2013 ISAF World Cup Miami

Dear Board Members of the NHSF,

I would like to thank you for your support of our entry in the 49er fleet at the 2013 ISAF World Cup Miami. This was a very successful event for us to begin our journey into 49er racing. We placed 6th out of a fleet of 15 and were the 3rd placed US team. We were by far the least experienced pair, each of us sailing about 30 days in the boat prior to the regatta, while most of our competition had been racing 2-3 years on the circuit in much larger fleets.

Our training began in November at the US Sailing center in Miami. Brad Funk, my skipper, and I participated in 2 clinics over a span of 6 weeks, training with the other US teams and Olympic skiff coach Luther Carpenter. Our first few days together were spent learning how to get around the race course without capsizing (learning the hard way of course). As the weeks went by we developed an awareness of rig tune settings for the different weather conditions in order to keep our boat speed on pace with the other guys. Along the way we started to get a hang of the boat handling, and were even pulling off some good looking tacks and gybes! By the end of the clinics we had a decent grasp of starting maneuvers, boat handling, the ability to get around the racecourse, and win the occasional practice race.

The 49er North Americans were held the weekend before the World Cup and saw an average of 3-6 knots over the span of 3 days. With very little experience or success sailing in light wind we had secured 4th place overall, and the 2nd placed US team, going into the final series. These two regattas were used as a platform for an experimental "theater style" finals on the last day of racing. This course was around 100 meters between the windward and leeward marks, and constricted by lane markers on the left and right sides of the course, forcing constant tacks and gybes along the way. Races were about 10 minutes in length, two or three laps, and gave an edge to more experienced teams with better boat handling. We dropped a few places to 7th after the finals, but had some great things to take away from the fleet racing earlier in the regatta.

During the ISAF World Cup we were fortunate to work with expert 49er coach, Ramon Oliden, who had been coaching the Spanish Olympic team, and multiple time World Champions, over the last 6 or so years. Ramon stayed with us the entire event and gave us video critiques in the morning, insight on better ways to rig and tune our boat for the day, on the water setup before each race, and pointed out areas needing improvement (and occasional successes) at the end of each race. We would debrief again over dinner, and start the process over again the next morning. I had been exposed to full time coaches on big boat programs before, but having constant guidance in a skiff regatta was priceless as we made huge strides forward everyday.

Four out of the five days of fleet racing saw 15-20 knots on average, which met or exceeded the amount of wind we had seen in the 49er. We were easily one of the fastest boats right away, but struggled to get off the line in the first few days. Of the races we started well, we were usually 1st or 2nd to the windward mark, but would sail ourselves closer to 6th place while making tactical errors throughout the race. Of the races we started poorly, we would manage to sail back up near 6th place with our solid boatspeed. As the week progressed, our focus became starting and understanding the basic skiff tactics (which we found was often counter to the traditional tactics we had learned in other boats). By the last day we had excellent starts and were consistently battling in the top 3, before making a few costly errors on the last run of each race. We finished the fleet race series in 5th place, however dropping to 6th after the "theater style" finals the next day.

It was, at first, hard to be excited with a 6th place finish as Brad and I are an extremely competitive pair, having aimed for a podium finish the entire time. But after realizing how far we had come in only a few weeks of an accelerated program, we are very pleased with our performance and the potential for success with a little more time in the boat. We are having a new boat delivered to Spain towards the end of March, just in time for the next ISAF World Cup event in Palma de Mallorca, and already planning for the World Championship later in the Summer. We look forward to becoming a strong team in this fleet in the coming year.

Again, thank you for your support and I look forward to representing the Newport Harbor Sailing Foundation in the future.

Kind regards,
Eric Aakhus