I’m sure you’re up to date on all the exciting action that stirred up from the recent US Sailing Olympic Development Program Racing Clinic in Miami this past weekend. Scuttlebutt tallied the heads of “One hundred thirty-three youth sailors [who] participated in the 29er, International 420, Laser Radial and Nacra 15 classes.”
In the mornings, the boat park was no different. Spinnakers hoisted to dry at first light flapped and filled the silent spaces between the boats. When it’s quiet in the boat yard you know it means good work is being done.
LEARNING TO SPLICE
The most powerful lesson that I took away from the clinic emerged from the fleet briefings and debriefs each day. It is common to see sailors return after a day of sailing, after crossing each other’s sterns and bows on the race course, they split into the factions to discuss the racing with teammates. I’ll admit I am guilty of this. And, sure, there is a time and place for this during peak events.
ODP tied all the separate strands together. Sailors from all classes came together to share their key moments of each day. To me, the message was clear: 1) we learn from each other; and 2) we’re in this together. Don’t hide your secret sauce recipe. Let’s share our process.
Leandro Spina, always spinning the conversation to the positive, challenged the sailors each day to collect good moments rather than focus on the negative. I want to share a few golden moments that I picked up.
It’s humbling to stand in the expansive shadow of a legend like Kevin Hall. His Olympic record, America’s Cup campaigns, his battles with cancer and bipolar disorder; shit gets real when Kevin has the mic. His opening remarks at ODP got everyone’s gears turning: “Who’s the best coach you’ll ever have?”
Some eyes scanned the room, some glanced the floor. Kevin continued, “you are.” To a generation of sailors who work with coaches and teammates, who have parent support teams, and have a chase boat standing by on the water (again, I’m guilty of driving that chase boat), Hall’s words landed: you are responsible for your own success.
START YOUR WATCH
A theme of the weekend was the racer’s routine. We heard from top sailors like Sophia Reineke, Carrson Pearce, Thomas Rice who all shared their morning routine.
Kevin Burnam shared his gold medal winning routine from the Athens Games, a speech I’ll never forget. So what’s the connection between the Olympic podium and the junior sailing boat park? Take this example of preparation, in Kevin’s words, “the race starts as soon as you wake up in the morning.” He went on to describe his process of weather/forecasting research. Watching the trees out his window while eating breakfast. Scanning the clouds and flags while driving to the boat park. Watching the conditions develop while rigging and launching with the Race Committee to spend as much time on the water before the start.
Now, will we all be able to master the sport like Burnam? Who knows, but it begs the question, how much time off the water do you spend thinking about the race?
I overheard a comment that’s stuck with me the past few days. It went something like this, sailing might be the only sport where the athletes spend the day competing and get back to shore and not have a clue what happened. It’s true, sometimes our local knowledge, forecasting, tuning, whatever is just off, and we’re left rolling up our sails feeling like all the marbles are lost.
Luther Carpenter doesn’t talk much but when he does we all lean in a little closer. With so many components to keep track of with sailing it’s easy to get frustrated, especially when there’s a lot at stake. To make sense of all this Luther puts it simply “everyday there’s something hard to deal with, you just have to say to yourself I’m going to do that better than everyone else.”