470 North American Championship

Dear NHSF,

Thank you so much for your continuous support of my sailing endeavors. With your help I was able to start this year off with two trips to Miami, Florida, where I spent ten days learning the ropes of the 470 Olympic-class dinghy and then put what I learned to the test at the 470 North American Championship. Graham Landy, a teammate of mine on the Yale varsity sailing team, and I had been itching to give the 470 a try for some time and the opportunity finally presented itself last month. We were invited to train with several other teams at a clinic run by the US Olympic Sailing Team's expert 470 coach, Romain Bonnaud. Although we had no experience in the boat, we accepted the invitation in hopes that our combined experience in club and international 420s would translate over well. Also, even if we struggled at first, we knew that a week in the boat would teach us an enormous amount.

On our first day in Miami, Graham and I spent 12 hours resurrecting an old 470 that he had purchased from a friend. The boat was in less than ideal condition when we got to it, but it was nothing that a couple trips to the hardware store and some soap and sandpaper couldn't fix. Looking back, the work that we had to do to get the boat ready to sail was actually very valuable. The 470 is an extremely technical boat with surprisingly complicated rigging systems, but the process of fixing all of these systems on day one gave us a much more intimate understanding of the boat than we would have gotten had everything just worked from the beginning.

The long hours we spent in the boat park ultimately paid off because the next day we had a functional boat and set sail for the first day of clinic, along with eight other teams. Some of the other sailors at the clinic included fellow NHYC member Sydney Bolger and her crew Carly Shevitz from Santa Barbara, Boston College alums Anne Heager and Brianna Provancha who recently started their own Olympic campaign, and 470 veterans Stu McNay and Dave Hughes who have sailed numerous Olympics and World Championships in the class. Although our comparative lack of time in the boat was evident at times, Graham and I were happy to learn on day one that we could keep up with the fleet enough to make drills productive.

We went on to spend eight out of the next nine days practicing on Biscayne Bay. Some of the time we spent sailing by ourselves in order to work on basic boat-handling mechanics, but most of the time there were several other boats and a coach there to push us. They were long, exhausting days on the water, but with each day we got increasingly excited to sail as we got more and more comfortable in the boat. Also, wind speeds increased steadily during our stay, which contributed to our motivation to go sailing. During our last three days of training the wind averaged about 20 knots, with puffs much greater than that at times.

At the end of our 10-day training visit to Miami, Graham and I were forced to pack up and fly north in order to start our next semester of school. However, we would return to Miami the following weekend to compete in the 470 North American Championships, hosted by Coconut Grove Sailing Club. Thank you once again because it was your generous support that made it possible for me to fly back and forth from school to do this regatta.

North Americans was a three-day regatta over Martin Luther King Weekend with a 14-boat fleet. Although not comparable to the level of competition of most other major 470 events, there were still many experienced teams and overall it was a great first regatta for Graham and I, who still had less than 10 total days in the boat. Racing in this regatta allowed us to cement what we had learned a week earlier by applying those skills on the actual race course. Additionally, Graham and I enjoyed taking this opportunity to dust off our tactical-dinghy-sailor minds in the middle of the offseason for collegiate sailing.

We had some of our best results on the first day of racing, ending the day with a race victory. No day saw more than 10 knots of breeze and each day the shifts seemed to become more and more challenging to read, but we managed to finish mid-fleet pretty consistently on days two and three. We rounded the top mark of the final race in second, hoping to end the event on a high note, but in the dying breeze we struggled on the run to fend off the boats behind who would get the puffs first. Ultimately we finished seventh in that race and fifth in the overall standings.

I have provided that short account of the last race, because I think that it reflects our overall regatta experience. We had moments of glory and then we had moments that we wish we could do over. In the case of the last race, it shows that we were capable of getting ourselves to the top of the fleet despite our limited experience in the 470, but it also shows that we still have some time before we are consistently finishing at the top. Overall, I learned an exceptional amount from racing in this event and participating in the training we did beforehand. Best of all, the lessons that I took away do not apply only to the 470. With the collegiate spring sailing season fast approaching, Graham and I are excited to start the season off a little fresher than usual because we got the chance to sail for 12 days in January.

Once again, thank you so much for making it possible for me to attend the 470 North Americans. At this point my future plans for sailing the 470 are unclear, but the opportunity to become familiar with the boat and see what training at the Olympic level is like was very valuable. I have included several pictures as well as a video that I made to give you a better taste of my experience.


Chris Segerblom