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Friday, February 5, 2010

TEAM GO SAIL BACK ON THE WATER!

February 1, 2010

Gold Medal at Rolex Miami OCR
2010 North American Champions
Members of 2010 US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics


After a 15-month hiatus following the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, we had a very exciting kick-off to 2010. We spent most of January in Coconut Grove, Florida training with our Olympic coach Bunny Warren and later, competing in two events: 470 North Americans and the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta.

Our first event back in the 470 was the 2010 North American Championship hosted by the Miami Yacht Club. Our goal for this event was simply to get back in the boat and find a comfort level going around marks with other boats. We have to admit we were a little nervous when the forecast for our first day of racing in over a year was 20-25 knots! With a 41-boat fleet including men’s and women’s teams on the staring line, we focused on getting a clean start and a good first beat. We were pleasantly surprised to find our upwind speed in big breeze was on par with the top teams and we finished 1, 1, 2 for the day in the women’s fleet. We briefly joked that this might be a good time to step back into retirement! The rest of the regatta saw more mixed conditions including three races on the final day in a very shifty Northerly. Despite a few inconsistent finishes, we held on to claim the title of “North American Champions!”

We knew we needed a solid week of training after the NA’s to prepare for the main event: Rolex Miami OCR, an ISAF World Cup Event. The fleet would be much deeper, containing an Olympic Silver Medalist, Bronze Medalist, World Champions and most of the top 10 ranked teams in the World. An additional dose of pressure was our goal to qualify for the 2010 US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, only possible with a podium finish at the event.

After the first three races 2 points separated the top 7 boats, showing the fleet’s depth. We were right in the mix but out of the top 3 with finishes of: 7, 5, 2. Not a bad start, but we knew we needed more to get on the podium. On the second day of racing we tapped into the shifty, light/medium conditions well and posted a 1, 3, 1 which moved us to first overall and gave us the yellow jersey. With similar conditions greeting us on the following day, we hoped for another good performance; however, a few unlucky shifts, a few missed opportunities and a botched start were ingredients for a frustrating day. Still, we ended the day in second overall and the blue jersey. The final day of fleet racing before the medal racing involved a slightly different strategy as the top 3 boats had separated from the rest of the fleet. We were now essentially racing a select group of boats. Team Denmark sailed a fantastic day, taking 1st place overall. The French edged us out just enough to take over second and we were bumped to third. Only two points separated the three of us, meaning whoever beat whom in the medal race would win the regatta!

Medal Race Day
So here we were now wearing the red jersey for third place. We thought, since this was our first ISAF World Cup Event, we might as well make it a goal to sport the whole rainbow of jerseys throughout the week. To win the regatta, the formula was simple: beat Denmark and France. We were safely into the top 5 mathematically, which made worrying about the rest of the fleet less significant. Our goal was to get a clean start near our competition, break free of the pack and round the windward mark in the top 5. Denmark had a rough time getting off the starting line and rounded the first mark trailing the 10-boat fleet. We decided to keep tabs on them but, more importantly, try to catch the French who were leading us. We made use of our great boat speed downwind and pulled ahead of the French by a boat length by the leeward gate. Now leading the French and Danish we had to cover. At the second windward mark we managed to put another boat between ourselves, and the French, but our group converged downwind as the wind got lighter. The French almost took a puff down on top of us but a last minute gybe at the finish pushed our bow over the line ahead of them. This was enough to win the regatta!

We are very excited and proud to win an event like the Rolex Miami OCR. It was a fantastic way to get back into the 470 and will provide an excellent platform from which to launch our program towards London, 2012. More importantly for us, we’ve earned a spot on the 2010 US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics!

We next will compete at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Event in Palma, Spain, the Trofeo Princess Sofia. Thanks to the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics for your support!

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