Michelle Slade

Regatta Recap: Hot. Humid. Windy: ILCA 6 Youth Worlds 2022

Junior sailors Connor Bennett, Ethan Sargent and Tor Svendsen got a taste of big-time competition when they recently competed in their first world championship regatta in the ICLA 6 at the Youth Worlds held in Houston, TX. Some two hundred kids from over thirty countries registered to race and in final results, Tor finished 52nd in Gold Fleet, while Ethan finished first in Bronze, just one point ahead of Connor.

The boys, who are StFYC members and St Francis Sailing Foundation grantees, headed off to Texas in good company: Julian Soto, one of the country’s top Laser coaches, and Al Sargent, a regular competitor on the ICLA circuit (and Ethan’s dad).  After collecting their charter boats, they tailored them with the gear that they brought from their boats back home. In ICLA regattas, most everything is chartered: the hull, mast, boom, daggerboard, and rudder which are standard components, while competitors bring their own sails, tiller, and lines since those tend to be more customized by each sailor.

Finally, boats were inspected to ensure that everything conformed to the strict ILCA rules that place an emphasis on the sailor and their skills, versus the quality of their equipment (note that the ILCA 6 is the medium-sized rig, with six square meter sail, bigger than the LCA 4 and smaller than the ILCA 7).

It was a hot, humid, very windy, and highly competitive regatta: overall, a grueling event as the local boys who raced attested. Day one was practice on Galveston Bay. Day two was a practice race, followed by a run to West Marine to upgrade control systems. Four days of racing followed, there was no sailing on day five due to lightning, and three races were sailed on day six.

At the conclusion of a three day “qualification series” where the sailors were randomly assigned to different fleets of about fifty-two boats each, competitors were then assigned to one of three fleets: Gold (top third), Silver (middle), Bronze (bottom third).

“It was good to make Gold Fleet and given it was my first World’s, I was happy with my result,” Tor noted. “It was a really windy regatta every day, six days of continuous hiking which was challenging. Many of the sailors competing were a lot bigger than me so I was struggling to keep up with them, but I was hiking hard and doing my best.”

Connor and Ethan duked it out in Bronze fleet right up until the final race of the final day.

“Connor came out strong, scoring two bullets and putting him into first place in Bronze with an eight-point lead over Ethan, in second,” Al Sargent said. “He had to only finish 13th or better in the last race. In the last race, Connor and Ethan were close to each other, but then Connor capsized, netting him a 14th place finish in the last race to Ethan’s 5th place.”

Ethan Sargent, who has competed in the ICLA for the past four years commented, “It was the most competitive regatta in which I’ve competed, everyone was on their game and there was not one bad sailor.”

Commenting on what he learned from racing with the best, Svendsen noted that physical fitness is key to sail the Laser at a high international level.

“I have lots of work to do on my fitness game,” he said, “and I also learned a lot about competing in big competitive fleets and how important being consistent is. You really must be big and strong, have endurance and hike really hard. You also have to be quick downwind. There were a lot of speed gains to be made downwind just because the waves were pretty big but there were also opportunities to overtake – if you were overtaking in waves successfully downwind then you could make a lot of gains. Also, starting in a big fleet on a crowded line you have to be really confident in your boat-handling as well as your acceleration and speed off the line.”

The boys also learned the importance of drinking plenty of water and eating properly given the heat and humidity, as temperatures throughout the regatta were in the high nineties, and winds consistently in the teens.

“On land it was really hot, and you just had to stay hydrated and fueled,” Tor commented. “The competition was tough, but I learned a lot and just had a lot of fun just racing. We got to meet a bunch of people from around the world and from around the US which was really cool.”

On October 13, support clinics like the ODP, as well as talented sailors from all backgrounds who are working hard to follow their dreams, at St Francis Sailing Foundation’s Annual Auction event. Tickets are limited: be sure NOT to miss out and book online today at https://www.stfsf.org/.

The largest contribution to the Foundation came from the estate of member and Staff Commodore Tom Allen in his trust. Please consider a tax-deductible gift to the St. Francis Sailing Foundation in your will or trust. If you or your attorney needs information, call Treasurer Greg Meagher at 510-541-2543.

Results: https://jpvm.org/results/2022/ILCA6_Youth/results.htm
Photos: https://2022ilca6youth.ilca-worlds.org/photos/

Feature Image: (L to R) Tor Svendsen, Ethan Sargent, Connor Bennett / Credit Al Sargent
Other Images: Credit Event Photographers

Michelle SladeRegatta Recap: Hot. Humid. Windy: ILCA 6 Youth Worlds 2022
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Embracing the Process & Going Full Time

Happy to be racing on home turf this weekend in the West Marine / US Sailing Open Sailing Series on San Francisco Bay after some four months training in Europe, Daniela Moroz, World Champion kitefoiler, StFYC member and St Francis Sailing Foundation Grantee, offers some insight into her training, season highlights thus far, and decisions she’s made in order to move forward with her Olympic program. 

The Hyeres French Olympic Week regatta at the end of April was an incredible experience, highlighted by getting to work with a phenomenal sailor, person, and coach, Chris Draper. Most recently, he has been the wing trimmer on the Japanese SailGP Team, but also has an extensive professional and Olympic sailing resume having done more than a few  successful America’s Cup and Olympic campaigns. However, it was his curiosity about kiting and eagerness to learn more about kites and foils that caught my attention when I was looking to work with some different experts to improve certain aspects of my game.

I arrived in Hyeres one week before racing to get some training time in at the venue and begin working with Chris in the lead up to the regatta. We had several days of training and practice racing in different conditions where Chris quickly learned the ropes of coaching kiting and we made some interesting conclusions regarding maneuver losses and different strategies depending on how powered you are on certain kite sizes.

I felt extremely prepared going into this regatta and was excited to start racing. It was another interesting first few days with many ups and downs in the qualifying series. My score line was not as consistent as I usually perform, but I was extremely proud of my progress with what I was working on with my starts and strategies, and Chris’ constant positive feedback was welcome encouragement as I often put too much pressure on myself when certain things didn’t go my way. It certainly wasn’t frustration, it was just a nagging in my mind telling me I could do better, and each race that’s exactly what I tried to do – everything a little bit better.

On the final day of the qualifying series, I managed to get 4 bullets out of 4 races, keeping me in first place and securing my spot in the final, meaning I only had to win one more race in a 4-boat final the following day to take the regatta win.

Finals day came around with a tricky onshore sea breeze. The wind was very marginal but pulsing, meaning there were phases of more wind followed by phases of less wind. Chris helped me identify the phase using the wind mast on the rib, and that information became extremely helpful in determining which side of the course would likely have more pressure by the time my start gun went off. Learning how to best utilize the wind information coming from the instruments on the coachboat was another essential takeaway experience, and it was a significant factor in my decision to start on port for the final race. My start put me in a controlling position off the start line, and then it was all about leading and covering the other 3 boards from there.

Getting to work with Chris was such an honor and an incredible learning experience. He brought a new level of expertise and professionalism that I will carry further into my campaign, and we plan to continue working together here and there throughout the next 2 years.

I finished racing in Hyeres on Saturday, and I needed to be in Hawaii for my final exams at University by Tuesday. I got home to San Francisco on Sunday afternoon and immediately started working on all the schoolwork and final projects I had to catch up on before school on Tuesday. I’m still not entirely sure how I did it – and honestly, I’m not entirely sure how I managed to nearly complete my bachelor degree in 3 years while also doing my Olympic campaign and SailGP – but somehow, I managed to get it done. It was a stressful following few days as I had to complete all my exams, turn in all final projects, and then figure out what was next regarding school. I have a few more classes that I need to complete to get my degree, however they are all high-level in-person classes, and although I am committed to getting my degree, I realized that my current priority is my Olympic campaign, and my current goal is to go to the Games.

I don’t want to look back after the Olympic Trials or Games wishing that I had spent more time training or racing but couldn’t because of school. I decided to take a leave of absence from school for now to focus 100% of my time and energy into my Olympic campaign. I will return to the University of Hawaii in the fall of 2024 to finish up my last credits and officially get my degree. It was a difficult decision however I believe it is the best possible scenario for me right now.

I am extremely thankful for my family, friends, sponsors, coaches, and village for their continued support as I begin to chase my Olympic dreams full time. It’s a very exciting time and I look forward to sharing the journey with you all!

Read more at Daniela Moroz

Images courtesy Daniela Moroz

 

Michelle SladeEmbracing the Process & Going Full Time
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Laser-Focused: Talia Hamlin Wins Leiter Trophy

At the US Junior Women’s Championship hosted by the California Yacht Club, Marina Del Rey, July 20-24, 2022, Foundation grantee Talia Hamlin (SFYC) took first place in the ICLA 4 class, competing for the Nancy Leiter Clagett Memorial Trophy. Hamlin, 14, easily ruled the regatta with a final score of 9 points, a solid 7 points ahead of second place winner Hailey Thompson (SFYC) who finished with 16 points. On day 1, Hamlin’s results over four races were 1, 1, 2, 5. Over three races on day 2 she scored 1, 2, 3. Sailing the shifts put Hamlin in the right position, as did paying attention to conditions.

“Both days had light breeze as we towed out, medium breeze as we started, and medium-heavy breeze halfway throughout the day,” Hamlin reported. “The breeze would start right-favored, then clock left throughout the day. Both days there was swell and chop, while the first day was more choppy, and the second had more swell. Both days had no current.”

Hamlin is one to watch out for, following an outstanding performance earlier in the year when she finished 21 overall out of 148 at the ICLA Youth Easter Meeting in Riva Garda Italy, and notably, the first woman under 16. The 14-year old, from Mill Valley, Calif., is a 9th grader at the California Pacific Charter School. Over and above her natural ability on the water, she has a great attitude which is sure to take her to the next level on the ICLA circuit.

“I’m always learning and always stay positive,” she smiled. ” I don’t give up under any circumstances!”

Hamlin is currently in Portugal preparing for the 2022 ILCA 4 Youth World Championship, racing starts on August 15.

Read Hamlin’s US Junior Women’s Championship report here: Report Talia Hamlin US Junior Women’s Championship July 2022 

 

Michelle SladeLaser-Focused: Talia Hamlin Wins Leiter Trophy
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Breaking Down Barriers: Helena Scutt Masterminds Women’s Intro to Moth Clinic

Foiling, reaching down the start line at 20 knots and turning up as the starting gun goes off, then landing a foiling tack and crossing the starboard boats is “simply the best feeling,” says Olympian Helena Scutt. The boat? A single-handed foiling dinghy known as the Moth famed for its technical challenge, as well the athleticism and a love of speed it demands.

Scutt, who has become an accomplished Moth sailor in just a few years of sailing the boat, was eager to share her knowledge and passion for the boat with other women sailors after returning from an exceptional experience at her first Moth World Championship event.

“Coming home from my first Moth World Championship last September, I was on such a high after experiencing such incredible racing and I couldn’t wait for more,” Scutt enthused. “The Worlds was the first time I had ever sailed in this class alongside other women. As someone who wants to see women represented at all the various upper echelons of our sport, it made me so happy to see other women crushing it in the highly regarded, high-performance Moth Worlds.”

“I know firsthand that there’s so much talent which just needs to be given the opportunity to get started in this new realm.”

Moths are difficult to sail, and they’re also expensive and somewhat fragile, so opportunities to just hop in a Moth and try one can be few and far between. Scutt knows that there are plenty of talented sailors who just need an opportunity to try one, so she was eager to facilitate that. She organized a “Women’s Intro to Moth” clinic, the first of its kind in the US.

“It was a huge success in that several women who wouldn’t have otherwise competed in the Moth Worlds got hooked and raced the Worlds just days later,” Scutt noted. “Out of 142 sailors, we had 12 women compete at Worlds, which I believe to be a record number, at least in the foiling Moth era.”

Scutt’s clinic was held this past spring at the Mission Bay Yacht Club in San Diego, a flatwater venue with an easy beach launch and the perfect place to start on the Moth. Seventeen women sailors with little to no foiling experience participated, ranging in age from 16-40 and joining from all corners of the country, plus Canada and Guatemala. With 7-8 Moths to sail, and three coach boats, each coach looked out for two to three boats, and sailors rotated in and out.

The goal was to introduce the Moth, but more broadly to the foiling side of high-performance sailing, in a fun and supportive environment. Over the weekend, Scutt covered the history of the Moth class, the evolution of foiling technology, how boats foil, all the rigging, how to launch, how to get foiling, and how to stay foiling.

Thrills on the Moth for Beccy Anderson. Credit: Helena Scutt

The group’s enthusiasm was palpable, and she knew they were off to a good start when they went sailing a day earlier than planned.

“With all the boat work that the Moth demands, going sailing ahead of expectations is unheard of,” Scutt noted. “Friday afternoon was supposed to be just rigging and prepping for the weekend, but several sailors showed up early and eager to learn, and before I knew it, we were carrying boats into the water. It was the most meaningful, joyful weekend of sailing I’ve ever had.”

The wind was too light on Saturday for foiling, but with everyone’s enthusiasm, they all made huge strides in understanding the boat balance and nuances of building speed. That visibly paid off as they got foiling quickly once we there was enough breeze on Sunday. A personal highlight for Scutt was hopping into a Moth to demonstrate a foiling gybe – in jeans! “I’m proud to say I was dry when I got back into my coach boat,” Scutt laughed.

The sailors in the coach boats had a chance to see others’ mistakes, lessons, and improvement from the boats, and help take video to capture each other’s first foiling moments. The coaching team consisted of Richard Didham, one of the top US sailors at Moth Worlds, Jimmer Montgomery, a Moth sailor, and Head Coach at MBYC (who also lent his boat for the clinic), Matt Dorgan, a kiteboarder and Finn sailor, and Scutt.

“I can’t thank them enough for being such a positive coaching force,” she said. “The atmosphere was incredible all weekend – super keen, supportive, and encouraging. At the end of the day on Sunday, we had to herd sailors back to the beach because no one wanted to stop. I’m happy to report that so far, two participants already bought their own Moths.”

While Scutt was inspired by Luca Rizzoti (President of the International Moth Class Association and founder of Foiling Week) who kickstarted a women’s clinic that happened immediately before the Moth Worlds in Malcesine (Lake Garda), Italy, the idea for this clinic had been in the back of her mind since 2019 when she started training in the Moth, after her Olympic sailing came to an end. At that time, she was needing to reconnect with why she started sailing in the first place.

“The clinic was challenging in a way that allowed me to grow as a person (not just as an athlete), it introduced me to so many wonderful friends, and most importantly, it was fun,” Scutt said. “At the end of the clinic, I cried tears of happiness on the flight home because seeing so many women breakthrough in learning a new skill, support each other, and feel the joy of foiling was a full-circle moment for me.”

Scutt’s advice for women (or anyone) interested in Moth sailing is to have strong sailing fundamentals first, reach out to people in the class, and just start, as you’ll figure it out as you go. Enjoy the steep learning curve and ask lots of questions.

Note: This clinic wouldn’t have been possible without the financial support of the St Francis Sailing Foundation and the US Moth Class. Also, thanks to Chad Freitas and Katie Love, who brought 5 Moths from the Skiff Sailing Foundation from San Francisco to San Diego. Sømand sail wear provided quality neck gaiters and custom reusable water bottles for all participants, all embossed with a pink Moth logo, which is the Moth class’s signature sign of support for women in the fleet. US Moth class President Dan Flanigan (who also lent his boat for the clinic), and clinic participant Kara Voss hosted the clinic at their house for Saturday night pizza and debrief. Finally, thanks to Mission Bay YC for providing coach boats and facilities, and to the host families.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to try moth sailing. People always talk about how technical the boat is, and how fragile they are, so I was always quite intimidated to try the moth. An all-women’s clinic broke down all the barriers, it was an absolute blast, and now I’m hooked.” – Isabella Bertold, Vancouver, Canada

“The moth clinic was an amazing experience that made me realize that foiling is where I belong. I struggled for so long to find a discipline in sailing that I truly enjoyed and found challenging. The moth brought the joy back into sailing for me. Now, I am looking at getting a boat of my own. The clinic staff was knowledgeable and friendly for the entire clinic.” – Kit Mattikow, New York City, NY

“By the end of the weekend my network of peers expanded, my skills strengthened and my excitement for sailing was taken to a whole new level. I’ve always wanted to foil but didn’t know how or where to start. By Sunday I knew I needed to keep foiling. Now I’m linked up with the Skiff Foundation and fundraising for a Moth campaign!” – Beccy Anderson, Long Island, NY

Learn more about Moth sailing:
The StFYC Wednesday Yachting Luncheon (July 6th) is available on Youtube and is all about Moth sailing.
Join the FB group “Moth Class USA”;
Reach out to Dan, the US class president, via https://www.usmothclass.com/;
Hear more about Scutt’s Moth journey in these two podcasts: “Good Jibes with Latitude38” episode, “Helena Scutt on dreaming big in sailing and in your career” and “The Sailing Show” S6E9, “Helena Scutt; The World of Moth Sailing”.

The next clinic will be this fall on San Francisco Bay – stay tuned! Follow Helena on Instagram @helenas9 to be the first to know about the next clinic, or check on the US Moth Class website (https://www.usmothclass.com/) or FB group “Moth Class USA” to see notices there once posted.

Featured Image:
Molly Carapiet & Helena Scutt (StFYC & Foundation members)
Credit: Beccy Anderson

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Michelle SladeBreaking Down Barriers: Helena Scutt Masterminds Women’s Intro to Moth Clinic
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2021 49er FX Worlds – Wilmot & Reineke Debrief

Lucy Wilmot and Erika Reineke are campaigning the 49er FX with an eye to Paris 2024. The pair, who have just returned from competing at the 2021 49er FX Worlds in Al Mussanah, Oman, their first major international event, report on their experience. 

On October 31st, we traveled halfway across the world to Al Mussanah, Oman to sail with top-level teams in the fleet. We are proud to complete our first major international regatta together and have the opportunity to represent the United States abroad. After a hard-fought week of racing, we finished in 20th.

Arriving at the regatta feeling prepared took months of organization and work. Unloading a new boat at the championship for the first time, we knew our pack list was going to be extensive. Putting together a new toolbox, flying with two complete sets of sails and mast, was no easy feat. We spent two and a half days unloading the container, equipping the hull with our customized rigging, and stepping the mast before we hit the water for the first time. Once we launched the boat in Oman’s beautiful crystal clear waters, it was completely worth the effort.

Overall, we suffered from a major upwind speed deficit throughout the regatta. The lack of pace made it difficult to accelerate off the starting line, hold a lane, trim the sails correctly, and balance our weight. These issues stemmed from many sources including unfamiliarity with new gear, mast bend inconsistencies, and outlier readings on the wire tension gauge. Despite these problems, we never gave up on trying to find answers.

Before and after each race, we tried different adjustments based on our hunches about how the boat felt and what could be inhibiting it from gliding through the water. Many evenings post racing, we stayed on the water and played with the rig, controls, sail trim, and technique yet the boat still struggled to release upwind. Determined to get to the crux of our speed issue, on two occasions a safety boat came up and told us to return ashore. When we came in, all the other FX’s were long gone and back in the boat park spots.

Continually searching for answers, we were down at the boat park before sunrise and after sunset. One morning, we took our mast section apart and reassembled to see if the mast alignment may be off. Another morning, we ran through our rig setting progressions to re-test its bend characteristics and found the mast was bending in a different location. On multiple nights, we stood over our boat with flashlights trying to troubleshoot why the lower mast section was so stiff despite having trained on it all summer.

Post racing on the final day of the event, we were still determined to find a solution. We took measurements of the hull fittings and their positions to gather data points to compare to our hull in the US. Our American teammates were also helpful in lending their equipment for measurement sake in order for us to get to the bottom of our speed deficit. Another day went by and again we were the last 49er to de-rig our boat in an attempt to understand why the hull felt stuck in the water. We came home knowing we fought every moment to find a solution.

Looking back, this was an incredible learning experience and it highlighted an area we were not well versed in. Though we arrived at the event organized and prepared, we were ultimately unprepared to deal with the set-up and tuning differences associated with a new hull. We found that we couldn’t trust the tuning guide we had worked hard to put together over the last year because it wasn’t eliciting similar sail shape or mast bend properties. This problem became even more exacerbated in overpowered conditions when we found ourselves in unknown territory due to the lighter conditions we experienced in the lead up to the championship.

Though this was an extremely tough lesson to go through, especially at a World Championship, there is never a bad time to learn something new. We now realize the equipment we compete on needs to be trained on with enough time to ensure it performs consistently throughout a range of wind conditions. While we had limited equipment options to get to this event which led to the decision of purchasing a new boat, we will be more calculated in our equipment changes going forward.

Still to be noted, there were many positive regatta moments that we are extremely proud of. This was the first time we had lined up with so many boats on the starting line. Excited to put our bow in the mix, we took advantage of the situation by working on starting line maneuvers and positioning. Upwind, we focused on racecourse communication and streamlining our decision making process. Downwind, we consistently improved at defending our position on the headed gybe. Additionally, we were exceptionally fast downwind and sharpened our skills at owning the final layline.

Perhaps the most significant positive from the event was working through these challenging circumstances together. Constantly problem solving, debriefing tough moments, and strategizing our next move was difficult. Working together and approaching the speed issue objectively, our team learned something new each day and ultimately came away from the event with a ton of incredible takeaways. Looking forward, we are excited to implement these new findings into our winter training and spring racing.

We are grateful to have our friends and supporters along with us on this journey! Your cheers and words of encouragement mean the world to us and we are proud to represent the United States of America. Thank you Luther Carpenter, for providing us with coaching during the event. Alison Chenard and Kate Drummey, thank you for media coverage and shipping support in Oman. Thank you to Micah Kush and Force Physical Therapy for keeping our bodies strong during the event. Easom Rigging and Racing, we can not thank you enough for helping outfit all the rigging lines on our new hull. Thank you to all the incredible sailing foundations who continue to support US Olympic hopefuls: Belvedere Cove Foundation, Richmond Yacht Club Foundation, St Francis Sailing Foundation, and Skiff Foundation. Lastly, thank you to all the coaches who have not only worked with us but have also believed in us this past year: Willie McBride, Erik Bowers, Hans Henken, and Jorge Lima.

Happy Holiday and GO TEAM USA!

Images: Courtesy Wilmot / Reineke

Michelle Slade2021 49er FX Worlds – Wilmot & Reineke Debrief
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From Dinghies to Keelboats: TISC Kids Learn New Racing Skills

A group of kids who normally sail out of Treasure Island Sailing Center (TISC) got to take it up a notch when they participated in a Racing Skills Development Clinic on October 30, hosted by the St Francis Yacht Club (StFYC). The purpose of the clinic was to give diverse racing sailors an opportunity for more training and growth, and to mix it up with experienced sailors including Olympians Pam Healy and Helena Scutt.

A combined initiative of US Sailing, StFYC, and Treasure Island Sailing Center, the format for the one-day clinic started with ground school, followed by lunch and a pre-sailing debrief prior to rigging the club J22s and receiving a safety briefing from the coaches.

“US Sailing, StFYC, TISC all recognize that we need to bring more kids into sailing from diverse backgrounds and we would like to have them move up into keel boats when it’s appropriate in their experience,” StFYC Staff Commodore Paul Heineken noted. “To do that we put together this day and kids sailed races with hot shot coaches aboard. The kids had a great time, and we want to do more of this.”

Twelve kids participated ranging in age from 10-14 and all of whom had sailed for a good number of years in dinghies at TISC and who were keen to broaden their horizons. They were able to learn about rigging, crew positioning, and boat handling on a J22. The day started out with tacking and gybing maneuvers followed by practice starts and finished with some races to exercise the new skills. Coaches focused on the communication and teamwork required for larger boats.

14-year-old Mila Kane from San Francisco has been sailing for seven years and has been on the TISC race team for 3-4 years. Sailing is her favorite sport, and she was excited to race keelboats for the first time.

“I was interested to practice starts and learn about the acceleration time on a keelboat and how different it is compared to dinghies,” she said. Mila usually sails with her sister Sienna, who crews for Mila.

“Many of the kids were exposed to keel boat sailing for the first time and learned how to communicate on a boat with more than two people,” Helena Scutt commented. “Those who drove learned how to focus on steering and let their teammates be their eyes on the racecourse. While Pam and I shared a tiny bit about our Olympic journeys, it was also emphasized how many types of sailing one can enjoy, and how many different skills are needed in the sailing industry.”

Collette Zaro, StFYC member who helped coach was impressed with how the sailors picked up new skills, asked questions, and their overall confidence on the water.

“They gained an understanding of the timing and level of coordination to execute maneuvers, especially during the starting sequence, and the importance of keeping your crew informed. Whether they pursue keel boats or continue dinghy sailing, it was a fun, rewarding day that left both participants and coaches with a new perspective.”

Photos: Courtesy Peter Lyons

Michelle SladeFrom Dinghies to Keelboats: TISC Kids Learn New Racing Skills
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505 Sailor Mike Martin Wins North American Championship Title for 11th time

Mike Martin (left) recently won the 505 North American Championship, bringing his total NA wins to 11, yet he still maintains that first place in this highly competitive fleet can be almost anyone’s trophy to take home. After a two-year hiatus due to Covid, the 505 fleet, consisting of some thirty boats from 12 states and two countries including many of the world’s top 505 teams, recently gathered in Newport, RI, for the 2021 505 NAs. 12 races over four days were sailed in a variety of conditions. In final results, Martin and his crew Adam Lowry lead Mike Holt/Carl Smit by 11 points, with Nic Baird and Eric Anderson one point further behind.

Lead changes kept racing exciting, and the competition was as good as it ever is, Martin, a StFYC member and Board member for St Francis Sailing Foundation, reported.

“It was super tight, fun racing. Different people won almost every day and it was just consistency, it wasn’t how big you won by on the days you won, it was when you didn’t win the day just how close you were. We went into the final day just three points ahead of Holtie, it was one of the tighter NAs that I have sailed.”

Ironically, as Martin commented, the windiest day which brought on conditions that he and Lowry excel in, was probably their worst day.

“Interestingly, we didn’t win on the windy day – normally that’s our edge where we just sheet in and walk away from everyone but we didn’t do that this year and I think that’s basically from lack of practice. Everyone was rusty, but we were all equally as rusty,” he laughed.

Sailing smart and being patient when things weren’t looking good was the approach that won the day for Martin and Lowry.

“We just kept chugging away, we sailed tactically really well, pretty low risk and consistent,” Martin said. “We didn’t win a lot of races – Holtie won more races than us, but we never had bad races. What we did well is we had at least equal boat speed in every condition, so we were never slow, and we sailed generally well. We made some mistakes here and there, but our mistakes weren’t huge and probably we made most mistakes on the windy day when normally we’d have a big advantage.”

They didn’t have to sail the final race, so Martin and Lowry decided to throw risk out the window and live a little.

“What we really wanted to do several times in the regatta was just bang the right corner, but we didn’t have the balls to do it because we were sailing too conservatively,” Martin laughed. “So, for the last race we did it. As it turned out it wasn’t a huge advantage, but it was our first opportunity to sail high risk – during the rest of the regatta we weren’t willing to sail high risk and I think that was why we were the most consistent team.”

Interestingly, the top three boats in this regatta were the top three boats in the last 505 Worlds (sailed during January in Fremantle, Australia, when Eric Anderson crewed for Parker Shinn).

In the 2019 505 North Americans, Martin/Lowry took first, Howie Hamlin racing with Russell Clark took second and Holt/Smit took third. The 2020 and 2021 World Championship and North American Championship regattas canceled due to Covid.

Earlier this year Martin was able to sail some 505 regattas and while his training partners were around, participated in his long-standing Team Tuesday sessions, a collaborative training program he and Howie Hamlin put together years ago when they first started racing together in So Cal. When he’s not sailing 505s, Martin still gets plenty of time on the water – this year he’s logged some 100 days of kite foiling and racing.

Martin hails from Alexandria, VA, where he grew up sailing out of Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay and sailed in college at Old Dominican University. In addition to his 11 North American victories, he has won four World Championships in the 505, the first in 1999 with Howie Hamlin, in Luberon, France.

Martin and Lowry will be back on task come August 2022 for the 2022 505 World Championships in Cork, Ireland: https://www.int505.org/2022-world-championship-cork/
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Michelle Slade505 Sailor Mike Martin Wins North American Championship Title for 11th time
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Riley Gibbs Decompresses Post Olympics

24-year-old Riley Gibbs just competed in his first Olympic Games, finishing 9th overall in the Nacra 17 with crew Anna Weis. He was fortunate to have plenty of distractions following the Games which mostly kept him from post competition blues. But a lull in his schedule due to a broken thumb incurred while racing in the recent Moth World Championships was an opportunity for reflection and contemplation. I caught up with him just as he arrived in Nice, France with a stunning sunset in front of him as he headed to meet the US SailGP team for the Saint Tropez event. Here Gibbs talks about his Tokyo experience and shares his thoughts about what’s next.

Where did your inspiration to be an Olympian come from?
RG: It’s been a dream of mine since I was young – for as long as I can honestly remember. I sailed Sabots in So Cal as a kid – when I was in third grade, I remember hiding Seahorse magazines under my history books on my desk, trying to read articles and looking at all the photos on the Games. I remember European teams came to Alamitos Yacht Club when I was a junior to train with Chris Rast. One team broke their rudder and threw it in the trash. My friend and I grabbed the rudder, cut it in half with a hack saw and each kept a half in our rooms – we idolized the idea of what it represented. Putting our fingers on the rudder itself was like a dream come true for us at the time – I’d say much of the desire to be an Olympian is internal.

What was the atmosphere in Tokyo like given all the constraints, and did it live up to your dream?
RG: Regardless of Covid, just being there and to be able to experience it for yourself is something that’s unmatched by anything else in life, I’d say. It’s something I’ve personally looked forward to my whole life and I have idolized anyone I ever talked to about it or had met who had gone to the Olympics.

In reviewing your performance, what worked, what didn’t?
RG:
We were okay with our performance – we had trained hard in a multitude of different conditions, but we didn’t see many of those conditions we were expecting. The first two days were challenging for us being that it was short steep chop, 6-ft waves dropping off these cliffs – kind of like skiing. It was quite intense. We weren’t over the moon about our overall result but for our first Olympics and being one of the youngest teams participating I thought we did alright finishing 9th. It’s a nice stepping-stone to Paris 2024 which is how we are viewing it – a building process. Santi (Santiago Lange, Argentina) for example, is 59 and has been to four Olympics – that’s 16+ years of experience on us. It’s tough when you try to compare yourself to people like that. As much as you try not to, you end up doing that because it’s so much results-based and not so subjective.

What did you need more of to have won?
RG: More time and more resources. We had a really good group of people involved with our campaign – Sally Barkow is a great coach, and we had a lot of mentors like Mike and Stephanie Martin, Jay and Pease Glaser, and Howie and Julie Hamlin, our parents – you need a huge team behind you. The teams who made the podium have good funding, great teams behind them, as well as a lot of experience and time over us which you just can’t buy.

It’s no small feat and there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes. It’s not all fund-raising at a yacht club or deciding to go out for a 3-hour sailing session on a given day – it’s a full-time job and every quad becomes more professional. Talk to Paige or Charlie or Stu and Dave and other experience athletes on the team and they’ll all agree, “Wow, no-one partied this last quad – everyone was so serious!” We do joke around within the Olympic team to keep it light between racing, so those kinds of conversations come up. But it’s something to consider – 20 years ago when our coaches were competing it was different, and we haven’t even scraped the surface yet in terms of team dynamic and performance. It’s a lot more scientific now and we have the tools.

What was a racing highlight for you?
RG:
It was looking back on the event and accounting for all our weaknesses. We didn’t know how we would stack up against the other teams because we hadn’t seen them in 14 months since the outbreak of Covid, but we did well against most of the fleet in certain conditions which was really nice. Our biggest weakness going into the Games was starting. The Nacra 17 is not like a FJ in high school sailing, or a Laser where you can just roll it over, or a J22 where you can roll tack it and use some kinetic energy to get it moving. You really need to learn time and distance and rotation and time. It’s quite tricky – the cord length on the dagger boards and foils are high aspect so you lose flow very quickly. But, according to the regatta and racing analytics that our R&D team puts together for us, we were one of the best teams in starting in the whole event – that was a shock to me because it wasn’t something we were too confident in!

How did it feel to come home to the “what’s next” situation?
RG: I had other events planned, the first being the recent Moth Worlds which was in Lake Garda, Italy, a few weeks ago. I was training for that soon after the Olympics finished. For better or worse I think that prolonged the state of depression (laughs) that some athletes get – your entire life has been working toward one goal for so long and it shouldn’t go uncelebrated. Anna, Sally, and I each had our own emotions tied to the end of it. Once I get home (Long Beach, Calif.) I’ll have time to decompress.

What’s next?
RG: The immediate future is kind of unknown but I’m really looking forward to getting with the SailGP team and learning as much as I can. Being involved with SailGP has really helped so much with the Olympics – you learn so much about professionalism, event logistics, teamwork – it’s amazing. What we don’t make in salary we definitely make up in exchange of knowledge and experience (laughs). I’m really happy to be part of it.

Planning for Paris 2024?
RG: Plans are on hold right now. Anna needs to finish school at Boston University, so we’re trying to give her some space. But that doesn’t mean that I’m taking my foot off the gas as far as campaigning goes – whether its R&D behind the scenes or sail development – any sort of niche to get one up on the competition we can get, I’m seeing it through and just waiting for Anna to come back!

Riley Gibbs and Anna Weis/US Sailing Team/Nacra 17 at Enoshima Yacht Harbour, the host venue of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition.
02 August, 2021
© Sailing Energy / World Sailing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michelle SladeRiley Gibbs Decompresses Post Olympics
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Scutt Wraps up the 2021 Moth World Championships

Helena Scutt recently completed in her first Moth World Championship, in Malcesine, Italy, finishing 80th overall and the 4th woman. Her worst races (discards) were the first two of the regatta which speaks to her improvement throughout the event. Overall, she was thrilled to compete and is excited to train hard for the next Worlds where her goal is to be in the Gold fleet (top half) and come out as the Women’s World Champion. Right on Helena! Below Scutt provides a snapshot of the event as it played out for her.

The wind during the Worlds was lighter than the US training group expected. In hindsight, we trained too much in strong breeze and survival-type conditions, rather than marginal foiling and light wind conditions. Light conditions at Worlds meant that for several races there were holes at the windward and leeward marks, and on the right side of the course, so there was a real premium put on getting foiling and staying foiling through maneuvers. I had the right foils for the conditions (note that the Moth is an open development class designed around a box rule), but my sail was underpowered (I have a reduced size because I’m relatively light) and my mast was too soft. This meant that getting foiling took longer than it could have, and I left some light wind downwind boat-speed on the table.

Even just comparing the first and second days of the qualifying series, I averaged almost 14 places better each race on the second day as I figured out starting in a big fleet, some nuances of the racecourse, and improved tactical decisions. I was so happy to be back racing in a big fleet again, it was such an awesome feeling. For the most part, racing skills that I feel like I haven’t used since Olympic campaigning came flooding back to me, “like riding a bike”.

I attended one day of the Women’s Moth Clinic (organized by the International Moth class) before racing in the Italian Series, a two-day pre-Worlds regatta which proved to be invaluable practice for starting and big-fleet Moth racing. For both qualifying (two days) and finals (Gold fleet & silver fleet, 3 days), the Worlds was divided into two fleets of 71 boats each.

The level of the fleet is so high, it’s impressive and inspiring. My gains will come from improving boat-handling (especially tacks), starts, and getting equipment better suited for a range of conditions. I’m really pleased with how much my starts improved during the event, because by the end I was getting clean starts at the pin. Moth starting is very different, even from other high-performance boats like the skiffs and Nacra17, because everyone is foiling and reaching down the line in a high-speed train well before the starting gun.

The US Moth class, and particularly the West Coast group, held a Zoom debrief open to all US Moth sailors to maximize the lessons from the event and build a plan to best prepare us for the next Worlds. Despite all my training over the spring and summer, I must keep in mind that most the sailors at the top of the fleet have been sailing Moths for the better part of a decade, and I have only done one season. The next Worlds in Argentina in November 2022. We could have strong breeze and short, steep chop, so we’re looking forward to some Berkeley Circle training for that!

My role in the Moth community is fun and gratifying. I look forward to hosting Intro-to-Foiling clinics in the Moth and the Waszp this fall, winter and spring, to get more Moth sailors, and particularly women, introduced to the class. Out of 142 competitors at Worlds, 12 (8%) were women, which was a record-breaking year. We look forward to continuing to build momentum for women’s participation and success in the Moth. At the International Moth class AGM (held during the Worlds), I was elected Vice President of the International Moth class. Some of the changes we have already made:

  • The prizes include the top 3 women at Worlds, not just top 1.
  • All Worlds and Europeans events must host a Women’s Moth clinic before the event.
  • Pink Moth logo stickers available for all competitors to put on their boats to show support for women in the Moth class.
  • A women’s Moth Whatsapp group to stay in touch.

And it’s just the beginning!

I am so grateful to the St Francis Sailing Foundation for its support of my racing and my participation at the 2021 Moth World Championships. Thank you!

*StFSF grantees Helena Scutt & Riley Gibbs Moth Worlds 2021. Gibbs competed but couldn’t finish the regatta as he was injured in a crash ten minutes before the start of the first Gold fleet race.

Images courtesy Helena Scutt.

Michelle SladeScutt Wraps up the 2021 Moth World Championships
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OPEN LETTER: PAUL CAYARD FROM TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIC SAILING VENUE

August 5, 2021

To supporters of our team,

I am departing Japan today after absorbing the Olympic environment, observing our team in action and getting pointers from old friends who have been running teams in this game for decades.  It has been a great opportunity for me as I embark on what I expect to be a seven-year mission of leading the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team back to the top of the podium.

Our team prepared hard for the last five years, and raced with intensity and professionalism here on the big stage. While we were not medal favorites in any event, each of our 13 Olympians were competitive in the most elite field of play in the sport. They represented their country extremely well, both on and off the water. They also worked through unprecedented pandemic-related challenges that impacted both their performance development and their lives in general. The 2020 Team is to be commended for their dedication and perseverance.

As has been noted before, Team USA has a long history of dominance in Olympic Sailing. At Los Angeles 1984, our team won nothing but Gold and Silver in all seven events. In the eight years from ’84-‘92, we were the dominant sailing team in the world, winning 21 medals. In the last three Olympiads, 2012-2020, Team USA has come away with a total of one bronze. We are no longer the winningest nation in Olympic history. That honor has now gone to Great Britain, who have been the dominant team after a complete makeover of their strategy following Atlanta 1996.

Many of us in America are dissatisfied by our Olympic sailing trend and want to correct our course. While being in the middle of the pack is not a bad thing, it is just not how Americans think of themselves. Moving up the Olympic pecking order is not going to be easy.  No one is going to get out of our way. We need to build a machine that puts teams and athletes in a position where their usual routine will produce a podium result on a regular basis.  This is about cultivation, education, preparation and execution on game day.  This is about proper process and procedure.

So where are we now, as we form our strategy for the next seven years? We did produce gold-medal quality athlete support here in Japan. Team USA’s logistical, organizational and technical support was highly regarded by all national teams. However, we need the resources to allow this to occur more frequently and consistently throughout the quadrennium. Seven of our Tokyo 2020 athletes, along with other standout Americans who did not win their Olympic trials, have already committed to continuing towards Paris 2024. Continuity is critical and commendable after the sacrifices already made over the past five years.

We have a strong pipeline of talent back home who have been boosted by our Olympic Development Program. This includes our dinghy, skiff, board and foiling communities. In the last four years, the USA has been the dominant player at the U19 level and those athletes, worldwide, are now coming up to their Olympic teams. Five of the events in 2024 will be new. Change creates opportunity, if you are not “king of the hill” in the current game.

We have a good core of supporters who believe that Olympic sailing is important to all of sailing through creating a depth of talent that permeates the sport.  Olympic sailing inspires youth sailors and teaches life skills along the way. It builds people who can lead, make decisions and be team players.

In the USA, we also possess excellence in key sectors that contribute to winning in sports. These include technology, organization, elite athleticism, coaching, and financial resources. We don’t have to reinvent anything. We simply need to design a system and process to bring that excellence to bear on the field of play. A machine that will be sustainable for years to come.

We have good insights as to how other countries play the game, but no other country’s strategy will work for us. Each country has unique challenges and its own strengths, weaknesses and culture.  When strategizing, these attributes must be measured against a constantly changing performance environment. The task here is to design the right strategy to get to the front of the pack and stay ahead of that evolution.

I have taken on the Executive Director role in U.S. Olympic Sailing because I am passionate about getting Team USA back to the top. The Olympics is a source of national pride and a measure of competence in each sport. I want our sailors to be acknowledged as the best sailors in the world, once again. I want our youth to be inspired by U.S. idols in their sport. I also want them to learn the valuable life skills that fighting to be the best instills.

This is more than a project; it needs to be a movement.  That means broad support. I hope you are inspired to get involved. Support the junior program at your club, support an individual athlete who is dreaming big, or support the US Sailing Team. If you feel moved to contribute ideas, time or dollars, write to me: paulcayard@ussailing.org.

– Paul

Michelle SladeOPEN LETTER: PAUL CAYARD FROM TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIC SAILING VENUE
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