Now that we’ve had a week to reflect on the biggest event of our 2014 season, here is our 2014 ISAF World Championship wrap-up!
This regatta was the peak event of the year for us. Country qualification for the Olympics and team funding was on the line for virtually all competitors. We came into this event with two goals: 1) Be the top USA FX team; 2) Finish in the top 10 countries in order to secure an Olympic berth and 2015 US team funding. We met the first goal easily, however, we did not reach our second goal, which was much more of a “reach” goal.
Overall, we finished 29th of 55 teams, and 18th country. [Results here] We were the top American team so we have earned the #1 spot on next year’s US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider! This is an important step to achieving our goals for next year. However, since we were not in the top ten countries here, we did not yet qualify the USA for a spot in the Rio Olympics in the 49erFX. Our next opportunities to do so are the 2015/2016 North American continental qualifier and 2015 Worlds. Look out, world!
Now, starting from the beginning of our time in Spain – Helena arrived in Santander four days before Paris so that she could set up the boat to be ready for training and racing. Paris had to miss two weeks of her first semester of college, so we wanted to make the most of our training time before the event by being on the water and not in the boatpark. During the week leading up to the event, Santander gave us a beautiful sea breeze on all but one day, allowing for excellent training with the other US teams (thanks, ladies!) as well as some short races with various other nations. At pre-event measurement, we were pleased that our boat weighed in at exactly the minimum weight, 94.0 kg!
Santander is a gorgeous city, unlike anywhere else that I’ve been in Europe. Be sure to visit our Facebook album of the event to get a feel for the area and its amazing natural beauty! There are also photos of the opening ceremony where over 20,000 people were in attendance! The locals were really nice to us throughout our trip and it was awesome to see so much excitement in the city about sailing.
Day 1 – Mon Sept 15
We were scheduled to race three races on Duna course, which was the stadium course closest to shore. However, due to no wind there was ultimately no racing. We had one start (general recall) as a fleet but the wind died. An anticlimactic start to the World Championship!
We had two qualifying series races on Duna course. Unfortunately our starts in both races left us playing catch-up for the rest of the race. The racing was very shifty since the course was set inside the harbor. Completely unexpectedly, in the first race our starboard cap shroud broke. The fitting above the swage sheared when it was loaded immediately after a gybe. Since there was no visual way to tell that it was weak, we are investigating who manufactured this piece and where in order to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. We were very fortunate to have a spare and thanks to Luther’s help we fixed it on the water between races while a container ship went through the course! All in all, we were disappointed with our start to the regatta but we knew there was much more racing to come.
Day 3 – Wed Sept 17
What a day! Again, we were on the Duna course, which proved to add to the day’s challenges! It was an extremely windy morning with winds over 30 knots. At the bottom of the course the waves were bouncing off the seawall, turning the course into a washing machine. Our qualifying fleet was sent out and after coming to grips with the conditions we started the race, but the race was abandoned when nobody could make it around the leeward gates. The chop combined with the very high winds this was just too much for our boats. Five teams broke their masts and several sailors ended up in the hospital; they are all ok but a couple of teams had a premature end to their regattas due to injury. Fortunately we escaped with some nice bruises and only a ripped jib.
Later in the day, once winds lessened, we had one race and finished 10th. Ironically, it was only about 6 knots for this race! We fought hard from a mediocre start, passing boats throughout all four of the laps. Our downwind tactics were on point!
Day 4 – Thurs Sept 18
Finally, racing outside of the harbor! We had our qualifying series races 4 and 5 on Ssangyong course. The breeze was medium to strong with flat water. The first race was solid for us and we came 10th. However the second was not ideal. We were 19th due to capsizing in a gybe near the leeward marks. This was very disappointing as we were 5th in the race before we flipped, and if we had maintained that position we would have been in Gold fleet. We were really disappointed to not make the Gold fleet cutoff, as we had at every other regatta this year. But we resolved to make our way to the top of silver!
This was our first day of the finals series so we had four races in Silver fleet on Ssangyong course. The breeze was pulsing with gusts of well over 20 knots. Our boathandling was controlled and well-executed. Combined with some nice starts, this lead to an excellent day for us and we were able to move up several places in the standings. We won our last race of the day and what turned out to be our last race of the regatta! We scored 4th, 11th, 6th, and 1st so overall a very solid day.
Day 6 – Sat Sept 20
We waited all day while other fleets raced… finally we launched just before 7 pm (is it dinner time yet? I guess not in Spain!), ready to do a race or two in dying breeze but it glassed off, so the regatta ended for us as anticlimactically as it started.
Sunday was the medal races for the top 10 teams. Congratulations to all who qualified their countries, and especially to the podium: 1st: Brazil’s Martine Soffiatti Grael & Kahena Kunze, 2nd: Denmark’s Ida Marie Baad Nielsen & Marie Thusgaard Olsen, 3rd: Italy’s Guilia Conti & Francesca Clapcich!
Lessons from this event:
Our weaknesses at this event were starting as well as upwind tactics and positioning. However, our strengths were great downwind tactics and boatspeed. Our training regime for next year includes coaching and training partners with a focus on these areas.
Due to the weather and race management, this event helped us refine how we stay mentally and physically prepared to race at all hours of the day.
While we have been able to maintain respectable results this year despite our limited training time, we cannot overstate how excited we are to by going full-time starting Jan 1. We look forward to lots of hard work and rapid improvement!
Finally, it was this event one year ago that Helena was hit by a competitor’s boat and broke her spine, ribs, and kidney. She has had such a phenomenal recovery thanks to so many people making an incredible support network. To be able to sail and with no long-term effects is truly remarkable. On this team, we don’t take a single day for granted!
Our boat is in Barcelona for the winter, ready to take on a ferry to Palma de Mallorca first thing in March!
At the end of this event we met with our coach Luther and the US Sailing Team High Performance Director and long-time coach of ours, Charlie McKee. We have made a plan for the fall and winter that we feel really good about. It targets our weaknesses and gets us sailing in the right places and with the right people to maximize our development.
This fall we will be putting loads of effort into improving our strength and agility so that our bodies are ready for full-time sailing come 2015. We will also be fundraising in order to make our 2015 training and regatta schedule a reality. Please contact us if you or anyone you know could help us make our dream and plan a reality!
Again, here is our Facebook album of the event!
Please consider supporting us – this is a crucial time in our fundraising efforts as we plan for next year! It is easy to do through our website or you can donate through the Sailing Foundation of New York. No matter how big or small, every donation gets us closer to our goal. Thank you.