Our six week training block here in Europe has ended and as a team we are elated about the progress we have made since our Olympic Trials!
After wrapping up our US Olympic Trials in mid-February, we enjoyed a short break at home with family and friends celebrating our big news and found some time to relax a bit before our next training block.
As usual, the long road of logistics of hauling our equipment around started in the UK where Helena and Hans picked up our car while seeing some of Helena’s relatives along the way. They then took the 26 hour ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao, collecting the US Sailing Team coach boat and trailer in Santander, and picked me up from the airport. We then drove across Spain (8 hours) to Barcelona to pick up our boats from a warehouse where they were being stored since arriving from Miami, and finally we took the overnight ferry to Palma, Mallorca.
Palma has always been a well known regatta in the Olympic sailing world and for me and Helena it was our third time participating in the Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta. We got to Palma on March 8th and had 2.5 weeks of productive (but cold and sandy!) training before the regatta started. The event showcased lots of different conditions where we were challenged with high winds and waves, to light shifty winds and chop. In the end, after six long days of racing, we managed to stay consistent and made it into our “first” major medal race! Helena and I have sailed in a couple of small medal races like the Pan Americans where we won our bronze medal, but we were extremely happy to make it into the top 10 there in Palma. We went into the medal race sitting 8th with no way of moving up, but only was separated from 9th and 10th by 1 point. We were very successful in the race finishing 3rd and kept our position of 8th overall.
Our next stop in our training block was prepping for the European Championships in Barcelona, Spain. With only 8 days separating the two events, we took the overnight ferry back to Barcelona and enjoyed two days off exploring Barcelona city and eating some tapas! We then hit it back on the water with our training partners Tess and Caitlin from AUS with long days of speed tuning and short small races.
The European Championships started on April 11th with some familiar conditions to those at home! The sea breeze usually didn’t fill till about noonish, so a lot of our mornings were spent postponed waiting for wind. But once the wind filled in across the courses, we saw close to perfect skiff conditions of 14-15 knots with a bit of swell. Halfway through the event, we had a day of westerly winds blowing through the buildings on land which posed to be a very very shifty wind ranging from 5-10 knots gusting to 18-20 in matter of seconds. To anyone who has sailed a skiff or any type of boat for that matter, knows that these types of days involve sailing with your head out of the boat anticipating the dramatic changes as they come. We sailed very well this day with a 2nd and a 5th and the photographers managed to capture our happiness after finishing the last race of the day.
Our goal was to finish in the top 10 again and throughout the week we were definitely fighting for a top 10 finish. We had a really tough second to last day where the wind was moderate to light and we struggled with staying in phase off the start line. It was especially hard with the fleet of 36 to fight back in the race if you rounded the top mark mid-fleet. We went into the last day in 15th and ended having one of the best days of the event. We finished with a 3, 2, 8 and felt very fast compared to the boats around us. Unfortunately in the second race of that day, we were black flagged (over the start line early) and got disqualified from that race. Despite the disqualification, we still moved up in the overall results and ended the regatta in 13th!
Our coach Willie pushed us to take these European events as good practice, trying new techniques and pushing our comfort levels on the start line and around the course. We also had the opportunity to work with Pete Spaulding who finished 5th at the Athens Games in 2004 as a 49er crew. Pete generously took time away from work and his family to come to Barcelona and work along side Willie. For me and Helena it was awesome to have a fresh perspective and input, especially coming from someone who has been in our footsteps before. Thank you Pete and Willie!!
We have a busy schedule coming up next week as we go home for a little break and also 4 days of training in San Diego! We were also granted the opportunity to go to New York and be part of the Team USA’s ‘100 Days Out’ where various Olympic athletes are going to be on NBC’s TODAY show launching the official countdown to the Games. We are so lucky and excited to be picked to come to the event and showcase our sport alongside other Olympians. Watch out for us on NBC and we will make sure to post beforehand more details about our appearances!
After that, the Sailing Foundation of New York will have its biennial Golden Spinnaker Gala supporting the US Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Team athletes. For more general information or to purchase a ticket at the fundraiser see: www.ussailing.org/goldenspinnakergala2016
You can also make a donation by emailing Dean Brenner at Sfny2014@gmail.com
After being stateside for about two weeks, we will fly to Rio beginning of May for our first of three training camps before the Games. We will be there for about 2 and a half weeks getting familiar with the crazy current and wind directions in and outside Guananbara Bay.
Thank you to our travel sponsor, Expedia, the St Francis Sailing Foundation, Seattle Yacht Club Foundation, and Northern California Olympians Foundation. Of course, thanks to the sponsors and supporters of the US Sailing Team Sperry, including Sunbrella, Harken, McLube Marine, and Group Bénéteau, and especially our title sponsor Sperry.
Avasol makes the best sunscreen for all activities in and out of the water. It goes on so smoothly and doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy. Not to mention it’s safe for you and the ocean! By far our favorite sunscreen!
With our watch sponsor, Spinnaker Watches, you can enjoy 40% off any of their watches with the code PARISHELENAUSA. Go to the website and check out what they have to offer! We love the Nantucket model and wear it everywhere!
~Paris & Helena