space beyond, but far enough that they can create and discover new depth within. Far enough that you allow them to surprise you and more importantly to surprise  themselves. That space is where progress is found.

BRING YOUR A GAME, JACK- Eduardo Mintzias (skipper) 1st Club420

I regret not having snapped a photo of Eduardo on the morning of the last day of racing at OB this year. I walked one of the sailors on my team over to the end of the dock, opposite of Eddie at the Shake-A-Leg boat ramp to use him as an example of how hungry for success one needs to be to succeed. Eddie was sitting alone, cross legged and staring out at the Bay. Calm, collected, hyper-focused. I imagine visualizing his future win and sizing up the challenge he had ahead. I was inspired looking at him and hoping to inspire my athlete by pointing him out.

imageBefore I continue, I first need to set the stage and give some more context to really tie this anecdote together. Early on in my tenure at LYC our team participated at a USODA East Coast Champs held in Marco Island, FL. This event delivered all the qualities one wants in a regatta: full days of racing with steady breeze and swelly chop, perfect gulf coast sailing. We had a sizable team fleet this event (nearly 30 sailors if I remember) and brought three coaches to assist the athletes on the water.

It seems to be standard operating procedure these days, especially for larger club teams, to fleet a big group of sailors who are across the spectrum in skill level. This regatta was no exception, we had a few sailors elbowing their way around the top 10 positions, about 60% of the group scattered throughout the middle of the pack, and a sailor or two trailing the back of the fleet. The big breeze and waves on the second day of racing were tough for our younger sailors, which makes a tough day for coaching when you have to switch gears between motivational speaker and tactical offensive coordinator. I was on clean up duty and spent lots of time talking the tears out of the eyes of our frustrated sailors.

I should tell you that Eddie is the type of kid I love to coach. He is headstrong and smart. He challenges everything you say and weighs it mentally against both his experience and his gut. At this event Eduardo was not in the back. But fighting for a top position in the regatta. He came to my boat after a tough second race and wanted  a plan for the next one. He was emotional: pissed off and frustrated.

Like I said, I had been working with some teary eyed sailors in the flight before his and hadn’t seen much of his race. He came to me with questions and wanted a plan. Handing Eddie some water, I spat out a line of coaching I thought would suffice, something like “get off the line with clear air and take that first shift right, make sure to hit the top left side on your final approach to the mark.”

Eddie’s retort put a halt to my quippy reply. Throwing his bottle back in my direction he shouted “I JUST DID THAT AND IT DIDN’T WORK.” Whatever I was selling, he wasn’t buying. This sailor was challenging me on the advice I was giving. I should have known better.

This moment taught me a few important things; 1) that coaching a big group means giving 100% to each kid, from the winner to the last boat across the finish line. Everyone deserves their fair shake. 2) know your shit, man and work harder. If you’re going to assume to speak from a position of authority, make sure you collect all the data and are attentive. 3) “I don’t know” or “I wasn’t watching” is not an acceptable answer. This is pretty much a reprise of #2 but important enough to say twice. Do you think Phil Jackson missed watching one of Michael Jordan’s blocked drives or Pippen’s picked off passes? I doubt it. You want to be a pro, then be a pro.

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I remember this nearly every time I see Eddie. And I use this experience as a reminder to better myself and my coaching. Watching him work to victory this year was amazing. And he did it because his drive and hunger calls him toward perfection.

ASK MORE QUESTIONS, DON’T JUST GIVE ANSWERS- Leo Boucher 1st Laser Radial

I met Leo this last summer at the US Sailing Youth Championships in Bristol Rhode Island. I was hired by US Sailing to coach the laser radial “fleet” at this event. I put “fleet” in quotes because the majority of the sailors at this event come with their own coaches. It turned out that about 16 radial sailors came without coaches, Leo was among the group.

Event coaching is strange and a brings a series of challenges. The first day holds all the pressures of a job interview or a blind date. First impressions are paramount to setting the right tone and rapport with the athletes immediately. Trust is established through investment and coaches build this over time. We didn’t have time. So I did my best to open up and make myself approachable to the sailors with a series of Taylor Swift references followed by a discussion of the forecast and environmental factors like current and water depth.

This event is chock full talented athletes. Sailors have to apply to get in. And rightfully so as it’s the qualifier for the ISAF Youth World Championship. My approach to best support the athletes on my team during this event was to use our on water talks between races to pull information out of them. This process helps me figure out what their strengths, weaknesses, habits, and how deep their experience base is. This is my own sort of coaching algorithm. From that process I know what information they need, be it technical, motivational, or what have you. I didn’t show up with this method in mind.

I realized quickly during the first day of racing, that this event was not the right time to “teach” Leo, or any of the other athletes something new. Practice is over when the game is on. So as we talked on the boat I asked myself what could I offer this crew to enhance their performance and race experience to fulfill their own potential during that week? With so many factors to control and overcome in a sailboat race, what could I do in my blow-up boat to lighten his load?

I quickly learned from these conversations and watching him sail how smart and strong Leo is. He was equally in tune with the shifts and current as he was with his rig set up. And Damn!, the kid can hike, the first day in a half of racing brought some big breeze and chop that had everyone’s legs burning. Leo was not afraid of setting himself up to leeward and burning through and upwind hike-a-thon.

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I figured out that to help him and the other sailors shut out distractions and externalities uncontrollable to focus on what was important. What’s the most important factor in any competitive atmosphere? Confidence. How do we gain confidence? Experience and knowledge. So I used the rest of the week to explore this new coaching style (for me) of extracting then highlighting information from the athletes. I became a lens, a spotlight, a microscope. Through probing and questioning, I learned to guide these sailors to find the solutions to the problems they faced through reflection.

Coming out of this event, my coaching style was changed. I promised to no longer spoon feed data to sailors. And believe me, sometimes this takes a lot of self-control. But in the long run, it’s better for the athletes to learn to work through their own experience and discover the answers with their own insight. With some helpful guidance, of course. Doing that they’re empowered to become better tacticians, athletes, and meteorogists and to find those qualities within. Working with Leo taught me that, and I can’t thank him enough.

A BIGGER SIDE OF SPORT

A sailor of mine, Jack David, won something prestigious (and often over looked) this past Orange Bowl. Jack, who I have been working with in Colorado for the past (nearly) two years was awarded the Sportsmanship Award for helping a fellow competitor re-unite with his capsized boat, during a race on the first day of the event.

Jack, who had up until this point, only raced sailboats in Colorado was in over his head at Orange Bowl. On the practice day, when we met at Key Biscayne Yacht Club, he was told he would be sailing his Opti across the bay to Coral Reef YC  and couldn’t believe it. He had never sailed on a body of water that expansive before, and in consistent breeze upwards of 20 mph—no way, jose’.

But he did, and throughout the week he developed new skills within himself that he never knew were there. He finished the regatta by putting 30 boats behind his transom, 30 boats who steadily passed him on the first day of the event. This event put hair on his chest.

JDBack to that first harrowing day of racing, as Jack rounded the course nearly a minute behind the second to last boat he overcame a powerful urge. The urge we all feel when we see someone stranded on the side of the road, looking helplessly at their cell phone with their hazards on. The urge that says, “they’ll be fine.” Jack stopped to help.

Even though he was struggling in his own right to keep his boat in control, Jack picked up the stranded competitor in the water and sailed the guy back to his half-capsized, half-drifting downwind Opti. I say all this from second hand accounts. I was unfortunately on another course at the time and didn’t witness this act of kindness, of sportsmanship, something so spirited and Corinthian it makes us all stand a little taller.

This is not an argument against competitiveness but rather a statement that the worth of sport is measured against the standards of decency and mutual respect. I am so proud of Jack and the example he gave us all who are involved in sport this year. Thanks Jack, for showing us that sailing is about something more.image

4 Mountaineers at Orange Bowl

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Jack David (11) flew to Miami from Colorado with no expectations of receiving an award at the 2015 Orange Bowl Youth International Regatta. Nor did he expect that on the first day of racing he would pull a fellow competitor out of the Biscayne Bay to return him to his capsized boat downwind. To his shock and surprise, he had no idea anyone would take notice, let alone Olympic Gold Medalist and Paralympic coach Magnus Liljedahl.

imageThis was Jack’s first time competing at the Orange Bowl Regatta, something he had been looking forward to for many years. The new waters of Biscayne Bay and steady breeze challenged him beyond his expectations. With 289 (yes, Three Hundred) Optimists (red, white, blue, and green) racing it seems easy to get lost among all the jockeying and bustle. But Jack overcame many challenges and pushed himself to improve his standings each race. He fought for a clear position on the starting line and learned to stay with the pack upwind. Once he figured out how to put it all together he placed 40th in his last race, leaving 30 boats behind him at the finish.

A good deed stands out. To help someone in need, furthermore a competitor is a selfless act. Most of the time acts of kindness and selflessness go unnoticed, but not this time. Jack was awarded a bowl of oranges inside one of the most celebrated trophies of the event, the Sportsmanship Award. We could not be more proud of Jack and thank him for representing Colorado well at this international event.

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“This is a completely different sport,” said a wide-eyed and exhausted Max Williams while standing with his teammate Makalynne Dyer after sailing from Key Biscayne to Coral Reef Yacht Club, the host site of the Orange Bowl.

Max (17), who learned to sail at Cherry Creek Reservoir with Community Sailing of Colorado many years ago and has grown up with the program as an active racer in both youth and men’s classes throughout Colorado, traveled to Miami on Christmas day to log one practice day before the event.image

Max and Makalynne’s boathandling and skills in the boat were put to the test during the past week, while thy competed in the Club420 class. Jam packed starting lines and difficult fleet tactical races were a challenge, but none more difficult than finding efficiency and speed while sailing through the 2-3 chop and rolling boat wake churn of the Biscayne Bay. While Max and Makalynne have been training together for many months now, nothing short of a mechanical bulll could have prepared them for the physical strain of keeping their boat flat and fast upwind. But they were quick to learn tricks and techniques to work their way through the chop. Pushed by new friends and regatta teammates from Key Biscayne Yacht Club, Max and Makalynne have taken their new skills and set their sights on c420 midwinters in February. These two can’t get enough!

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Boulder resident and longtime CSC sailors Cameron Holland came all the way from New Zealand (well, via Colorado) to race in the 101 person Laser Radial Fleet at the OB regatta this year. Cameron shared his always infectious enthusiasm with teammates in Florida. Racing in arguably the toughest fleet of the event, Cameron battled through a week of waves and big breeze on his laser, putting up his best score on the final day of racing, 19.

The son of both sailors and scientists, Cameron wasted no time surveying the depth of his race course and was surprised to learn the Biscayne Bay is much shallowed than he expected. Missing the home waters of his Cherry Creek and Boulder Reservoirs, Cameron entertained us with a story of one special capsize during our team dinner.

Driving all the way from the Centennial State to Miami, Cameron looks forward to returning to Florida for the Laser MidWinter’s East regatta in Clearwater in February.

Colorado sailors compete in Florida Jr. Olympics Regatta

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Two of CSC’s up and coming Optimist sailors competed this past weekend in what can only be described as wet, blustery south Florida. Held at the US Sailing Center in Martin County (Jensen Beach, FL) over 260 juniors were pulled together by sport, in the Optimist, Laser, c420 and Open Bic classes for two days of racing on the Indian River.

Willis and Rocket (aka: Will and Johnny) both ten year olds from the Cherry Creek Race Team arrived in Florida last week and put two practice days on the water in preparation for the event. The weather gods put the boy’s skills to the test and their efforts were nothing short of Herculean. As the dark clouds from an incoming low pressure system rolled in like droves of cattle, bringing a stampede of foul weather, sharp spitting rain was thrown about by wind gusts upwards of 25 to 30 mph. The conditions had these soggy tweeners hiking their legs off.

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The consistent breeze churned steep chop that sloshed over the bows of their boats, capsizing the boys into a cool 80 degree water temp.

In preparation for the event we focused, firsthand, on finding comfort in this new arena. Ample time was spent checking and re-tying sail ties to bring the sail’s luff, tack and head taught against the spars. Masts were raked back and out haul, sprit and vang tension was cranked to flatten the deep draft of the boy’s Opti sails.

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On the water, team Colorado learned valuable lessons in weight distribution, especially when it came to driving their boats down the face of each wave to surf. “Sail&Bail” became a chorus as they struggled to maintain stability with so much flying water.

Long windward beats during practice got the biceps burning as the boys worked their boats through the chop. After two tough practice days and having been tested to a full course of emotion everywhere from fear and rage to confidence and thrill, these young athletes felt ready to compete.

Saturday’s forecast was ominous as each squall line moved in over the sailing center. The Opti Green fleet was held on shore from racing before the PRO called off racing at 1pm. A day off the water was not an option for our team who crossed half the country to race, so they joined forces with a few star sailors from local Key Biscayne YC and sailed a practice in a steady, rainy 16mph winds.

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Sunday broke with clear skies and a consistent 14mph breeze from the east. 7 races in total were run for the Optis. Steady breeze and back to back races were run in quick succession, as the sailors finished their trapezoid course they shuffled back into the starting area for the next race.

An amazing weekend and regatta overall, with lots of lessons learned and new friends made. Thanks to the support of parents, CSC, and all the fans at home Willis and Rocket completed their first big sailing regatta, a weekend they’ll never forget.

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Miami Slalom Open 2×15 hosted by TILLO iNTERNATIONAL

12219448_473840879466829_368748573660325040_nNo windsurfing event would be complete without a healthy share of bumps and bruises. If the blisters on my hands are an indication of anything, it’s that this past weekend was full of high speed action on the water. Thanks to the wind gods and an amazing effort from Alex Morales and team Tillo iNTERNATIONAL the Miami Slalom Open ended with a series of eight competitive races, full of crashes, cuts, bruises and an on-water rescue thanks to Sunday’s breeze that kept everyone’s adrenaline pumping. Literally a “dog off the chain” morning had much of the fleet dusting off their small quiver of 6.2s and 5.7s, a few guys rigged wave gear just to control the conditions on the course.

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At the skipper’s meeting Alex challenged his local fleet citing this regatta’s intention to pave the way for a higher level of racing in Miami. His message was clear “Thanks to everyone from out of town, but this is weekend is for the local sailors.” In true Miami style, the local fleet welcomed all the competitors warm as a croquetta out the fryer. I was one of a few out of towners including Danish superstar Jesper VesterstØm, who lead the fleet around each mark, and France’s speed-demon (17 year old) Martin Plissoneau.

Thanks to my official event sponsor Ron Kern (who not only leant me every piece of gear except the harness and drove me around all weekend- cheers Ron!), my magic setup was a 7.0m NP RS Slalom MKIII and Mike’s Lab with a 38cm fin. Ron stood on the beach that morning with the wind meter reading a steady 24 mph with gusts to 29 turned to me and said “I’m rigging the 6.2 with the small ML slalom board and you’re screwed.”

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To put it plainly, I WAS LIT on the 7.0m. After about an hour of tuning the rig and changing out boards and fins, I finally felt comfortable on my kit (or at least not-totally-out of control). The lack of activity and wind on the first two days was well made up for on the final day of racing. A steady north-eastern breeze at 20 knots with pulses to 25+ kicked up a steep chop making it tough on both port and starboard tacks.

The first four races: I selected to shoot toward the favored pin end for the first four races to extend below the fleet. But the risk of a leeward end start in the slalom being the lack of room to bear away for speed, I got rolled a few times in the middle of the beat once the fleet’s pace started to level off. There was a lot of distance to be made on the beat to mark one by keeping the hammer down (fin loaded up and back hand heavy) blasting off the tops of each wave towards the mark. Mark one was set on top of the sand bar which made line selection around the mark tough, a tight turn with high risk of carnage, or over the back of each crumbling 2 foot wave. Alex was happy with his mark selection, before the R1 he said with a shaka, “You like the first mark? Right on the waves. It’s Perfect!”

The stretch from mark one to two was a tough deep reach. The higher tide in the morning tossed up rolling chop that took down many skilled sailors along this beat. I nearly t-boned into Martin after his front foot was knocked out of the strap before he slammed into the water two boat lengths in front of me.

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Good jibes at the mark roundings was the key to success. I had a few hairy moments where I took some wobbly turns and deep breaths to make it around the course, I’m happy to say I made every jibe the whole event.

I always try to take away a lesson after each race and the lessons after this event were priceless. My brother Nic coached me between his own sessions,  offering the same advice I can hear myself giving  my sailors, “be more selective at the line and get off, front-row at full speed.” Proving fundamentals and rig set up are critical to race success. I am happy with my overall finish of 3rd place, but after putting up a series of 2nd and 3rd place finishes to Jesper and “the flash” aka Roger Rayes I’m left with a hunger to strengthen my game.

After such an amazing event in Miami, I can’t wait to get back on the board this winter. Special thanks again to Ron Kern for setting me up, Alex Morales and team Tillo iNTERNATIONAL for a great event, thanks to Chris Wands, Cedric Kleisler and the Adventure Sports USA squad for hooking up my dad and bro to get on the water. Gracias por todo, Miami.

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US Sailing Showcase of our Rocky Mountain Race Team

Amazing to get a nod from US Sailing with an episode of “The Beat”  showcasing our kids racing at the USA Junior Olympic Sailing Festival, hosted by us, Community Sailing of Colorado in Denver. Also, a few lucky young sailors went on a field trip to the Olympic Training Center Colorado. Team USA ‪#‎JOSailing15‬ ‪#‎USSailingTheBeat‬

Hosting the 2015 Rocky Mtn Junior Olympic Sailing Festival in Denver

What an amazing experience to host the 2015 Rocky Mountain Junior Olympic Sailing Festival from July 24-26 at Cherry Creek Reservoir. This was a true-blue grassroots effort showcasing the fun side of the sport. The focus of the event was to embrace fun, camaraderie, and friendship, which reminded me of my childhood as a young sailor. This year’s event was a great success, with 49 junior sailors competing from Texas, Montana,Utah and across Colorado.
The three day event began Friday with a clinic for competitors, the wind gods were on our side offering up steady breeze for three practice races. Sailors closed the day out with onshore festivities: Rock Climbing Wall (thanks to our friends Adaptive Adventures), an electric and scenic Glow Stick Sail during a classic Colorado sunset, and beach-side bonfire with S’mores.
Racing Saturday and Sunday was a lot of fun. It is is inspiring to see young sailors both novice and seasoned rub elbows and boats together on the starting line. Tight racing around the track for all fleets (Optimist, Tera, Radial and Club420) proved that there’s great racing to be had in Colorado.
The many competitors and families at Cherry Creek Reservoir for the 2015 Rocky Mountain Junior Olympics Sailing Festival made this the largest junior sailing regatta in Colorado history.

2015 US YOUTH CHAMPS Bristol, RI

2015 YC

It was a privilege to spend this past week coaching as a National coach for US Sailing and work with the nation’s top athletes in the radial fleet. An incredible experience too, to work alongside the talented coaches who came together in support of youth sailing in the Olympic development classes.

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Four days of racing in Mt. Hope Bay, out of an newly furnished Roger Williams’ sailing center, the majority of conditions were on the lighter side but the challenging current and oscillating wind made for an ever changing battleground–just the type of conditions that beg for the caliber you want to see at a qualifying event.

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First day offered up great breeze with a persistent rotation of the direction with some strong lines moving down the course. As the chop built and the wind thickened to a solid 15 at most parts of the course. The second and third days were much lighter forcing sailors to take care of the current, which became a huge factor up and down the field. Cloud cover from a stalled front kept us all drawing for straws when it came to identifying patterns to an unseasonably northerly.

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The fourth and final day of racing proved to be light as well with a bit more order to the shifts and puffs. This regatta being the qualifier for sailors in each class to represent the USA at the 2015 ISAF Youth World Championship this December, the final day put everything on the line. It came down to the final race in a brutal battle between Nic Baird and Henry Marshall. A pleasure to watch two young talented skippers fight for the radial berth in the light air. Ultimately it was some of the smartest and most cutthroat sailing I’ve seen in youth sailing, in fact let me just say ‘sailing’ in general.

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Judging from the high level of competition, passion and grit our 2015 ISAF team displayed this past week, I’m sure this year’s representatives will make us all proud back home.