Laser World Championships 2015

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Wow! What a great week of sailing I put together. It was a bit of a sour end to the week with a mediocre last day and final race against the world’s best, but I was very pleased with my overall performance to finish 13th at the World Championships as well as top American. It was only a slight improvement from last year’s finish of 15th. However, my skills and performance I showed this week were more advanced than last September. I have closed the distance on the leaders and felt I was part of the leaderboard, rather than just “tagging along,” and was within one good race of finishing top 5. Here is the recap of the championship.

I arrived in Kingston, Canada on June 22 to begin preparation for the Worlds. My coach Rulo Borojovich arrived that night and we quickly got to work discussing the goals for the training week and discussing the keys to success for the regatta. During our training, we saw a variety of conditions from classic sea breeze conditions of 10-20 knots to light, offshore gradient winds that were very tricky and shifty. I had sailed at this venue a few times before and expected this. We were sure to have a wide variety of wind conditions, in steadiness and strength, which would bring the best overall sailors to the top.

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Training with Rulo very productive, meshing together proper fine tunes in my boat speed to the flat water and small chop conditions in Kingston as well as taking notes of the wind patterns each day and what strategies we could carry forward. This productivity on the water combined with good sessions at the gym to taper into peak physical shape made me physically and mentally prepared, comfortable, and focused going into the championship

Day one of racing began on July 2 in what was the classic Kingston sea breeze conditions starting at 10 knots and eventually building to 20 knots. The stronger winds usually were a weakness of mine, but on this day, my boat speed was not holding me back, rather my positioning on the racecourse and the fleet. Kingston is well known for having a left hand racetrack in their Southwest sea breezes with wind bend and compression on Wolfe Island to the South, hence the race is a sprint to the left side of the course. In each race I opted to start towards the pin end of the line, but often found myself pinned to the layline without the ability to cross the starboard tack boats that started at the windward end of the line. This gave me very little control of my own destiny and rounded the top marks in the 30s. I then had to fight back, finishing races 1 and 2 in 21st and 26th. It was a disappointing start, but Rulo and I knew how to make the proper adjustment going forward and felt confident it would work if executed properly.

In these sea breeze conditions, the majority of the fleet understands they must get to the left side of the course. So in reality, starting at the pin gave little advantage because boats to the right would continue left, so boats to the left had very little space on the racecourse and gain little leverage to make any gains. Instead, the boats on the right had the space to stay fast as well as play shifts when they wanted to, which Rulo and I agreed there were plenty to play at the bottom of the course. The advantage to the left side of the course really didn’t pay dividends until the final third of the beat, which was very easy to reach even from the boat end of the line, as long as the line was close to square.

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This was the adjustment we carried forward and really for the remainder of the regatta. On Day 2 and 4 (no racing Day 3 due to lack of wind) we had another southwest breeze, but would only reach 5-12 knots. In either case, Rulo and I agreed to stick to the plan of a boat end start and deciding at the gun whether to hold on starboard, or to tack to port, depending on the wind shift. Gun went off, quick check of the compass, tack if it was a left shift, hold on starboard if it was a right shift, then manage from there. This strategy worked gloriously, allowing me to stay fast in much more space, ability to take shifts when needed, and in much more control of my destiny. In the remaining five qualifying races, I strung together the best score line of the entire fleet with a 2-8-2-9-3, thwarting myself to 9th overall heading into gold fleet racing.

Unfortunately, Day 5 brought no wind, losing our second day of missed competition. The following day brought great winds starting at 15 knots slowly dying to 7 knots from the South-Southwest, which was more gradient driven rather than thermal. I stuck to my plan, with boat end starts, picking which shift I wanted to take early. In race 1 of the day, 8th of the championship, my plan was correct, but poorly executed and fell back to my worst finish of the event in 41st. In the following race, I executed with great accuracy and rounded the top mark in 4th. I stayed in that position for the majority of the race before the final downwind became very fluky and patchy, leaving openings for big falls and comebacks. Although I did lose a few boats to finish 14th, I was fortunate to not lose more. In the final race, I opted to change my strategy, only because the pin end of the line was becoming significantly favored, too much bias and distance to give up. I moved to the pin, executed a clean start and rounded the top mark in 4th. I had a stellar downwind and was leading the race until just before the next windward mark where I stumbled to find the final shift. Nonetheless, finished the race in 5th, good enough to move up to 6th overall heading into the final day.

The final day of the event would prove to be the trickiest day yet with an offshore, Northeast wind starting at 12 knots, dying to 5 knots, and constantly changing in direction and velocity. It was a day of having great eyes, instinct and mental composure. Big scores were to be expected in such tricky winds, especially in gold fleet at the Laser World Championships, there was a lot of racing to be done. Race 1 I had a good start and a good exit on the first left shift. However, I found myself in the middle and unable to get myself free to the best shifts and pressure on the edges. I was mid fleet the remainder of the race and finished 24th. In race 2 I had one my better starts of the event, punched early at the boat end and riding high on the early right shift. There were many changes up the first beat and the following downwind, but I found escape on the second upwind leg to break into the top 5, eventually finishing 7th in the race. After that race, I sat in 8th overall, and very much still in striking distance of moving up. However it was not a day or a situation to look forward and what was possible, but rather what was happening then and what shift I needed to take next. It was a tough start to begin the final race of the event, forced to Ping-Pong my way up the course and eventually escape to right side of the course. I rounded the top mark mid fleet, and moved into the top 20 on the run. To my surprise and ultimate misfortune, the final beat on the shortened course turned into a persistent left shift, costing me up to 10-15 places, finishing in 26th in the race.

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It was a bit of a sour way to end the final race and day of the event, but my week of racing was good enough to finish 13th at the World Championships, as well as top American. A career best finish for me, a slight improvement results-wise from finishing 15th last September, but as mentioned before, a drastic improvement in my level of sailing compared to last year. I had my opportunities, and was very close to finishing top 5 this year, but that is the nature of the beast when racing the best in the world in the world’s toughest class in some of the trickiest conditions. The best stay consistent, execute when they need to, comeback like professionals, and have the skills to do it. That is the lesson I will take forward.

You can check out results here.

http://www.cork.org/past-results/results2015/STD/RESULTS.html

I am now home for a few days, resting and recuperating before heading to Aarhus, Denmark for the European Championships starting July 19th. Look forward to another week of stiff competition.

Thank you to all of my great sponsors from US Sailing Team Sperry, Sunbrella, West Coast Sailing, and all of my various supporters, donors, and fans of my Olympic Campaign. Last week’s success could not have been possible without you and the future is only getting brighter.

All the best,

Chris

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