Friday, January 28, 2011

Jan. 28 - Day 5

We had 3 races today in a puffy shifty NW breeze. It was extremely cold on the water today and it was a long day of sailing. We launched at 11 and tuned up with Sanni and Tina. We started our first race just after 12. We had a good start but had to tack and clear our air after a couple minutes on starboard. We headed off on port with a group of boats. The fleet was pretty evenly split; and the breeze was rather confusing with big cold puffs coming in from the right and warmer light air from the left. We rounded in about 12th and the wind lightened up for most of the rest of the race. The second upwind the wind went really fluky and we didn't protect left enough, losing a few boats near the top of the course.

The second race the wind came in quite strong from the right again and after the first race and discussions with our coaches we decided the left side was a safer option. We had a brilliant start and powered off on starboard tack. The fleet headed all the way out past the lay-line, in fact past the gybe mark before tacking. We came back into the top mark on a close reach and rounded in 5th. The first downwind was a bit crazy - the breeze was on and had shifted left making the first part of the downwind quite tight. The entire fleet was together and people were just continuously pumping the spinnaker - by the bottom mark I wasn't sure my arms would be able to take down the spinnaker. The second upwind we headed left again but had slipped back in the fleet and struggled to find clean air. The breeze softened up again and we finished in light and fluky stuff having been passed by most of the fleet.

The third race was mostly a test of focus. We didn't have a great start as the boat above us started way early (they must be OCS in this race) and sailed over us. We were forced to tack out and struggled to find a lane the whole upwind. The wind was up and down, the course very choppy and with the sun low in the sky it was as struggle to see the puffs/shifts coming. Then on the second upwind the women's and men's fleets got all tangled up and it was very confusing. By the time we finished the race we were just tired and hungry, as it was after 5 pm.

So ends Miami OCR for us this year. Tomorrow the top ten boats in each fleet will compete in the medal races, including our good friends Tina and Sanni (GER 61).

Although it is not reflected in our results, we have improved leaps and bounds over the past year. We have consistently gotten good starts in this event, and have managed to round the mark in a top 10 position in four of the nine races. Our boat speed and ability to point upwind is on pace with the rest of the boats. Our major area of focus for the next few months will be on our reaching and downwind speed and boat handling coming into mark roundings.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jan. 27th - Almost Race 6

We headed on the water at Noon today for a 1 pm start but there was no wind. We got a tow out with Zizi and Rafa and our training group and then drifted around for several hours while the race committee checked the wind (or lack thereof). The Finn's were supposed to have 3 races today but had only completed one when we got out there, so we knew even if the wind filled in we would still be third start. Finally at around 3 pm the Race Committee started the Finns and then the 470 men in about 2 knots. We then started our sequence, but had to stop half way through as the Finn's were approaching the leeward mark. They re-started our sequence and we got a start off. We had a really good start and headed off on Starboard tack as there seemed to be more pressure on the middle/left of the course. The breeze then proceeded to shift right and die completely. It was agonizingly slow going, and we got all mixed up with the Finn fleet. At one point we were on starboard tack and Ben Ainslie was coming downwind on Starboard tack as well. Technically we had right of way - but its Ben Ainslie! And there was no wind! It was very silly. We rounded the top mark in 7th or 8th and then got sailed over by a few boats on the very very slow downwind. Sanni and Tina proceeded to coach us as they sailed over us - helpful and humorous at the same time. Finally the Race Committee abandoned the race for us and we towed in. We will try again tomorrow with 3 races scheduled and a forecast of 6-10 knots.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jan. 26 - Race 5

This morning was rainy and gross and there was no wind so the Race Committee postponed us on shore for two hours. The wind report wasn't looking good; the low pressure system was finally moving through but there was supposed to be no wind behind it. We headed on the water at noon for a 1 o'clock start and the breeze filled in from the SW. There was a group of large black clouds moving across the sky from SE to NW, and it was really interesting to observe its progression after just having had a weather talk by Eric Holden, the Canadian Meteorologist. The wind went left before the cloud moved over head and then the wind increased to 15+ knots and started going right. We knew there would (probably) be no wind behind the cloud, so we kept our rig set up for light air. After one general recall we had an awesome start and tacked out right. We were really really fast upwind - we went from being behind and to leeward of a pack of boats to being in front and to windward of them. We were actually winning the right side of the course for a large portion of the upwind. As the cloud passed overhead the breeze died down to about 8-10 knots. We came back into the top mark in second on the right hand side and ended up rounding the top mark in 4th, just behind Sanni and Tina who had gone left. Then we struggled with the reach and watched as most of the top boats sailed over us! More things to work on. The downwind was good; we had good speed and were surfing as much as possible. Unfortunately we had to give 2 boats room at the leeward mark and couldn't quite get behind them. The second upwind and downwind were sailed in lighter breeze and we held our position. We finished this race in 19th which is our best race yet for this regatta. It is such a great feeling to have a good start and a great first beat - we find we sail with more focus and energy when we are up with the leaders and there are so many more learning opportunities sailing in this kind of traffic.

We have a late start tomorrow (1300) so can sleep in a bit. They will probably try and get in 3 races to make up for only having one today but we shall see!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jan. 25 - Races 3 and 4

We had another two races today in medium wind conditions. The forecast was for 15-18 increasing to 18-22 but the big breeze never really materialized. The first race was in 15 knots we had an okay start but got shot out the back after a few hundred meters. Left had been paying and was looking good on the first beat so we chose to just stick out the bad air and head left with the pack. This proved to be a bad call as we ended up behind coming into the top mark. The downwinds were tricky today as the waves were coming across the course and were surfable, but the big waves were very slow moving and if you didn't play them properly you got stuck going up the front of the next wave. We managed to pick up one boat somewhere on the first downwind/second beat. The breeze shifted right and died down to about 12 knots towards the end of this race and we were searching for power. We changed our rig set up between races and tried to eat some food (my protein bar fell out of my mouth while trapezing so Jen kindly shared hers). We got our coaches Rafa and Zizi to take a look at our sails before the next race and felt like we had the boat up to speed. On the starting line we lost our leeward hole at about 30 seconds and were totally shot out the back! This hasn't happened in awhile, so it was a bit frustrating. We tacked out and cleared our air and found a lane. The breeze was sort of persistently shifting right and we didn't consolidate back right enough during the first upwind, ending up on the left side at the top mark at the back of the fleet. The second upwind went much better, we felt very fast and picked up a boat. The last downwind we again struggled to find our groove in the choppy conditions. We thought we had sailed a good leg but came into the mark neck and neck with the other Canadians, Dana and Karen. Unfortunately we had to give them room at the mark and just lost them on the final reach to the finish.

After the race Zizi and Rafa made us sail upwind again and gave us several helpful pointers on our upwind speed. Although today wasn't a brilliant day for us we remained in good spirits and hope to continue the upward trajectory tomorrow. Please check out the event website where you can view the races live as well as find the results and photos.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jan. 24th - Races 1 and 2

Today we had two races in 8-10 knots and very choppy seas. We didn't have a great day of racing; we just couldn't seem to get the boat up to speed and struggled in the fluky wind. Before the race the wind was quite shifty and gusty, once the race began the time between the shifts because quite long and holes developed on the race course making the tactics much tricker. We did have a great start in the second race so that was good! Tomorrow is another day and hopefully we can get find our boatspeed again. The weather has been a bit strange... there is a low pressure system moving in so it should bring some wind but the weather reports can't decide whether it will arrive tomorrow or Wednesday.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jan. 23 - Ready for OCR

We are all ready for the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta which begins tomorrow morning with an 11 am start. We have had a great week training with our new training group; learning and improving on our starting and acceleration techniques as well as continuing to work on our boat handling. We also did a ton of boatwork, as in keeping with the 470. The boat is ready to go and after a day off today so are we!

Today I slept in and then cycled to the Fairchild Tropical Gardens with Sanni and Tina. There was a chocolate festival at the gardens so along with the many different types of palm and fruit trees there were vendors with free chocolate samples! It was a fun relaxing afternoon and we are now gathered in the living room reading our Sailing Instructions and getting ready for tomorrow morning. For more information on MOCR please visit the event website.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jan. 19th - Training Days

After taking Monday off (no beach sadly as it was pouring rain and there was a hurricane warning!) we have been back at it training these past two days. Yesterday we hit the water at 8.30 am to train with the other Canadian 470 sailors (6 boats!) and the CYA coach Erik Stibbe. Erik is down in Miami coaching Lasers but has kindly made some time in the very early morning to work with the 470 sailors. In some very light wind we did a bunch of windward/leewards and some starts. After two hours we all headed in for a break. And by "break" I mean boatwork. We managed a whole 3 days of sailing during the regatta without any boatwork, so there was plenty to do! After a couple hours of that we headed back on the water with Geoff and Tyler to do some more training. We did some speed testing and switched skipper/crew and boats a few times to help the boys with some pointing issues. It was good for us as well as we could analyse our own movements and actions and how they contribute to our overall boatspeed and pointing. After some more boat handling and downwind sailing we headed in again, having put in a solid 5 hours of sailing over the day.

Today was another long day; it started at about 3 am when everyone woke up to torrential downpour. I think everyone else in the house was thinking the same thing I was: "Shoot, all my sailing gear is hanging outside to dry!". The humidity this morning was absolutely incredible; everything was soaked but nothing would dry and your sweat would not evaporate. We headed out at 8.30 to work with Erik again but didn't last long. Somehow our mainsail, spinnaker and jib halyards had become crossed inside the mast and we couldn't hoist or douse our spinnaker without dumping our rig tension. We headed in to sort this out which took about 2 hours of fiddling. We fixed it just in time to head back on the water with Sanni and Tina and our new training group! It was us, the German girls, the Polish girls and the Danish girls working with Zeze and Rafa the German and Polish coaches respectfully. We are super excited to have a group of girls to work with and the training was excellent. We are the slowest of the four boats, but this is a good thing as we must always work extra hard to keep up and stay focused. We did some small windward/leeward courses working on leeward mark rounding transitions; then some starting and acceleration practice and some small races. It was great to watch what the other girls do on the starting line and there was an excellent discussion during the debrief about different techniques for staying forward on the line and working the boat to windward. Towards the end of the day we all joined in with some group races. The group racing is a staple in the 470 fleet. It is organized by the coaches and happens every training day before a World Cup event. You usually need to be invited to join in and there are specific rules to be followed or you get yelled at. (For example: if there are more than 10 women's boats they must start on their own and not with the men;  if you are over early or foul someone you must do a 360.) It was an excellent day of training and now for a nap!

Check out the photos Zeze took during NA's. This is in race 3 on day 1 when we were doing really well!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jan. 16th - NA's Day 3

Today was the third and final day of racing for 470 North Americans. There was no wind when we arrived at the boat park this morning but by 9.30 it was starting to fill in. It has finally warmed up so we were able to discard our wetsuits and sail in summer gear today! The women had the first start today but we still had several general recalls. The first start we had an amazing start with tons of room to leeward; unfortunately this one was called back and so was the next one. The third start wasn't recalled but was terrible for us; we immediately tacked out to clear our air and got forced further and further right by other boats which was not what we wanted as the wind was in a left phase. We rounded in last and remained there for the rest of the race. It just wasn't our race, we were making stupid mistakes and not focusing. After the finish and some water and food and removing some layers of clothing we were feeling a bit better. The second race the wind shifted left 10 seconds before the start and there was a lot of confusion on the line as some boats double tacked and some were too far forward and some too far back. We managed to make it work for us and got off cleanly. Then someone tacked right in front of us, so we tacked out and tacked back right in front of someone else... it was a bit of a messy upwind leg with the normal order of boats out of sorts. The breeze stayed in a left phase for the entire upwind and there was some shouting from the top teams on the lay-line coming into the first mark. Some teams who were black flagged off the start bailed out at the top mark and a few more on the downwind. We couldn't seem to get up to speed on the first downwind, it was looking good until we came back into the mark and had to give 3 boats room. The second upwind we were in line with the world champions and pacing them for speed (they weren't having a great race but it made us feel good). The wind was in a left phase again and I couldn't decide if we should stay right and count on it shifting back or consolidate towards the middle/left of the course. We tacked in and it turned out to be the wrong call; we lost about 12 boat lengths on the boats that stayed out right. The last downwind and reach were agonizingly slow as the breeze had dropped to 3 or 4 knots.

We sat around intending to watch the medal race but they were taking so long to set it up we got bored and sailed in. Our German friends Sanni and Tina had pulled out of the last race due to frustration; but they managed to get it together and won the medal race!

Overall it was a really good regatta for us. We know how to start now and have the boat speed upwind. We sometimes have the boat speed downwind and our boat handling is not brilliant but functional and repeatable. Our teamwork and communication has improved immensely and we have settled into our roles in the boat and trust each other's decisions now! We are looking forward to a day off tomorrow and then we will continue training for the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta which begins on the 24th.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jan. 15th - NA's Day 2

We had another three races today in fairly light breeze from the NE. The men had the first start of the day and they got off cleanly. Then the Race Committee spent awhile shortening the line for us (there are fewer womens boats then mens). The first start we had a nice spot by the committee boat but had to push forward when someone stuck their bow in below us. We ended up taking the entire fleet over the line early. This started a theme of general recalls as the Race Committee struggled to set a square line. The men had finished their race before we finally got our first race started! All three races today were very similar. We had okay but not brilliant starts; we had good speed and point upwind but struggled to capitalize on the shifts while remaining in clean air. We had decent mark roundings and made some big improvements on our downwind speed; our communication about pressure and shifts improves with each race. The fleet is quite small and gets smaller as the day progresses - everyone is using the event as practice for Miami OCR's but several teams are nursing injuries and have been going in early. Tomorrow is the third and last day of racing for North Americans and the forecast looks very similar with winds from the NE between 5-8 knots. Results here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Jan. 14th - 470 NA's Day 1

Well, day one of racing is done! We started on schedule this morning at 11.30 with the Women's start first and had 3 races starting in about 6 knots and finishing the last race in 10-12. We launched early and tuned up with the German and Polish girls. The first race we got off to a bit of a slow start; we had a decent start and headed out right. We didn't have a great lane and spent most of the beat sailing in dirty air. About a third from the top I decided we should tack back in to find some clean air. Somehow I had failed to see the large amount of wind coming down the course and we got caught on the wrong side of a 30 degree shift! Needless to say this was not good; and we rounded behind the fleet. We managed to catch up on the downwind and pull into second last. The second start we nearly missed after one of the Canadian coaches swung by and tuned us up upwind. We actually had a really good start, rolling the boat to leeward of us. Upwind we felt a bit overpowered and not fast until the second upwind when we kicked the centerboard up farther which made a huge difference. It was an okay race we finished just behind the fleet and quite a bit ahead of the last place boat. The third race we had a pretty good start and then slipped into the boat to leeward of us. We tacked out to clear our air and then tacked back. We were sailing right beside France 9 (a very fast team) and we were smoking! I don't think we've ever gone so fast upwind in a race. We kept pace with FRA 9 and crossed most of the fleet, tacking in front and heading back out right. We continued to go fast and stay with the french boat (it's amazing what a difference clean air makes!). We rounded the top mark in 5th!! Then we totally screwed up the spinnaker hoist and lost 6 boats but that's okay! Downwind we held our position and the second upwind we were wicked fast again. We passed 5 boats on the upwind; making good decisions and working the boat hard. The last downwind we sailed very well but we haven't quite figured out the tactics for approaching the bottom mark into the gate and we lost the 5 boats we had passed on the upwind. I'm not sure where we placed in this race, as some other teams dropped out due to gear failure etc. however we were very happy! Jen and I have been racing together for one year now, and today really felt like things came together on the race course for the first time. We know how to start, we managed to remain calm (mostly) and focus and communicate. Getting off the start line and being with the fleet upwind makes a huge difference, I find I can work the boat harder and better when I have other boats around to compare myself to. If I am forgetting to do something I am instantly reminded when I see a boat beside us do it first. So it was a great first day of racing, and we hope to continue the good sailing tomorrow!

The website for the event is results should be up soon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pre North Americans

Jen here,

We received our new sails today and had a great sail with Geoff and Tyler.  It was touch and go as to whether or not the sails would be delivered in time, and so we breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived at the sailing centre to find a big box from North with "attn: Jen Braem" written on the side of it. 

Out on the water we tuned up with the boys and noticed a major improvement in our pointing over yesterday.  This is in part some modification in our rig setup, but mostly help from the new sails which set up beautifully.  They're a different cut than our old sails, and this will take a it of getting used to, but it will be a definite improvement over our trainers.  Tomorrow is day 1 of the North Americans, so we'll have more for you soon!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Training in Miami

Jen here,

We're plugging along with training here in Miami.  Yesterday afternoon we got out and worked on our boat handling- lots of tacks, gybes, and working on boat balance and trim.  The breeze here feels much different than at home right now because it's so warm.  The five knots that we sailed in yesterday were about 25 degrees Celsius, and over warm water. That same amount of wind in 5 degrees and over 8 degree water in Victoria feels like it packs much more of a punch.  It seems like we realize this every time we hit a warm venue, and need to remind ourselves of the differences between good old Victoria and many of the venues at which we train.
Speaking of differences between Victoria and Miami, on the sail in yesterday we were greeted by a pod of dolphins. Very fun!  There were half a dozen of them playing in the water around our boat, including a calf.  We were surrounded by frolicking dolphins as we coaxed our kite to fly in the dying breeze.  It was truly a lovely sight and a great way to end the day. 


Saturday, January 8, 2011

January 8, 2010 - Drive to Miami

I have arrived in Miami after an epic 6600 km drive! I left Victoria bright and early the morning of January 2nd with Tyler, a fellow 470 sailor. We caught the ferry and picked up Geoff (Tyler's sailing partner) in Ladner and headed for the border. This proved to be the most difficult part of our trip! After 90 minutes of waiting we got to the front of the line and presented our passports. Tyler presenting two expired passports instead of one valid one. The border agent took one look at the trailer and sent us for further inspection. We went inside with our slip of yellow paper and stood in line for another 90 minutes. By this point we really had to pee but there are no washrooms available for public use at the border. We finally got to the front of the line and the border agent was less than impressed with us. Jen and I travelled all summer in Europe and never had any problems at customs - the EU agents barely look you in the eye let alone ask you questions. I had forgotten what travelling in the US was like, and since getting home from Europe I am technically un-employed; receive my mail at a P.O. Box and pay all my bills online. In short, I had no way of proving to the border agent that I didn't intend to stay in the States forever! After several more questions and inspecting the truck we were finally let through.

After picking up a Laser in Seattle we were finally on our way! The truck and trailer handled beautifully and we encountered minimal delays on the drive here. We had planned on stopping and staying with friends in Phoenix one night and Houston another but with the 4 hour delay at the border our schedule got shifted. We slept in the truck at rest stops and with three drivers were able to drive the whole day without getting tired as someone was always napping in the back of the cab. As with all roadtrips, much silliness occurred. There was lots of singing along to bad music; some running around Walmart late at night and many bad jokes. We kept track of license plates and roadkill sighted which kept everyone focused. We arrived in Miami around 6 pm on the 5th day, just like the GPS told us!

I have uploaded some low-res photos I took during the drive. Jen and I unloaded the boat yesterday and it is mostly set up and ready to go. Today I caught up on my sleep and tomorrow we go sailing!

Drive to Miami

Friday, January 7, 2011

2.4 Sailing in Miami

Jen here,

Today was a busy and productive day for sure.  The 470 trailer arrived in Miami last night after a record five days on the road from Victoria. I must admit to feeling a bit ashamed of my drive back last year with my sister Meg; between storms, blown tires, unloading boats, and a tiny six cylinder truck, that particular tow took us 10 1/2 days!  Royal Victoria Yacht Club was very generous this year and allowed us to haul the boats down with the club truck.  It's large diesel engine proved to be much more capable of the tow than my little Mazda B3000.  For those of you from the yacht club, the truck ran beautifully, is nice and clean, and has been taken in for its oil change :)

So, this morning Erin, Tyler, and Geoff came down to the sailing centre in lieu of a well deserved morning off and we unloaded the boats.  Ours is rigged and ready for tuning, and I managed to get out for a sail in the 2.4 this afternoon as well.

For those of you who are not familiar with the 2.4, it's a single handed Paralympic boat...and it's awesome.  You sit inside the boat and control everything, all the sails, steering, sail trim, and somehow you're supposed to fit tactics and strategy in there too! As someone who is used to having a crew, I found myself a bit overwhelmed with all of this multitasking. I'd be sailing along with the jib undertrimmed and thinking "hmph, some dolt needs to trim the jib! We're footing like crazy!" then I would promptly realize that this dolt was in fact me as there was no "we" but rather just "me."  It was a gorgeous day out on Biscayne Bay, a nice 10-12 knots and warm.  Meg Pascoe from the British sailing team was out with fellow Canadian Brenda Hopkins and I and Meg acted as our coach/cheerleader/2.4 guru.  She laughed when it became obvious that I come from a boat which allows for hiking and trapezing...I was obviously a bit stressed out during the puffs as the rail dug into the water and I was trapped inside the cockpit.  All in all a great day and lots of fun transferring 470 skills into another boat.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

On our way to Miami

Jen here,

I hope that everyone had a great Christmas and holiday season this year.  I myself went to Calgary to visit my sister and her partner which was great. Not a lot of sailing happening there at this time of year, but fortunately lots of opportunities to work out and to relax a bit with her new kitten.  After nearly three weeks of outdoor workouts in Calgary and dodging cold snaps in favour of running during the warmth of Chinooks, I'm now in Miami.  Just arrived last night!

This year Erin is taking her turn towing the boats down, and last night she sent word that the trailer was in Louisiana and should be in Miami by late today.  We should have the boat set up and on the water shortly and I'm spending today with some friends in the 2.4, a great Paralympic boat.  I'm sure that they've got more than a thing or two to teach me a bout 2.4 sailing.