A week and a half after the Sailing World Cup Miami wrapped up, Helena Scutt and her skipper Bora Gulari, together with Riley Gibbs and Louisa Chafee were on a plane from Miami to Buenos Aires, Argentina. After a busy month of January in Miami, they were ready for a new venue, and of course with that came a new culture too. Here, Helena shares experiences from Argentina.
The Rio 2016 gold medalists in the Nacra 17, Santi Lange and Cecilia Carranza, invited us to train with them at Santi’s yacht club in Buenos Aires, Argentina, called Club Nautico San Isidro (CNSI). The yacht club is a beautiful and enormous institution with 13,000 members! The surrounding area feels like a giant Tinsley Island. There are canals everywhere full of sailboats on boat sides. In fact, we commuted by coach boat from our rental house!
CNSI was the host of the 2015 49er & 49erFX World Championships which I competed in, so it was not my first time there, but it is so different from home that it felt just as novel to me as it was new to Bora, Riley and Louisa. The best part is how many sail boats were out cruising every day (there are virtually no motorboats), enjoying the Rio de la Plata. El Rio looks like chocolate milk, it’s brown from the sediment carried thousands of miles from Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. It’s the widest river in the world and only 2m deep!
Conditions changed gradually each day, allowing us to get distinct morning and evening sessions. Since the river is so shallow and can have strong current in either direction (it can be very wind driven), the chop can really stack up close together. This makes for challenging downwind foiling in the Nacra 17. Performance depends on dynamic weight movement fore and aft, in and out, and of course precise spinnaker and mainsheet trim. Every movement and change must be anticipated, otherwise you’re already late. Foiling gybes are becoming more consistent for us, and through lots of short-course practice racing we are forced to make fast decisions in a fast boat even faster.
The main lesson for us, aside from our technique and sail/foil setup improvements, came from Santi and Ceci – their energy towards sailing. Every time they step onto their Nacra, from pushing off the ramp to returning into the basin, they are sailing with an intensity like their life depends on it. An Olympic campaign can be a long road with lots of travel, long days, and seemingly tedious details. But as gold medalists (and three-time medalist, in Santi’s case), they know that purposeful practice is all that matters at the end of the day. We are grateful to have them as role models, friends, training partners, and competitors.
After training one evening we enjoyed a traditional Argentinean barbecue (asado) and another evening we went to a local soccer match where the fans didn’t stop jumping and singing for the whole game. Besides that, we were training so much that we didn’t have the chance to explore the area much at all, but we hope to return for longer in the future.
The container with our boats will go from Buenos Aires to … San Francisco! We look forward to using these boats on the Bay in May before they head to the 2020 Olympic venue in Japan for two events in September.
Next on the calendar is kicking off the European season. Riley and Louisa will race at Palma and then we’ll join them and Santi & Ceci for training in Barcelona and then the Sailing World Cup Hyeres.
We’d like to thank the St Francis Sailing Foundation for their generous and consistent support of both of our campaigns. Both Gulari/Scutt and Gibbs/Chafee teams believe in the US Sailing Team’s vision, that working together will ultimately lead to a better USA result in Tokyo 2020, and that’s what it’s all about. Follow our journey to 2020 at facebook.com/gulariscuttracing.