The last month was a very busy period of tough, tough racing against the best in the world in the brutal spring conditions that Europe offers. I spent a good few weeks training in Mexico and Long Beach back in April and early May to help build skills that will be prevalent in Kingston, Canada for the upcoming World Championships. It was now time to go back to Europe and get some high quality racing in against the world’s best. The goal was to throw myself in conditions and venues that highlight my weaknesses, particularly strong winds, cold weather, and big waves. Although I am very grateful for growing up and sailing in the comfortable lifestyle of Southern California and the skills that I was able to build there, there is a whole other apparatus of skills that I have to build in these extreme conditions. These skills are necessary to be a successful Laser sailor in Europe during the spring regattas.
The first event was the Delta Lloyd regatta in Medemblik, Netherlands from May 26-30. The venue is known for constant cold fronts rolling through bringing strong winds in cold water, each at a mere 50 degrees. I arrived on May 23rd, got a couple days of practice, then set to roll right into the racing. We encountered much of the classic conditions in 15-25 knots, with only one day staying below 12 knots. Winds each day came over land, making winds very shifty and puffy. On the lighter day, my skills showed, including a race win, which was a great feeling. In the stronger winds, there was a mixture of highlights and lowlights, which in turn meant my boat speed was inconsistent. I had moments of really good upwind speed, but then turn around and have a poor downwind, as well as vice versa. What this meant was that I am capable of finding the top gear, but there were times where I was lost and struggled to get going again. The one area where I found great improvement in my sailing was my evolution of my strategic and tactical sailing. With the shifty winds, it was really important to play the game well, and even with my inconsistent boat speed, I did a good job positioning my self advantageously to be up in the top in races. Match this prowess with good to top end boat speed with skills like I have in more tame conditions, they turn into an occasional race win like I had in race four of the event. The big lesson taking forward was how to build a more consistent base for my boat speed. I finished the regatta in 32nd.
After a week off, I headed to Weymouth, England for the Sailing World Cup, the host venue of the 2012 Olympics. This venue is notorious for very similar conditions to Medemblik, cold wind, water, but then throw in some English Channel waves and swell. Once again, I was racing at a venue that was going to challenge my weaknesses and went into the event with an open mind. Unlike Delta Lloyd, which was an open event with 150 sailors, SWC Weymouth was limited to just the top 40 boats in the world. This meant the racing was going to be even tighter and to a much higher level. Racing began on June 10th and continued through June 14th. Although we missed one day of racing during the event due to no wind, we had three days of racing, seven physical races in 12-20 knots of breeze. Once again, I had my moments of good boat speed upwind, but it was often inconsistent and in spurts. This was particularly highlighted off the starting line. My starts suffered, in part due to poor positioning around my competitors to create strong lanes, but also having poor skills to execute my boat speed in tighter lanes. Essentially I found my boat speed to be good in open space, but in order to beat the best, I need to be able to be accurate enough to get that same speed in tight spaces. What was much more consistent was my downwind boat speed, which was nice to see. I finished the event in 34th, another tough result. However, I recognize these results only reveal my weakness in certain skills. I look forward to attacking these weaknesses going forward.
Now I am back in Philadelphia resting, recovering, studying, and preparing for the Worlds in Kingston, Canada racing from July 2-8. I arrive July 22nd, spend a little over a week acclimating myself to the venue, testing some equipment, and getting locked in for a top performance. I have raced in Kingston three times before and always felt very comfortable there and feel I am primed for another good Worlds result, following up my 15th place finish from last year. I honestly can’t wait to get up there and get racing again. Check out kingstonlaserworlds2015.com for results.
Thank you to everyone for the support from family, friends, and sponsors, including the US Sailing Team Sperry, Sunbrella, and West Coast Sailing. Please continue to follow ChrisBarnardSailing.com for detailed reports, as well as my Facebook page Chris Barnard Sailing, and my Twitter and Instagram accounts @BarnyHoya for frequent social media posts.
Ready to Rock and Roll.
Posted in: Regatta Report