2024 Olympic Windsurfing Sea Trials – Good spirit, great community, great gear; (all in two chapters of a novel-like blog)

Part I: Commentary on the selection of the iFoil one-design class by World Sailing

Part II:  About how awesome the testing was (this is more fun)

Part I. Some political commentary

Politics and athletes sometimes seem to never mix well.  However, at Lake Garda last week, athletes, windsurfing manufacturers, and World Sailing representatives came together to create an amazing four days of testing and tuning equipment and great discussions. Everyone was curious, fair, and earnestly engaged and interested in the event.  With the true spirit of sport, we all worked together to evaluate and discover the best windsurfing class for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.  Finally, the World Sailing Sea Trials working group has recommended the iFoil, a multi-manufacturer one design foil platform, created by Starboard, as the 2024 Olympic Windsurfing equipment.  The recommendation still needs to be approved by World Sailing at the 2019 conference in Bermuda, held October 18.

Windsurfer Equipment Evaluation

iFoil in action

In short, why was foil chosen over a traditional platform?  Only a short time ago, foil wasn’t ready to enter into the Olympic arena, and many saw (or still see) it as simply the latest new toy or fad within the sport.  However, in European countries as well as in the PWA, foil has already proven itself to be a great platform for racing both locally and professionally, and adaptable to the Olympic format.  Among the sea trials testers and organizers, there was a strong sense that the sport needs to evolve.  With many types of sailing craft already adopting a foiling platform, and pressure on World Sailing to justify keeping sailing classes in the Olympics to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), World Sailing was leaning pro-foil from the beginning of the test.  In addition, many windfoil-savvy Olympic and PWA sailors at the sea trials already knew it to be a fun, well performing class with successful events under the belt, and were eager to prove that foil can work as the Olympic class.  The sea trials were pro-foil from the start.

At Garda, all the foil equipment platforms showed a high level of performance in both light wind (4-6 knots) and strong (a gusty 25).  The equipment was not overly difficult or complicated to sail, and racing was fast, exciting, technical, physical, and very motivating!  Sailors who were beginner foilers picked up windfoil technique in just a few sessions, and within a short time, had strong enough technical skill to speed test with the group and sail around the racecourse.  The fun factor was also strong with foiling, and the thrill of speed, stability, and physical racing in all kinds of conditions was hard to beat.  The foil equipment was easy to use, fun, and inspiring to see on video and photos all at once, which made it very attractive.

Although the testing clearly favored the foil classes, sailors also had concerns about running a campaign with entirely new equipment. One major concern we shared was if emerging nations, self-funded athletes, and countries who haven’t even seen windfoil equipment yet, could adapt to this platform.  In short, can countries bridge the culture gap rapidly to participate in windfoil? This concern (among other political issues) is why I believe World Sailing selected a one-design multi manufacturer platform over the more open formats.  For many, windfoil appears to be out of reach and complicated to sail, with specialized and advanced technical knowledge, even though this is not the case.  The psychological hurdle for developing countries to overcome is lessened if the equipment is a one-design platform.  A one-design platform also holds true to traditional Olympic sailing ideals: the best sailor, not the best equipment, wins.  As such, a complicated and potentially expensive gear selection process, compounded with a sense of unfairness that could keep emerging national sailors out of the sport, can be avoided.

In the USA, the culture gap is a legitimate concern, because we are already about two years behind the most advanced windfoil communities. However in the light of our current upswing of community and shop support for windfoil, combined with the iFoil’s heavily discounted price for emerging nations and multiple manufacturers allowing for sponsorships, it may be that this combination of pricing, potential for sponsorships, and a specific one-design package will help shorten the gap between us and other sailing countries before 2028.

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Baby steps:  Maryland windsurfers try out windfoil with the raceboard fleet in August 2019 (Photo Daphne Lathouras)

A second concern was manufacturing: the readiness of the equipment to be put into production, the durability of gear and the current trajectory of development of foiling technology.  Having a major manufacturer backing the iFoil, Starboard, with a good reputation for quality and R&D, sailors were optimistic from the outset.  However, it remains to be seen how close to “one-design” all the different manufacturers can keep the equipment, if it will be covered by warranty, and how the final quality will turn out – although healthy competition between companies will certainly help!  Within the iFoil platform itself there are still unknowns to address, such as the use of the fin option or not, if there could be a carbon mast for the foil, changing to a larger sail size for the girls, and the political process of how and when to allow the gear to adapt to new technology while keeping the platform globally fair for the Olympics.  Even with these concerns, among the testers and officials present the attitude was very positive towards windfoil as the future of our sport!

How will the selection of windfoil change American windsurfing?  In short, it won’t change too much right away, especially since we don’t have much structure to begin with.  However, windfoil in general, with the additional nudge of the Olympics, will increase the involvement of windsurfing shops and local manufacturers in the Olympic effort.  With a multi manufacturer platform, shops are more likely to order and sell their preferred brand’s Olympic package, and support local racing.  In New Zealand, one shop has already mustered up broad participation in windfoil by offering a well discounted equipment package to anyone who competes in its regatta series.  Shops have long been contributors to local communities, and currently there are no shops in the US (and worldwide) who support the RS:X racing platform.  With a switch to foil as well, more yacht clubs may be inspired to take up windsurfing programs before 2028. The more community involvement we create, the more local racing, mentorship, and support structure we can build before the Olympics in Los Angeles to give our athletes a chance for a good performance.  This should be a call to action for shops and windsurfing clubs across the USA – what an opportunity to revitalize our sport locally!

Windfoil is also changing the shape of youth Bic Techno racing.  In France, Techno has been slowly declining over the last few years due to a greater push for racing and results (similar to Optis in the US), and outside academic and financial pressures.  Foil has been taking over young teenagers’ interest because it’s fast, exciting, and less stress and pressure.  At a recent national youth foil event in Leucate, France, numbers were strong and included 18 teenaged girls.  Foil will certainly take away participation from the Bic Techno class, and it is already doing so now. A few foil youth classes have been proposed and it remains to be seen which one, if any, will be taken up, and how it will fit into the traditional development structure.  However, the Techno will certainly remain the youth introductory class to both windsurfing and racing, and remains a solid investment for youth programs.  Ready or not, windfoil is here to stay.  The good news is that on a local level, it’s not as complicated as we think it will be, and we have an amazing opportunity to build our local communities!

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Young windfoilers get going after a start in Leucate, France, in August 2019 (Photo FF Voile)

In the greater global and political arena of the sport, World Sailing’s overall concern, I found, was the question of retaining sailing in the Olympics.  With the sport of sailing itself a bit always under scrutiny, World Sailing feels the need to prove that sailing is exciting, modern, visible, and media-friendly. In addition to marketing concerns, political concerns are also forefront.  Factors such as appealing to IOC requirements like gender equality, participation of emerging nations and environmental sustainability, are weighing in. Even more concerning, the IOC is moving to an event-based rather than a sport-based approach to the Olympics, and athlete numbers in all sports are always limited.  For the past couple Olympic quadrennials, the sport of sailing has been fairly gender-equal and has met IOC standards, but if the IOC starts considering cutting sole events within the sport to add events in other sports, World Sailing wants to be ready with the strongest events possible. Each four years, it seems like another sailing class gets cut from the Games, and World Sailing can no longer rely on sailing as a monolith keeping all its events – each event (class) must be as strong as possible.

Part II: The awesomeness of the 2024 Sea Trials event from a competitor’s point of view

First, the team.  Participants in the Sea Trials included members of World Sailing’s Equipment Committee, Events Committee, Technical Committee and specialists, and the windsurfing athlete representative.  Athlete testers included ten male and ten female windsurfers from 18 nations.  The women windsurfers included a majority of experienced RS:X sailors, but also a few who compete in predominately windfoil.  We had both young and older women, and a wide variety of heights and sizes. The men were more mixed in terms of discipline and size; we had big, strong guys from the PWA and smaller-sized, experienced, current and ex-Olympic sailors and coaches. Some of these Olympic sailors are now competing in foil, and most compete in almost every other race-oriented windsurfing discipline!  Representatives from each “tender” (proposed Olympic equipment and platform), were present, along with sponsored pro riders representing both brands and tenders.  Pro riders participating as brand representatives were there to help testers rig and tune equipment, and sometimes helped us launch and come in! Brand reps also joined us on the water on the coach boat or sailing, which was great fun.

Windsurf Sea-trials

And somehow I always manage to miss the group photo….

The mix of sailors was extra cool, and we had some quite decorated professionals among us!  Some of the pro riders working for their brands are PWA stars, including Antoine Albeau, Gonzalo Costa-Hoevel, and Arnon Dagan.  Owners of well-known brands like Svein Rasmussen (Starboard) and Monty Spindler (Loft) were there, as well as Arnon, who represented his own foil brand, FutureFly / Z Foils.  Olympic medals were on all levels – Aaron McIntosh and Bruce Kendall, the most decorated Kiwi windsurfers, each represented their own tender submission (Windfoil One and Glide, respectively); and Olympic medalists Bryony Shaw, Zofia Klepacka, and Lillian De Geus were among the female testers.  Our athlete representative for World Sailing, Maayan Davidovich, had an amazing Olympic career as well and it was great to have her there helping manage the event.  The majority of the testers had Olympic experience.

World Sailing members also organized the testing on the water to maximize the opportunity to evaluate the performance of each type of equipment on different types of racecourses.  Each day, testers were divided into groups and assigned certain equipment, but we also frequently swapped on the water to test differences between classes or between sets of foil equipment.  World Sailing organized three coach boats to follow us around, observe, help change and tune equipment, and run races.  We tested mainly course racing and slalom formats, and there was additional time to speed test equipment against the other women.

Windsurf Sea-trials

Course racing on the iFoil

Having a bunch of highly competitive people participating raised the level and motivated everyone to sail aggressively and to our best ability, and to figure out the gear and tune up as much as possible.  The good competitive spirit on the water led to some equally good debriefings at the end of each day.   I learned as much about the equipment from each debrief as I did by actually sailing the gear!  Debriefs also helped me gain confidence in my feeling on the water and in my ability to evaluate equipment, as many shared similar observations.

Windsurfer Equipment Evaluation

Checkin’ out the Formula Foil with French training partner and super foiler Hélène

World Sailing also gave their best when it came to managing debriefs and asking the right questions.  The technical questions they asked often surprised me, as they were truly interested in the details of rigging and tuning all the tenders and how the women felt on the water with each set of equipment.  The priorities for discussion among the sailors included not only technical details, but pricing, campaign costs, the ability to have sponsorship opportunities, and having multiple manufacturers to ensure quality control, fairer market competition, and ease monopoly-type problems.  We also had men’s and women’s group discussions, and written questions, answers, and essays to complete in order to have a complete record.

Windsurfer Equipment Evaluation

Definitely a super serious briefing

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Pretty sure I got a good grade on this essay, but writing with my hand was still hard

Personally, I didn’t know what to expect as far as how each tender would perform this week, but was determined to bring my “A” game when evaluating equipment.  I wanted to consider each platform of equipment in itself, and also the greater vision of the manufacturer and how they demonstrated the greater ideals of the Olympics – and whether they could execute that vision!  The platforms included three foil and two traditional windsurfing; there was some overlap within the foil platforms (both between manufacturers and type of format as you would expect in the windsurfing industry), and a good deal of pro-foil excitement among testers and officials.  In the following paragraphs I’ll describe what happened within the different tenders.

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The day’s organization on a whiteboard by sailor, weight, and tender. Here I’ve been assigned Windfoil One

RS:X was disadvantaged from the start of the sea trials, even with the positive note of a successful, fun, and highly-attended World Championships that finished the day before the sea trials started.  However, a few things occurred during these events that were telling as to the state of the class.  The first was one sailor’s new still factory-packaged RS:X board sold to another sailor for 700 euro over the retail price due to Pryde supply issues.  The second was the war waged on the Neil Pryde truck the first day it arrived, due to outstanding warranties (defective equipment) that hadn’t been or were unable to be honored, sometimes over a year late.  The last nail in the coffin for the RS:X was a poorly thought out tender presentation by the president of the RS:X class, which effectively blamed sailors for its own supply, distribution and manufacturing problems, and didn’t propose any solutions or even offer an apology.  Aren’t you supposed to be on the sailors’ side?  The presentation only served to harden the testers’ stance against the RS:X – if you can’t serve your community, what good are you?

Although the RS:X was thoroughly tested on the water, mostly against the Glide, in different formats of racing, the enthusiasm for sailing it just wasn’t there when windfoil was around.  The RS:X was the same as it always was, but having exciting foil equipment performing in close to the same wind range as RS:X was a little hard to compete with.

The equipment that I thought came the closest to the Olympic values of equality, accessibility and fair play, and also having a carefully thought-out design was Bruce Kendall’s Glide tender.  It was fun and balanced to sail, if a little underpowered, with a stable, easy to rig and good quality 8,5 by Loft sails.  Compared to the RS:X, it is lighter and sailed more like a raceboard on the rail (more waterline).  It planed both upwind and downwind faster, but naturally wanted to stay longer on the rail upwind than RS:X.  The design of the Glide is detailed, good quality and well thought out for everyday use.  The boards are designed to be used as charters as well for international events, and the specs between boards and rig components have been well controlled for so that they are as similar to each other as possible.  The white color is sun resistant and the daggerboard and mast track are designed to be safe for toes (Who hasn’t had a toe nearly ripped off by the RS:X mast track?)

Windsurfer Equipment Evaluation

Training partners duke it out, old school style (Glide/RSX)

I felt sorry for the Glide, because in the face of the latest innovations of windfoil gear, there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm about this thoughtfully and idealistically designed set of equipment.  I was the only person to put up a hand to volunteer to sail it on the first day, and from there the tone was more or less set.  However, after a few days of testing, we shared one major concern: heavier people (guys) were not competitive in light wind and the effect of differences in the rider’s weight was greater than the RS:X.  It really needed a 9.5 to allow the men a more similar weight range to the RS:X.  The Glide was well outperforming the RS:X around the course in marginal wind, although the RS:X was faster planing downwind and had a more “Formula” type feeling in planing conditions of about 15 knots.  The Glide platform has started to work well in Asia where it was born, and as of now it’s better suited to smaller people. I came into the test a fan of this gear, having tried it before in France, and I still remain a fan.  However, there was a consensus among testers and officials that windfoil better represents the forefront and future of our sport rather than the somewhat retro Glide, and windfoil can support a greater range of body types.

Windsurfer Equipment Evaluation

This may have been the only time a PWA guy touched a Glide during the whole test

Windfoil tenders included three submissions; the iFoil, the only one-design class, the Windfoil One, a limited open platform, and Formula Foil, a PWA format.  To some extent, manufacturers and their representatives present overlapped between the two more open formats, changing sails among testers and re-rigging and tuning equipment.  In general, the sail sizes tested among the women were 7.5 to 9.0, and men 9.0 to 10.0.  Sail manufacturers included Severne, Neil Pryde, Phantom, and Challenger Sails.  Foils were race-oriented; in general masts around 100-115 cm in length, fuselages 95 cm or longer, front wings curved and measuring from 800 to 1000 cm2.  Brands included Starboard, Pryde/F4, Exploder, Z, and Phantom.  (Many small foil manufacturers exist, these brands represent a tiny portion of the foils that exist currently). Boards were all wide with the 100 cm tail allowed by the Formula class, giving maximum leverage over the foil for max upwind performance. Some boards present included a few different manufacturers’ version of the one-design Windfoil One/ iFoil (Pryde, Starboard, Phantom), and a few Formula foilboards (Futurefly, Patrik). Apologies if I’ve missed a brand or two.

In general, I found the iFoil to be a strong performer.  It is clear that a lot of research and design has gone into this equipment, and Starboard is one of the first major brands to adopt foil and patiently wait until they had a good product to begin marketing.  Compared to the Formula and Windfoil One platforms, there was some iFoil equipment that did not test well against the other tenders in terms of speed.  However it was always in the mix and its ease of use and tuning options made it very pleasant to race on.  The girls found that the proposed 8.0 sail was too small (8.5 was preferred), and the fin may not be a good option due to its limited range of use, and added complexity to an already technical set of equipment. Differently sized fuselages and wings, instead of a fin or two sail sizes, were more useful when tuning equipment for different conditions.

Windsurfer Equipment Evaluation

Lookin’ pretty chilling on the grass.

I also greatly enjoyed the Windfoil One equipment and proposal of a single one design board, one open foil, and two open sails of a specific size range.  There is a good and enthusiastic group of sailors behind this class proposal, and it is already active in New Zealand.  As someone who likes testing equipment, it was exciting to experience the different combinations of sails and foils while remaining on a one-design board.  There was a higher level of equipment tuning with all the different gear, and sometimes I spent a lot of time trying to fix the setup of the gear on the water, which I enjoy doing; but having less experience with the variety of equipment, sometimes I had to go back for a lot of advice from the pro riders on the boat. My favorite foils were the Phantom  and the NP Flight F4, with a little favoritism for the Phantom (naturally these are the super expensive full carbon ones) and the Pryde sails just felt like a tractor trailer hauling you upwind (that means they were good).  I also liked the Phantom sail as it was really stable.  The Severne sails had a soft feel and were the easiest to pump.

Windsurf Sea-trials

Phantom gear taking off

I felt that Windfoil One would be a good class to adopt for the grassroots windsurfing community and small manufacturing structure already present in the USA. It is open to small manufacturers who can produce smaller series of standardized equipment, helping our little guys and anyone who wants to jump into the manufacturing game.  Also, shops can carry their preferred brand of foil or the brand that sells the best, and (hopefully) offer deals and promote that to the community.  Sailors can use almost any gear they can scrounge up to race, except the board, and the format gives them guidelines for sail sizes, less pressure to have a lot of gear, and other equipment considerations.  Sponsorship and team rider opportunities with brands would also be better.  However, as an Olympic class proposal, I was concerned that having a more open format would surely create an initial arms race, and the psychological jump, lack of knowledge, and potential expense would be too great for countries unfamiliar with windfoil, ultimately decreasing participation.

In the Formula class, we had all kinds of gear with some serious horsepower.  I really liked some of the board and foil combinations, like the FutureFly paired with its own foil brand, Z Foil.  It was a high quality, strong board that was nice to jibe and the foil was stable and powerful.  However, some of the girls had trouble getting the equipment tuned up, and the range of gear seemed too daunting and potentially pricey for an Olympic class, possibly out of reach for the average emerging nation Joe.  This is why we have the PWA to push the limits of developing equipment, and pro riders to represent and sail all the latest, greatest, and incredible windsurfing technology!

Windsurf Sea-trials

Formula platform: This guy is good (Challenger Sails/Patrik board, foil no idea)

While I already expected foil would be a strong performer during the Sea Trials, it still surprised me how well all this equipment performed in a wide range of Garda conditions.  I even managed to surprise myself with how easy it was to adapt the typical “tool box” (classic training protocols and windsurfing technical skills) for sailing RS:X to the foil platform, and that I could sail foil in both very light wind and overpowered conditions easily.  It was thrilling skimming along faster than the wind in 5 knots, and going downwind almost weightlessly in 20 knots of breeze.  Speed testing proved that sailors of different sizes on different gear could have a similar speed, and that even sailors who had been on foil gear for a few afternoons could adapt to feel the differences in equipment and start to go fast.  Racing was successfully carried out in even strong, gusty and cold conditions, along with equipment swaps between races, and the foil gear was able to be towed by a coach boat (albeit more difficult).  As we did more racing, it became progressively clear to me that foil gear can be easily controlled while starting in a group, when overpowered downwind, and during maneuvers, and that as the technical level of sailors grows, safety concerns would start to be ironed out.  One small thing I found hilarious was how easy and fast it was to get back to the beach in an offshore wind compared to the RS:X!  This was pretty drastic; 3 minutes of sailing instead of 30. There are many things I love about the now “retro” or traditional classes of windsurfing that I find missing in windfoil, such as certain tactics, strategies, and feelings that come from traditional equipment.  In addition, we still have many safety and equipment issues to iron out with windfoil, such as towing, launching, and coming back to the beach with long foils in rough conditions.  We also didn’t have the opportunity to test the windfoil gear in swell and choppy conditions (as well as the Glide, which I am told performs really well in strong conditions).  However, after experiencing the range of windfoil performance and its ease of use, I am convinced windsurfing is moving in the right direction and we have selected an Olympic class representative of what the sport will look like for years to come.

I was really moved to be a part of this event.  The teamwork and cooperation brought everyone together to create a sporting event where everyone gave their best and truly became part of a greater whole.  If any event could perform in the “zone,” this was definitely it.  The feeling of accomplishing something for the sport, the magic of Lake Garda, and the memories and happy surprises I have from the four days of the 2024 Windsurfing Olympic Sea Trials is something that will stay with me forever.  I can say with confidence that even though there are plenty of bugs to work out, the Sea Trials testers and World Sailing officials made a good choice to defy gravity and fly into the future with windfoil.

Windsurf Sea-trials

Had the same cheesy smile all day every day during the sea trials…because every day of sailing is a great day of sailing

USA now qualified for a spot at Tokyo 2020 in both men and women’s windsurfing; 2024 Olympic equipment selection preview

The RS:X World Championships at Lake Garda ended on a high note for me with a result worthy of qualifying the country for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

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Garda training with our international team

The event was the second opportunity this quadrennial for nations to qualify for the Olympics; the first being the Sailing World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark in 2018.  It also marked the second time the RS:X Worlds have been held at Lake Garda – the first ever RS:X World Championships was held at Garda in 2006, and the difference in the level of racing in both men’s and women’s fleets is absolutely incredible to experience.  With 106 women prepared for a peak event and lots of big teams in attendance, the fleet quality was the highest of any world championships.

I’m happy and relieved to have qualified the country, as it was a major objective for me this year.  Better yet, other North American sailors now have the opportunity to qualify their country at the Miami World Cup, and the pressure on them to win a spot is somewhat lifted.  As the North Americans’ level is lower than many other continents, it’s more difficult for us to qualify at these big events.  I’m also entering the USA individual selection on a good note, as I placed fairly well at Garda.

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Big fleets on the starting line

We had all types of conditions during training and the event, and quite a few classic Garda days.  Compared to 2006, with 220 sailors and four huge fleets of competitors, the organizers were more pressed to get in races.  For most of the regatta, we arrived at 6:30 in the morning to rig in the dark and cold to catch the “Peler” or gusty, offshore north wind on the lake.  Then, if we didn’t get all three races in, we waited ashore until early afternoon to catch the “Ora” or southerly thermal, the classic Garda wind.  Garda didn’t disappoint, and although we had a few off-season days of chilly rain, we got enough races in to have a solid championship in a variety of conditions.  Racing was tricky, precise and tactical in the big fleets.

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Garda mornings – dark, the sun rising behind the mountains illuminating the lake one section at a time

I’m now participating in the Sea Trials for the selection of the 2024 Olympic equipment.  Confidentiality is pretty strict here, but I can say that so far the testing has been really, really incredible, and some of the equipment is performing extremely well.   Conditions have been both light wind and a few windy days as well, as well as one cold, gusty and extremely windy morning on foil!   Riders come from 18 countries and are divided equally by gender.  The girls consist of a majority of RSX sailors, and a few who are heavily into slalom and foil.  The men also have RS:X sailors involved, but there are more real PWA sailors and some who have done RS:X and are now competing in foil.  There is a range of body types and experience, which is great for fair testing.

Representatives from brands are also here to help us with tuning and managing the equipment on the water, and World Sailing is managing the organization and timing of the event.  The most pleasant surprise is how unpolitical the event is, and the good spirit everyone has in honestly evaluating all the equipment.  World Sailing representatives are very involved and curious about the testing, asking the right questions, and managing debriefings very well every day.  They are on the water with us and asking specific questions about tuning, sensations, different formats of racing, and if everyone is happy with the event and having fun.  Both World Sailing and the manufacturers’ representatives have been helpful and supportive and I’ve learned a lot from everyone – it makes me really grateful to be here and be part of this amazing sport on this amazing lake.  I’ll have a real update later as soon as it’s legit to speak publicly. In the meantime, here’s a small debate to read between two Kiwi superstars’ proposals for 2024.

In the meantime, it’s now time to plan and fund raise for the remainder of the Olympic Trials, which include the Miami World Cup and the 2020 RS:X Worlds.  Training before these events will be extremely important in terms of quality and timing, and it’s already difficult to plan out in terms of funding and how the winter will be balanced between work, fund raising, and quality training with a group.  It’ll be an interesting time, and I hope to get back to the US at some point!  A huge thank you to the individuals who helped me fund this event!

 

 

 

 

Why I think windfoil is the best choice for the USA as the new Olympic class.

Dear American windsurfers,

I’ve had pressure regarding publishing an official opinion or statement (as apparently is my duty as a high level athlete – does anyone really listen to me anyway?) as to which Olympic class for 2024 I give my support to.  Which Olympic class would be the best for the future of windsurfing in the United States?  It’s my opinion that Windfoil is the way to go looking forward to the Olympic Games in LA 2028, and the sooner we take action to install it, the more American windsurfers will benefit.

I’ve changed my opinion over the last few months after lots of careful consideration.

I’m going to structure this like an internet clickbait article with numbered headings and one-sided opinion; please enjoy.

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Light wind flying in Miami

9 reasons why I think windfoil is the correct choice for the USA in 2024

1. Windfoil has the best potential to unite the disparate windsurfing cultures found around the United States.

The USA is composed of pockets of weirdo windsurfers and weird random windsurfing culture specific to each spot.  It’s unlike anywhere else in that there is no system of apprentissage that creates a common skill set and culture.  The majority of windsurfers have mainly taught themselves how to sail, and practice a discipline and use equipment specialized to their region or spot.  Each region exists in its own separate bubble.

The one discipline uniting all these different local cultures is foil.  Whether it’s freeride or race, the light wind go-to is becoming foil as well as existing racers now enthusiastically turning to foil.  If foil becomes the next Olympic class, youth from any spot around the country will have greater exposure and continuity of culture regarding the Olympics as a pathway.  The Olympics conceptually will be more interesting and accessible even if the kids don’t have a program or strong mentorship.

Windfoil will also bring youth and adults together to promote a stronger community.  Enthusiasm is contagious and the more windfoiling adults are present to mentor or sail with kids, the more unified and active the community becomes.  Direct exposure to older sailors and friendly mentorship increases youth retention in the sport.

In short, windfoil will promote a cohesiveness of culture and a structure that is currently lacking between the normal American windsurfing population and Olympic class windsurfers in the United States.

2.  American manufacturers and shops are supporting windfoil, and do not support RS:X.

From the Gorge to Florida, American shops are stocking foil equipment.  Homegrown American businesses are creating foil equipment and pushing the local culture. With a simplified foil box rule, every windsurfing business can carry equipment for locals to get into racing.

Some of these businesses are already active in supporting local windfoil racing communities.  It’s unlikely all of these businesses would be active in community support with a more traditional windsurfing class; in fact, with the exception of the RS:X official distributor Adventure Sports, they are not interested in carrying RS:X even if they are Pryde dealers as well.

Here’s a list of who I could think of immediately (I’m sure there are others):

East Coast

Tillo International (FL manufacturer)

Adventure Sports (FL)

North Beach Windsurfing (FL)

Sandy Point Progressive Sports (FL)

Ocean Air (NC)

East of Maui (MD)

Texas

Worldwinds

West Coast

Big Winds (OR)

Sailworks (OR)

North Pacific (OR)

F4(CA)

Delta Windsports (CA)

3.  American youth windsurfers are enthusiastically taking up windfoil.

Youth interested in Olympic class racing are already starting to windfoil.  This fall, windfoil is giving Clearwater youth RS:X sailors a break from the physical grind of RS:X training and events.  In Miami, youth are testing windfoil as well, at Biscayne Bay Yacht club or recreationally with their families.  On the west coast, in the Gorge and San Francisco areas youth are already testing the waters individually.

Windfoil sailing and training is fun and appealing to kids in a way that daggerboard windsurfing is not.  Although kids certainly enjoy sailing a big board in light wind, windsurfers are windsurfers at heart and want to go fast and be challenged.  Windfoil training is fast and exciting and not as physically and mentally difficult as RS:X.  It requires a very good level of fitness, but not the same training grind that RS:X sailors go through, and training on and off the water is more of a pleasure.

Box-rule windfoil would also give differently-sized kids opportunity to compete and retain more sailors at a high level.  As of now, if you’re not tall, thin, and naturally lightweight, it’s difficult to be competitive in Olympic windsurfing and you’re weeded out fast as a senior.  It may be that the same body type will remain the most competitive in a speed-oriented class like windfoil, but I believe others will have more opportunity to do well.  Also, it’s been demonstrated that windfoil girls can be as competitive as the guys around the course!  Keeping all kinds of kids practicing together in a windsurfing program with a fun class like windfoil promotes great team spirit.

4.  Windfoil fits in with traditional youth development and could retain more American youth in the sport of windsurfing, and will provide opportunities in other high-tech sailing classes.

The Bic Techno has proven itself to be the most popular and accessible youth windsurfing class of all-time, and windfoil will not cause it to lose its platform.  Classic windsurfing board handling, technical and racing skills still need to be developed with uncomplicated and inexpensive gear, and the Techno remains an amazing pathway to elite level racing that needs to be preserved.

A youth foil racing class or simply moving to a basic/simplified foil box rule integrated with  Techno equipment or format can certainly be applied from the age when most kids transition to RS:X, around 13-15.

Making the leap from youth sailing to senior sailing is easier when moving to windfoil as opposed to RS:X.  Cost aside, there is simply less of a mental and physical hurdle, and less of a time investment to reach a high level.  Windfoil is physical, but less so than RS:X, and training is much less of a grind and is enjoyable.  After moving into the senior class from the youth level, RS:X can take as long as 8 years to advance in the fleet due to the physical fitness and discipline required.  Many young people don’t have the time, money, or desire to stick with a difficult windsurfing class for that long, especially one that is becoming antiquated in comparison with windsurfing’s new direction.   Unfunded young people growing up outside a traditional windsurfing development program have almost no shot at an Olympic medal, ever, in this type of traditional fleet which certain governing bodies have invested unmatchable time and money into.

Inside and outside of US youth development efforts, the possibility that raw, talented American windsurfers will seek out and decide to stay in Olympic class windsurfing is more likely. Olympic racing will still remain exclusive and expensive, but at least windfoil will provide new motivation and democratization of the sport before LA 2028.

Youth development also could use a reset, as within many big European sailing federations, youth sailing Bic Techno are suffering from burnout similar to what we see in Opti sailors in the USA.  Particpation is down in traditional Techno racing as more pressure to win is put on kids, making windsurfing less fun and contributing to less youth retention in the sport.  Windfoil is already a distraction from Techno and RS:X youth racing – European kids are already finishing their practice, putting the traditional equipment away, and then finishing the day freeriding on foil.

For youth who want to pursue sailing careers or another type of Olympic campaign, windfoil ties in directly with the latest push for high tech in all types of sailing.  Speed, spatial awareness, development of feel, equipment tuning, and windfoil tactics and strategy translate immediately to other Olympic-class foiling boats, Formula Kite, Sail GP, America’s Cup or any other class.

5.  Windfoil provides a more visible pathway to the top of the sport.

Because windfoil is in line with the direction of modern windsurfing, it provides a clearer vision for youth regarding the pinnacle of the sport, the pinnacle necessarily representing the Olympic Games and the Olympic discipline of windsurfing. (This could also hold true for the current use of foil in the PWA). For windsurfing youth who are outside of traditional sailing club development systems, having greater numbers of windfoil racing and freeride participants to sail with provides more rapid skill development, better mentorship possibilities, and a clearer picture of where they need to go with their sailing.

6.  Windfoil is providing retired Olympic and PWA sailors another reason to continue in the sport.

With windfoil, older high-level sailors are taking up this new challenge in their sport and are enjoying racing again.  Rather than retiring and stepping outside of the sport to do something else, these valuable mentors and examples of sportsmanship and high-level sailing are remaining to raise the level of our local windsurfing communities.  A windfoiling ex-Olympic sailor can provide lots of advice…and also motivation for other sailors to beat at a local regatta!

7.  Every other surf or sailing craft has gone foiling.  Foil racing has become ubiquitous and multi-disciplinary, and is creating a different sort of economic viability for windsurfing.

The dominant reason that speaks to longevity of foil in the sailing world is the amount of other watercraft that are already foiling.  Impressive amounts of sailing classes, kiting, surfing, stand-up paddle are foiling – in comparison, windsurfing was late to the foiling game!  Industries are crossing over; kiteboard companies are making windfoils, windsurf companies are moving into making all kinds of foils.  Sailors are making homemade windfoils in their garages and small foil-making companies are exploding everywhere.  In France, local shops are carrying a huge variety of brands, especially promoting local brands. If we were comparing local foil manufacturing to the importance of  buying local fresh produce at a farmer’s market, we would surely say “we’re doing it right.”  The mutual support of local business, local sailors, and local sourcing strengthens all of our communities.

8.  Foil is not overspecialized, and will not “kill” the sport of windsurfing.

Adapted from a comment I wrote on the Sea Trials blog:

Specialization is an interesting topic in the windsurfing world. One could say that specialization caused the decline of windsurfing in the 90s, but the early 2000s wide board revolution, re-simplification of freeride and beginner equipment, and light wind planing technology reinvigorated the sport. I agree that less specialization is better and simplifying (limiting, not dumbing down) equipment is for the best. However, this also means working within the bounds of what windsurfers want and aspire to, and taking into consideration the current direction and rapid change of our sport.

Simplicity and foiling are not mutually exclusive. Foil definitely seems complicated to learn to someone who’s never tried it, but that’s not the reality. Windsurfers can start foiling as soon as they learn to use a harness, and racing is a similar level of difficulty as the Formula class was in the early to mid 2000s. The equipment is smaller than Formula, and not more complicated compared to any other technical planing or non planing racing class.

Windsurfing is also windsurfing – windsurfers want to go fast, and foiling lets people do that with simpler and smaller equipment in lighter wind (compared to Formula windsurfing).  Windsurfing has long been specialized – just look at how many disciplines we have.  Foil is reinvigorating and taking hold in every windsurfing discipline, and the majority of the benefit is going to racing.

In short, foil is actually de-specializing the sport by providing a common discipline.  It could further de-specialize the sport by becoming Olympic.

9.  Foil is perfectly suited for the dominant wind conditions in Long Beach, CA, the sailing venue for the 2028 Olympic Games. 

Need I say more?  With a broad public beach and 12-18 knots of sea breeze almost daily, Long Beach is an amazing venue to showcase how cool our sport is.

If we can drive up participation and give youth Olympic dreams for 2024 in foil, the US will have better sailors faster in order to take up the challenge of winning an American windsurfing medal in 2028.

 

 

 

American Voices Needed: 2024 Olympic Equipment Selection

It’s a rainy morning here at Lake Garda, Italy.  Sailors are waiting for skies to clear and hoping for breeze in the afternoon to get a training session in before the Worlds in order to prepare for the best possible outcome for their event.  Equally as important, we are all hoping for the best possible outcome for the 2024 Olympic equipment selection, or “sea trials,” which will take place immediately after the RS:X World Championships from the 29 September – 3 October.  I’ve been selected to participate in the sea trials, and therefore would like to have your opinions, from an American perspective, of foiling vs. non-foiling as the new Olympic class.  Please read the article, or just the attached links below, and comment thoughtfully on the Facebook post.

The spirit of the sea trials needs to be thoughtful, analytical, and process-oriented.  The objective should be to establish an outcome that is correct for the global progression of the sport of windsurfing, taking into consideration the current direction of the sport (the foiling revolution) but also national investment and the needs of developing and less well-funded countries.

Living in France among a high-level windsurf racing culture, it’s easy to see that the future is already here in the presence of the foiling revolution.  A French national foiling regatta circuit is already established and a national curriculum is in the works.  In France (and Europe) foiling has sparked a renewed enthusiasm for the sport of windsurfing, and regatta and community participation is up.  However, outside of well-funded sailing countries, will there be a drop in windsurfing participation due to lack of money, supply, and a knowledge gap?  North America is already about two or more years behind Europe in terms of foiling level,  equipment marketplace, knowledge, and structure.  It’s unlikely this gap will be quickly bridged even if foiling is chosen as the new Olympic windsurfing class.

My personal perspective on foiling for North America is that there are numerous upsides but also detracting factors.  If an affordable one-design windfoil class is chosen, it could open up the field and create enthusiasm for many new young participants in both windsurf racing and the Olympic Games.  Windfoil is not difficult to learn or develop in young sailors.  There are less numerous physical techniques to learn and racing is slightly simplified in format and skills required.  However, major limitations in terms of funding, knowledge base, and cultural and structural gaps in the US make us potentially not ready for windfoil for the 2024 quad.

If development is correct, more youth may remain in a windfoil Olympic class as seniors due to greater enthusiasm, less difficult racing and training, and less obstacles to progression.  One of the biggest hurdles (aside from money and mentorship) when crossing over from the Bic Techno to RS:X is the physical demands required to sail the board and the mental and physical jump required to race at a senior level.  Even though youth particpation in the RS:X 8.5 class is fairly strong, youth retention at a senior level is low.  This is due to the expense and manufacturing problems of the RS:X equipment, the physical, time, cost, and life demands required to reach a high level, and the difficulty of sailing the RS:X in competition due to the high level of the fleet and the brutality of the gear.  Many youth don’t want to or simply can’t put in eight years of effort after Bic Techno in order to master the RS:X.

©Jesus Renedo/SAILING ENERGY/CNA11 April, 2019.

©Jesus Renedo/SAILING ENERGY/CNA11 April, 2019. Lots of participation at the 2019 RSX European Championships.

Windfoil remains physical but less so than RS:X, and would be a less shocking transition to an elite level in terms of skills required and physical fitness.  Development strategies can hold true to the overall sport, so no major changes are necessary.   Equipment progression should stay similar as well:  an example could be classic Bic Techno as a youth, moving to a foil or foil convertible youth class (Bic already has a product that could be adapted for youth), and then the Olympic class foilboard following.  Moving from Techno immediately to the Olympic class board with a different sized rig would be even more optimal.  Kids will need to be started early in order to assimilate the technical skills needed to race foil (similar timeline to Techno and RS:X currently).   They will also need mentorship, coaching, a regatta circuit, and training and racing structure in order to succeed.  This group structure will be even more important in developing windfoil because it is more speed and technique oriented than RS:X.  Youth will need to develop spatial and speed awareness to race in an aggressive elite fleet setting – this will only work if started at a young age.  Racecourse awareness, speed, and maneuvers will need to be automatic by the time youth are ready to race at a senior level.

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Kids who want to windfoil benefit from great club structure and promotion in New Zealand

Development aside, cost and equipment remain a determining factor, as does the knowledge and culture gap in North America that would need to be spanned quickly in order to be competitive.  Depending on the equipment chosen, technical knowledge and testing of equipment could also be broad, with a lot to learn to get coaches up to speed (if a box rule is chosen, for example).  Lastly, windfoil is more limited in training venue than RS:X or a traditional type windsurfer, due to about 6 + knots needed to foil (currently) and the length of foil masts.   Some predominantly light wind and/or shallow windsurfing locations in the eastern US may become more limited in training opportunities.  Most importantly, cost is king.  A $8,000-$10,000 Olympic foil package would certianly kill Olympic windsurfing in the US, restricting participation to just the wealthy.

Do Americans want simplicity, quiet fun and ease of access, or do we want the high-tech and more exciting wave of the future?  Are these mutually exclusive?  This is the real question that needs to be answered for North America during the 2024 sea trials.  All of these factors should be diligently considered when deciding between “traditional” windsurfing and windfoil.

Here are a few articles on choosing windfoil or not for 2024:

Dorian van Rijsselberghe speaks out against World Sailing’s decision to retain RSX for 2024 (May 2019)

Windfoil regatta at Medemblik Olympic Class event, May 2019

Windfoilzone article on why windfoil is the future:  as you can see, the broader windsurfing community is not heavily invested in Olympic structure (or even paying attention).

RS:X Class Survey opinions and results – Globally windfoil is not 100% backed by opinion.  Bigger Asian countries, predominantly light wind venues, and heavily invested in “traditional” windsurfing styles, are not quite ready to make the switch.

Info about the sea trials and tenders

Windfoil 1: One of the tenders submitted by a group of sailors (NZL, AUS, NED, GBR) for a box rule windfoil class

Glide: Bruce Kendall’s (1984, 1988 NZL medalist) submission – Definitely worth a read, because he has a practical and low-cost development strategy.

In short, sailors are ready to move on from the RS:X.  Whether it happens now or for the 2028 quad is yet to be determined.

The results of the sea trials will also determine the outcome of whether Pryde continues to manufacture RS:X for the 2020 Olympic year.  As of now, there are no new RS:X boards scheduled to be delivered until April 2020, and we are not sure there will be a series produced for the 2020 Olympic Games.  It could be that RS:X manufacturing and the class itself will start to go under if different equipment is selected for 2024, affecting all the sailors who are continuing through 2020 on RS:X.

As an interesting anecdote, one sailor here who possesses a new warranty board is auctioning it off to a number of other sailors who are hot to have it due to the anticipated and continuing supply problems.  The buy-it-now price is 1,000 euro more than the new price!

I am doing a fundraiser for a new board to be competitive at the Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games, and one is available for me on a payment plan.  Please consider even donating something small to help me out during the final year leading up to the Olympic Games.  I greatly appreciate everyone who has already pitched in – it’s amazing and heartwarming to have the support of the American windsurfing community.

Please comment on the Facebook post if you have something to say about the 2024 Olympic sea trials!  All insights are welcome.

 

 

 

 

Tokyo Typhoon: Thoughts on the Olympic Test Event

My second stop on this summer’s world circumnavigation (France-USA-Peru-Japan-France) was Enoshima, Japan, the sailing venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.  Enoshima is a peninsula southwest of the city of Tokyo, located in a mountainous, hot, and humid region of the Pacific.  If you’re from the Mid-Atlantic or Southeast United States, you’re already well familiar with the Japanese summer climate!

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First day of racing at the Test Event in typhoon swell (Photo: Sailing Energy)

This August, Enoshima hosted two back-to-back events:  the Olympic Test Event and the Enoshima World Cup (The World Cup is currently ongoing).  These events are a great opportunity to get some major training in during the same time period of the Games next summer.  I chose to compete only in the Olympic Test Event due to too many back-to-back events (Pan American Games, Test Event, Worlds in Garda) and the training time I’ll need to put in before the RSX Worlds.

Late summer is typhoon season in the Pacific, and a few days after I arrived a small one blew through, kicking up some major swell, rain, and breeze.  Before the wind picked up too much, sailors got in some adrenaline-charged training.

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Men train in typhoon swell (Photos from Facebook by Gur Steinberg)

A second typhoon said hello to the Enoshima World Cup as well – it looks like we will need to be well prepared for this type of weather!  It’s worth reading this update with an interview from French gold medalist Charline Picon to understand the complicated conditions present at this venue!

As the French say, the best results will go to the most “polyvalent” sailors, or the sailors with the best performances in all types of conditions.  Out of four days of fleet racing during the Test Event, two days were planing, and two days were light wind pumping.  The two planing days were in southerly swell and typhoon conditions, followed by flat, shifty and gusty easterly wind.  The two pumping days included very light wind and choppy swell, and daggerboard railing in choppy swell with planing downwinds and one planing upwind, with some strong current thrown in for kicks.  In short, every day was different.  Every race was different.  The venue is amazingly various.

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Men’s start (Sailing Energy)

I was underprepared for the event as I expected due to lack of funds for correct on the water training, but even so it was a great experience.  To understand the level of the women’s fleet, we can observe that out of all the sailors, there were only two who were not an Olympic medalist, World Championship podium finisher, Youth World Champion, European Championship podium finisher, or Top 10 World Cup finisher.  These were also the only two without coaching or a government or otherwise well funded program (Guess who one of those was). These countries, since the debut of the RS:X class, have put endless time and energy into their sailors, and the payoff is huge.  I’ve never seen such a high level of sailing in both the women’s and men’s events, and I’m really happy to have competed to gain understanding of the venue and how to focus my training in the upcoming year.

Preparation involves creating a program and then finding the funds to execute that training.  Many elements must come together to create a good event, including coaching, different stages of on the water training with a group, good equipment, recovery, and psychology.  Most high level sailors have a team around them to create the best possible situation for a good performance.  During this final year leading up to the Games, I am making a huge effort to locate more support for my program and demonstrate the value I bring to sponsors and the American windsurfing community.

The US Sailing Team has done a great job of creating a large group of people at the administrative level to help facilitate the Olympic Games.  These include team managers, on-the-ground organizers in Enoshima making sailors’ lives much easier, physical therapists, media, and some coaches.  The team environment and spirit is very positive and the best it ever has been, in my opinion. I especially appreciated a big effort on the last day of the event to get the windsurfers a coach.  470 coach Steve Keen really helped me out and gave me tons of new advice and good energy to move forward towards executing the next steps of my campaign.

Direct support and frequent checking in and attention from leadership is what really forms great team spirit and a positive attitude towards other team members.  I don’t mean giving money directly to athetes, but supplying coaching, on the water support, planning on all fronts, and simple interaction and guidance is what really matters the most.  Improving this simple quality for every team member would go a long way in raising the level and cohesiveness of the entire team, not just a select few.  For example, supplying a coach for only one day changed my perspective for the Test Event, gave me new ideas for my progression, and invigorated my planning looking forward into next year – it was that easy.

With only one year to go until the Olympics, I have a positive feeling about the events to come, and my ability to execute what needs to happen.  I’m greatly looking forward to the next event:  the World Championships at Lake Garda, Italy.  Even better, I’ve been approved to help select the next Olympic equipment for 2024 at the Olympic sea trials immediately after the Worlds.  I can’t wait to try out all the latest innovations in equipment, and I hope to offer good insight from a North American perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pan American Games: The Olympic Spirit of Peru

Olympic events have the potential to bring out the best in humanity.  In spite of cultural and personal differences, all types of people come together to enjoy and appreciate the spirit of sport, community, and the sense of coming together to create something truly magical, surpassing the individual ego.  During the Pan American Games in Lima, the national pride, national symbols on display, and enthusiasm of Peruvians was swelling the streets with energy.  This in turn made the event, and individual competition, truly memorable for the athletes.

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Drone photo: Lima 2019

I always feel that the best part of Olympic events is seeing the local people who are excited about hosting the event and interacting with the athletes.  (Of course, political issues, protests and people who are unhappy with hosting an Olympics or Pan American Games are also present, but this is where athletes’ intelligent behavior, respect, and good ambassadorship skills come into play.)  In Peru, the most memorable folks were the waving families lining the streets in Lima before the opening ceremonies, the crowds surrounding the fences to see and greet athletes, the smiling staff at our Olympic village, and especially the cheerful volunteers ready to help teams and athletes at each step of the process.  Personally, I’ll always vividly remember the locals who showed me small kindnesses – the lovely and hardworking housekeeper at the hostel where I stayed during my training session, and the minimarket owner who explained to me in a most detailed and patient manner (even though I don’t speak much Spanish) the problem with Peruvian counterfeit currency and the fake bill I had just given her.

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Training day in Paracas.  Photo: Brittney Manning for the USST

I’m also very thankful for the parents of the youth sailors at the Club de Regatas Lima (Paracas location) for giving me a very warm welcome, letting me train there, helping me to get oriented in Paracas, and for being so open and sharing of their club and resources.   For all these great people I am grateful; they play the most important role in creating the Olympic spirit and they really made my time in Peru special.

Also memorable was the competition itself.  We the sailors lucked out with our satellite athlete village in Paracas; we ended up in a luxury hotel on the water (Hotel Paracas) with a relaxing atmosphere, good food, spa, pools, gym, outdoor sports area and beautiful garden.  It was hands down the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in (and perhaps ever will)!  The event was carefully organized and pulled off without any major problems.

Although well organized, competitors had to play a very patient waiting game with uncooperative weather during the first few days of racing, which caused us to lose our reserve day (No rest for the weary!).  After that, we had a great regatta with all races completed and a variety of conditions to compete in.  Winter in Peru showed gray, humid mornings, and had us bundling up in jackets, warmups and sweaters.  The first few days, this overcast, cold weather lasted late into the day, giving us light wind or no wind at all.  When finally the sun began to shine through in the afternoons, temperatures rose as fast as only a desert can, and a wonderful sea breeze picked up to give us flat and fast conditions for racing.

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Women pull off a planing start while men descend for their first downwind leg of a race.

The competition was made even better by the good support the US Sailing Team and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee put in place for American athletes.  This included a few support/coach boats,  physical therapist, doctor, team managers, and State Department security helping the event unfurl smoothly for the sailors.  I felt that the US Pan American Team bonded really well, and staff and athletes were focused on having the best event possible and supporting each other.  The great atmosphere certainly helped sailors perform their best and bring home plenty of medals for the USA.

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The first round of US Sailing Team medalists in Laser, Radial, Nacra and RS:X; the next day’s medalists included the Snipe and Kiteboarding classes. (L-R Charlie Buckingham, Charlotte Rose, Anna Weis, Riley Gibbs, Pedro Pascual)

Although I was one place shy of a medal, I had a few standout moments during the regatta, the most special of which was the medal race.  During this final race for double points, strategy, execution, and speed came together for me.  In a strong sea breeze building upwards of 25 knots, I sailed an almost perfect race and won, an overwhelming feeling that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

The breeze then continued to build, disrupting the 49er and FX (men and women’s doublehanded skiff) medal races.  Heavy conditions cancelled the FX race, and although the committee started and finished the men’s 49er medal race, boats were dangerously capsizing and cartwheeling downwind – the 3rd place Canadian boat finished capsized across the line!  It was a remarkable finish to a remarkable event, one that I couldn’t be happier to have participated in.

Currently I’m in Tokyo for the Olympic Test Event; an update is coming soon for this regatta and my training plans afterwards.

A huge thank you to my supporters for these events – Gymsem Pilates, Fitness Plus, Aloha Attitude, Pam Temko, the Jacksonville windsurfing crew (Eduardo Rodriguez, Patrick Oglesby, Steven Davis), and the Windmark Sailing Foundation!  Also much appreciated is the few days of volunteer coaching by USST’s Malcolm Page, Greg Fisher and Leandro Spina.

One year to go until the Olympic Games!

 

 

Pan American Games kick off!

For the past two weeks I’ve been training, testing equipment, and doing hours of board work in Paracas, Peru, in preparation for the 2019 Pan American Games.

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2019 Sailing Pan American Team USA

During the summer months, the “plan d’eau” or racing area in Paracas normally contains a consistent and joyous sea breeze that can build up to 25 knots by sundown.  The bay is enclosed by sand dunes, and the wind accelerates along the hot sand and creates strong gusts over flat water.  Along with the anything-goes unfinished character (and characters) of the fishing and touristic based village it remind one of being on the planet Tatooine – perfect conditions for windsurfing.

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The seabirds of Tatooine – taken from the Club de Regatas Lima (filial Paracas) where we trained before the event.  Note how you can see the dunes across the bay

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RSX sailors prepare equipment at the Club de Regatas Lima in Paracas – what an amazing place to train.

As the northern hemisphere experiences summer, we in the southern are in high winter.  Therefore, the normal sea breeze pattern is disrupted and periods of light wind, clouds, and cooler temperatures are also present.  We’re all hoping for breeze, but it looks like anything could happen at this event!

Remarkably, one surprise I had during my third day of training was a sandstorm blasting us off the water!  Seemingly a typical strong sea breeze day, the wind increased to 35 knots and began ripping sand off the dunes, pelting us with dust and coating equipment, wetsuits, eyeballs, etc.  I’ve had plenty of experience with being pelted with rain, hailstones, and even snow while sailing, but eating dust was entirely new.  On the beach, we had a hard time just rinsing the equipment because slimy dust was accumulating in a hurry.  The only solution was to take shelter!  This dramatic wind is called “Paracas” and the village is named for it!

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The wind called “Paracas,” literally means “blowing sand.”  During this dust storm, the other side of the bay is not visible, and a sailboat moored 300m from the beach is barely visible on the left.

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A layer of slimy dust covers a board by the end of the day

Racing starts tomorrow and the US Sailing Team is all settled into the athlete village (we are lucky to stay in a luxury hotel, probably the best accommodation I’ve had in 15 years of campaigning).  Final preparations are underway and athletes are resting, finishing up boat work, and making their last tests of equipment.  I’m feeling as ready as I can possibly be and looking forward to this special event.  Especially since I don’t have to do my own laundry.

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This local guy was apparently a victim of the “Paracas.” Chalk outline may be required

I’d also like to send a massive thank you to my supporters over the past few years – in Brest; Gymsem Pilates, Fitness Plus, and Aloha Attitude (and of course my amazing husband); in the USA, the Windmark Foundation, Pam Temko, and the Jacksonville, FL windsurfing crew Eduardo Rodriguez, Patrick Oglesby, and Steven Davis.  Thank you all for believing in me!  Another big thank you to the Club de Regatas Lima for the great training!