Sailing World Cup Miami 2015

Dear Newport Harbor Sailing Foundation:

One thing was very clear this past week; my strategic and tactical game was off. After some reflection, I found two reasons for this. I spent a lot of the holiday season focusing on my gym work, where there were many gains made, but I sacrificed some time off the water, and my racing skills built up some rust. Additionally, I found trouble really locking into a high, laser-like focus that is usually built into my natural instinct. I often found myself understanding how to play the game in hindsight after the race, but unable to lock in on the key factors in my pre-race prep and my execution was poor on the starting line and first beats. Both of these areas will be points of focus over the next couple months in preparation for the European season this spring. Here's a brief summary of each day.

Day 1:
We sailed out in strong southwest gradient breeze at 15-20 knots as a large dry front loomed to the west. Anticipating the fast moving clouds, I started at the boat and made my way to the right side of the course looking for the persistent shift. The skies quickly darkened, breeze picked up to 25-30 knots, and I came reaching in on starboard layline to round in 7th. Attached is a picture of this moment with Robert Scheidt close behind. However the remainder of the race I bled out making poor decisions, including losing sight of the windward mark as it got moved with the big wind shift, costing me 15 boats, finishing 32 in the race. This was an early sign to me that my typical discipline and focus was not on point. Race 2 the breeze settled in at 20 knots as the skies cleared. I had a poor start and struggled to find passing lanes to finish 17th in the race.

Day 2:
Three races scheduled for the day, starting at 18 knots from the northwest, and dying all day to 8 knots as the sun diminished the offshore gradient breeze due to its thermal effect. As the day went on, the breeze became more and more unstable, making for drastic shifts and velocity changes across the course. I found more clarity in my racing on this day, having good first beats as well as good comebacks to score a 10-13-17 to solidify my place into gold fleet.

Day 3:
A slightly lighter day, starting at 15 knots from the North, and dying throughout the day as well as the racecourse heated as well as becoming very puffy and shifty. The first race I had a clean start, and had clear air for the majority of the first beat, but found little ability to do what I wanted on the course. This put me one step behind on the key shifts and immediately at the back of the pack at the first mark. Fortunately I was able to hook into a couple nice shifts on the second beat to move myself back up to finish 28th, a decent scramble. Race 2, I had a great start at mid-boat half of the line along side Scheidt, clearly punched in front of the fleet. However, it put us in a tough situation because we were so punched out, we almost went into "defensive" mode and were hesitant to decide which side we wanted to shift our leverage towards. In the end, we got stuck in the middle as many of the boats we either pinched off or rolled got pushed to the corners and made huge gains. I got stuck in the back again and could only muster a 38th place finish. Even Scheidt commented to me after the race how it wasn't fair we got behind after such a great start. That made it clear to me that even one of the sport's best ever was struggling with the conditions.

Day 4:
Breeze shifted the Northeast, still very puffy and shifty at 6-15 knots. I had another poorly executed start at the pin and was forced to reverse rabbit the fleet. I eventually got myself some clear air and rounded mid-fleet. However, I found myself on the outside of a large shift on the second beat and behind again to finish 41. Race 2, I finally got myself a clean start at the pin end along with the ability to attack the beat at my own will. I rounded the top mark in 10th and picked off boats each leg and finished the race in 4th, one small shift away from taking the bullet. Felt good to finally get a taste at being at the front again.

Day 5:
Breeze was very light and fickle from the North. I had a poor start at the pin end, and scrambled to find clear air. I eventually found myself back in the top ladder rung of boats, but by that time, I was on the outside of the next shift and rounded deep. The breeze continued to die throughout the race and finished with my worst race of the series.

Overall, a disappointing regatta finishing 36th overall, significantly lower than my expectations. I was pleased with my boat speed aside from some small adjustments here and there to be made. But clear strides need to be made in my strategy and tactical game along with reassessing my focus throughout my routine from leave and return to the dock each day. That will be critical piece of my training and racing as I prepare for the Princess Sofia Regatta at the end of March. I am now off to Guatemala to train with Juan Maegli for a week before heading to Clearwater, Florida for the Laser Midwinters East. A new fire has been lit, ready to put the work in both on and off the water.


Chris Barnard