Laser North Americans 2015

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After Europeans, it was right back stateside to refocus and prepare for the Laser North American Championships in Manteo, North Carolina, racing on the Croatan Sound. It was a long day of traveling from Aarhus, Denmark, to Copenhagen->London->New York->Norfolk and driving down to Manteo, arriving on July 25th. I took a couple days to recover from racing in Europe as well as the traveling to settle myself in to the apartment, get my boat organized, get my food for the week, and most importantly, some proper sleep. I got one day on the water, and recognized right away the racing was going to be very shifty, big pressure differences, and very hot. Along with playing the game well on the water, it was going to be key to stay hydrated and fueled before, during, and after racing, taking in all the proper nutrients and liquids.

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Racing began on July 30th in a gorgeous South-Southwest gradient breeze ranging from 12-18 knots, and even providing the wave skew that gave me issues at the Europeans last week. But after some careful thought, visualizing the skills and technique to execute top speed in these waves, I had a feeling I could find my wheels again. Race 1 I had solid start just below the boat end pack. I worked my way up the right hand side of the course to round the top mark in 4th. I had a great downwind, rounding the gate in 2nd behind Lee Parkhill, but was unable to find another passing lane with the strongly favored right side and finished the race in 2nd. Race Two I sensed there were more shifts to play on both sides of the course as the median breeze shifted left. However, I think it was still key to favor the right hand side. Off the start it was a clear left hand shift. I started at the boat end and I immediately flopped to the lifted port tack and headed to the right hand side. I stayed patient, waited for the wind to veer back, consolidated my gain, and rounded the top mark in 3rd. Then my wheels took over as we entered the outer loop downwind leg and passed the leaders and then some, opening up a 20-boatlength lead that I never relinquished to take the bullet. On the final race of the day, it was clear the course was even, and it was about taking a clear start at the favored end and playing the shifts. I had a mediocre start at the pin end, but was able to hold out on the lifted starboard tack just long enough to connect to the left shift, scraping back to round in 4th at the top mark. The remainder of the race was a close battle between Evert McLaughlin, myself, and Robert Davis all sailing extremely fast and tightly covering each other up and down the course, until I slipped up, not properly utilizing a puff downwind, and Robert made the pass, finishing the race in 3rd. All in all, it was a great start to the event with a 2-1-3.

Day 2 saw nearly the identical conditions, but from the complete opposite wind direction out of the Northeast, winds still 12-18 knots, with the same wave skew. It was going to be another day of escaping the pack to utilize my strong upwind boat speed in comparison to the fleet, staying in the middle of the course to play the shifts, and properly picking my way downwind combining puffs with waves. Race one I had a clean start slightly above the pin pack, punched from the group who underestimated the line sag with the downwind current, and quickly flopped to port onto the lifted tack. Soon enough I was in space, stayed fast, and rounded the top mark in first. I continued to extend throughout the race, especially on the final downwind to take my second bullet of the regatta. You can check out a highlight of that race here taken by T2P.TV.

Race two of the day I had a poor start getting squeezed off the start with a poor acceleration. However I quickly recognized this might have been due to a left shift at the start, so quickly found an exit on port tack and found positive leverage. I held that for no more than a minute, and soon the wind veered back, and was back in the top group. I rounded the top mark in 3rd, never quite able to threaten the leaders, but was able to hold my position and finish the race in 3rd. Final race of the day I had a very clean start at the boat end along with four of the other top competitors. We battled throughout the race, nearly even all the way around the first top mark, the downwind, and the second beat, before I made a good move to find some positive leverage, roll over the leaders, and round the final top mark in 1st. With the space, I extended on the reach and final run, taking my third bullet of the event, finishing the day with a 1-3-1.

Day 3 was back to the South-Southwest, starting at 15-18 knots, slowly dying to 10 knots, very similar conditions to day one of the event. Race one saw a strongly favored pin end of the line, with strong downwind current. I had a strong start at the pin end, while other struggled to judge the strength of the current. A large line sag developed, giving myself and a few others the ability to tack and cross immediately in the left shift. Soon after, a right shift followed, giving us leaders a large jump on the fleet. Halfway up, I played another shift to perfection, opening up a clear lead into the top mark. I extended on the downwind, opening up a horizon job lead and went into cruise control the remainder of the race. Robert Davis made it interesting in the final legs, closing my lead to just a few boat lengths, but I defended well to take another bullet. You can watch highlights of that race here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31so0yAQNoc

Race 2 of the day saw my first major slip up of the event. I had a good start at the pin end, but halfway up the beat, I misjudged a shift, extended to the left, where I found myself in unfavorable current and was in the 20s at the top mark and well behind the leaders. I knew the key to my success and overall lead so far in the event was that I had yet to have poor race, top 3’s in every race. So I knew I had to fight back hard to keep that trump card. I passed about 10 boats on the first run, another 5 boats on the second beat, a couple more on the second run, and 2 more on the final reach, coming all the way back to 4th, a comeback I was extremely pleased with. In the final race, the breeze had dropped off significantly down to 10 knots. With the current in mind, I opted to favor the right hand side of the course. I had a clean start and slowly worked my way up the beat with the shifts. However it began to be clear there was more pressure and a slight persistent shift to the left beginning to develop, so I had to quickly scramble myself back to the middle of the course to salvage a top mark rounding around 15th. I then had a great downwind to round the bottom in 3rd, but opted to round the wrong gate and was on the outside of the following shift and back in 5th. I gained a couple back but then lost again on the final beat to finish the race in 5th. A bit of a sour end to the day, but knew I accomplished what I needed to do going into the final day.

The final day was scheduled for two races remaining, but likely only one race due to time limit restrictions. If there was only one race to be sailed that day, I had already clinched the regatta overnight. However mentally I was prepared to do what was necessary to win the championship if the race committee managed to get two races in. If so, I needed just one top 5 finish and I had the event. However as soon as we sailed out, I had a feeling it was going to be tough for the race organizers to even get one race in with a light offshore gradient quickly dying as the thermal heating of the sea breeze fought. Soon enough, the race committee called the regatta off, everyone headed in, and I cracked open a beer for the tow in to celebrate and soak it in. A very pleasing victory, second time winning the North American Championships after success back in 2012. Also felt good doing it in similar fashion as well, clinching the event with a race to spare, a great way to close out the summer.

You can check out a post-regatta interview here starting a 3:12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH5mNJkNvnM

Thank you to all my sponsors and supporter back home and across the country from US Sailing Team Sperry, Sunbrella, West Coast Sailing, my family, friends and various donors. You all make this possible and this is just the beginning. Thank you!!

Now I am in Miami beginning a month of hard fitness training with Trey Watson and Jaguar Therapuetics, the official physical therapist and fitness partner of the US Sailing Team Sperry. We have some concrete goals to tackle over the next 4 weeks and already feeling sore and fatigued after a week of training, but already can see the benefits carrying over to my sailing and improving my speed.

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