Rio Olympic Test Event 2014

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It was a tough week of racing in Rio de Janeiro competing in the Olympic Test Event. We raced both inside the bay and outside in the large open swell, sailing in light and variable winds as well as strong winds with 10-foot swell. A very trying week both physically and mentally, but lots of experienced gained.

The regatta began on August 4th, however the day was cancelled due to lack of wind. The next morning we kicked off racing in a Southwesterly front that blew 15 knots and kicked up large 10+ foot swells in the open ocean. My boat speed struggled in the large swell, and my results showed scoring a 25-24-23. However as the day wore on, I gained more and more confidence in understanding the proper technique and rhythm to sail over these mountainous waves.

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The following day, the large swell continued to build, but the typical Southeast sea breeze was back to its true form, starting at 12 knots and progressively building to 18 by the end of the day. After some overnight analyzing of the lessons learned from the day before, I could see my boat speed improvement on the water. Race 1 I stood most of the race inside the top 15 until I made a critical mistake on the 2nd beat that cost me several places to finish 25th. To make things worse, I began to feel very nauseous towards the end of the race. I tried to refuel and rehydrate between races to try and shake off the bugs. However in the final race of the day, the stomach cramps got progressively worse. I did my best to keep a high level of focus and intensity around the racecourse, but it was extremely tough, eventually finishing 20th. As I sailed in, it became pretty clear that I was sick again with another bug and/or food poisoning. As soon as I hit the dock I took some meds.

Although I was not 100% healthy, I felt much better than the day before. On August 7th we raced inside the bay on the Ponte course, which is located at the north end of the bay, just south of the Rio-Niteroi Bridge. Unfortunately, it was a very long day of waiting for the light sea breeze to fill in. We managed only one race in a very light and variable breeze that demanded a very open mind with the constantly changing winds and currents. With the variable conditions, the racing was very mixed and extremely close. I sailed a good enough race to get my best result yet of a 14th.

The final day saw the beginnings of another cold front come through from the Southwest. We raced on the Naval Course, which is located in the middle of the bay, in very gusty, shifty winds that varied from 8-20 knots, on a course where the current is constantly changing in speed and direction. In the first race of the day, I had a sold game plan that I believed was surely going to set me up for a good race. However, as we have learned many times in Rio, everything changed in a matter of minutes and I found myself unable to adjust my strategy, stranded on the wrong side of the course to finish 33rd. The final race, I properly adjusted my strategy, as well as came up with a better game plan that allowed me to adjust to the likely change in conditions. I had a great start and first beat and rounded the top mark in 1st. I led most of the way around the course until I made one mistake at the top of the second windward leg and on the final run, holding on for an 8th place finish. Unfortunately, I was scored OCS, a disqualification for starting over line early by a mere foot or two. It was a bummer for the scorecard, but a big confidence booster to end the week of racing, finishing 26th overall.

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All in all, it was obviously a tough week of racing and highlighted the areas where I where I need to improve, specifically sailing in large ocean swell, something that I do not have much experience with. This will be big point of focus when we return in October for additional training. I am continuing to add chapters of lessons for racing that are specific to Rio, as well as lessons that can be applied to general rules of thumb.

The key for Rio was learn, learn, learn, and there was plenty of that accomplished this past month. Now I head to Kingston, Canada for a week of racing at CORK and learn some more about the 2015 World Championship venue. All of this hard work is pushing towards peaking for the ISAF World Championships this September in Santander, Spain.

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1 Comment

  1. […] Chris Barnard competed in the first Olympic test event in Rio earlier this month. Major credit to U.S. Sailing media guru Will Ricketson for snapping this awesome shot. You can read the full report from Chris here. […]

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