Arriving in France, we were immediately at ease in our new surroundings. We had booked a hotel outside the port of Hyeres, which at first we thought was going to be a disadvantage. But it turned out to be a major advantage as it was quiet, spacious, and it encouraged us to venture into the surrounding area. With about 6 free days before training resumed with the other US 49er teams, we took full advantage of our location and started exploring.
Our first morning we found Giens…
A small village less then 5 minutes from our hotel. The quaintness of Gienz was adorable. The fact that people were living modern lives in this village of humble architecture, was astonishing to me. What a beautiful place.
Stumbling Into Cross-Training…
About 5 minutes in a slightly more westerly direction, we found the town of La Madrague. This town is essentially windsurfing heaven. It turns out that the Bay of Alemenar, upon which this town sits, is one of the premiere windsurfing locations in all of France. We did not know that before we booked our hotel a short 10 minute bike ride from the Spin Out France Windsurfing School.
I took some lessons while Christine immediately was ripping it up. Obviously windsurfing is a great cross training exercise for skiff sailing. I know that cross training in something like windsurfing will improve my 49erFX driving skills. I am looking forward to finding a way to add windsurfing into my future training.
Boat Work & Preparation…
After a few days of soaking in the local scene, we needed to complete the hull repair we did in Palma. It was time to take the packing tape off and add some fairing compound. Christine took the lead in this job and I followed up with cleaning and waxing the hull with McLube Hull Polish – which does amazing things to gelcoat…
One thing we learned on this trip is it’s important to be self-sufficient in order to succeed on the Olympic path we’ve chosen. Why? Equipment breaks. People cancel. Sails fly off trailers as you drive down the highway. Trailers blow off mountain-sides in 50kt puffs. Essentially, “stuff” happens. You have to be prepared to physically deal with the issues that arise (i.e. having gelcoat and West Systems supplies in your trailer that you packed in Miami), and you also have to be capable of mentally dealing with the temporary set backs. I will admit it’s possible that I have a strong tendency to plan ahead and that I might “over do it” from time to time. I also know that there are teams who are not prepared for a major break down or challenge, but it just has not yet happened to them. In the end, I believe all teams will experience set backs and what will determine the most successful team is how they respond to those challenges.
15th Overall In Hyeres…
We wrapped up our trip with a 15th overall at the Sailing World Cup, Hyeres. In all it was an experience rich with lessons. We certainly will be ready to put forth a stronger showing at these two important events next year. I’m personally excited for that challenge.
Paying It Forward Back Home On San Francisco Bay…
We returned to San Francisco and after taking some personal time off, we reconvened at Richmond Yacht Club for afternoon practice sessions on the Bay. We have been keeping our boat at RYC because they have great launching and access to the Bay. The director of Jr. Sailing, Dan Brandt, is a long-time supporter of skiff sailing. He has been a personal resource to me over the past few years as I have taken on skiff sailing. We reached out to Dan before we left for Europe about providing some RYC sailors with an opportunity to experience the 49er FX. Dan collected some local sailors and on a recent Sunday Christine and I took out six young women to show them what the 49erFX could do.
We began the day on the dock briefly explaining how the FX was rigged and allowed the sailors to get a very close look at how the boat works. Christine did a great job running through the maneuvers and providing a brief description of what would happen on the water. Our final suggestion to the girls that they use their time on the coach boat mindfully watching how Christine or I do the position they wanted to try as a way of learning the job through visual practice. With that in mind, we departed the RYC dock. As luck would have it, the San Francisco Bay winds were in full effect – it was a solid 20kts. We began by positioning the RIB close to our stern as we sailed upwind, performing several tacks. We bore away and set the kite so the girls could see some examples of gybes and a fast take down.
It was time to start taking each girl on board for an FX experience. Given the building wind speed, Christine and I chose to ride in a 3-up configuration all day long. This choice was hugely successful as each girl had the opportunity to crew, drive, or both (depending on their interest) in a solid 20kts of breeze. I was excited to see these girls being introduced to skiffs (some for the first time) in solid planing conditions. It really was thrilling!
The courage and enthusiasm of these young women was exciting, to say the least. I was quite impressed with the skill (and guts) they demonstrated. It seemed like each girl enjoyed the afternoon and we concluded with about 1.5 hours of talking about our recent trip to Europe and what it’s like to compete on the international level. They each had thoughtful questions and I was encouraged by how interested they appear to be in high performance sailing.
Stay tuned as we prepare to depart for the European Championship in Denmark. For the first time, we are reaching out to find supporters to join us. Please follow this link to find out more and please consider passing this link along to friends.
Christine and I want to thank you for following our progress. We look forward to sharing more of our story with you soon. We also want to thank our sponsors whose support made this trip possible. They include Sperry Top-Sider, Easom Rigging, the St. Francis Sailing Foundation, and US Sailing. A very special thank you to US Coach Luther Carpenter who worked with us every race day in Europe and graciously spent many hours off the water discussing our performance.