Firstly, may I apologize for the lack of updates since day 1 of the Worlds in Zadar. What with sailing the World Championships, finding a place to store our boat, arranging to ship the boat back to the US, figuring out the most effective way to fly home, and a wild storm in Croatia, life has been very hectic. All this in more in the paragraphs that follow!
The Worlds was, in some ways, an enormous success for us. Our finish of 4th in Bronze was respectable for first our time attending the event, and we had a few very good races (including a 5th in the qualifying rounds, very good stuff). We also found our boat speed to be very good at times, and Thomas and I communicated quickly and effectively in the boat to make decisions and work together. We improved our starts drastically over the course of the event, and our understanding of the dynamics of the fleet continue to improve. However, this being our first Worlds we were not destined for greatness…yet.
It was also nice to see how competitive the 49er class really is. This year every qualifying spot for the 2012 games was in Gold fleet (top 25), which is incredible. The density of talent in the fleet is evidenced by the people who have succeeded in the past, a list that includes multiple AC45 and Volvo Ocean Race sailors. It is a list we hope to be on in the not so distant future!
As a truly awesome cap to the event, the Medal Race was set a stones throw from the beach. Watching the top ten 49er sailors duke it out close enough to hear them yelling was a thing to behold, especially because our friends from Bermuda, Jesse and Zander Kirkland were in the race (congrats on going to London boys!) Check out the video below
49er Worlds Last Day
The experience of sailing in the Worlds will, most importantly, guide our training regimen and regatta schedule for the next year. Having evaluated our strengths and weaknesses, we can now tailor our practices to make sure we make the best use of our time on the water. Starts and boatspeed in tight quarters will be of the highest importance, both of which require 3 or more boats to practice effectively. Hopefully by continuing our training with the Americans (Fred Strammer/Zach Brown and Ryan Pesch/Trevor Burd) we will be able to consistently have 3 boats on the water, making practices more fruitful than ever!
I had decided before Worlds even began that it was going to be my last event for the trip. My back had been bothering me for over a month at that point, and traveling around Europe while sailing 49ers was not going to help. I had made arrangements to fly out of Zagreb, Croatia in order to avoid the 18 hour drive to Medemblik, Netherlands, and in order to make my flight we had to leave at about 3am the morning after the last day of racing.
3am came and we successfully picked up both boats and our trailer. Zach had heard that there was going to be some wind on the drive, but we just assumed that it would perhaps decrease our gas mileage a bit. So, when around 4 am when we drove out from behind a bluff into the full force of the Croatian Bora, we were caught off guard to say the least.
At first it just seemed very, very windy. I had never driven in anything like the Bora, but we thought that by decreasing our speed to about 20 km/h we would be fine. For around 10 minutes we seemed fine, but as the gusts increased in strength and frequency we began to imagine that we might have to pull over. However, before we could make the prudent decision to abandon our drive we were hit by an enormous puff, and as the car tipped horrifyingly far over we heard a loud bang. Looking out of my side view mirror and seeing our trailer blown over, with Zach and Freds boat underneath, was surreal.
The surreal feeling did not last, and as we stepped out of the car into the full force of the Bora it became clear that this was truly an emergency. The chains that connected the trailer to the car were twisted and mangled, rendering the trailer impossible to disconnect. Luckily the hacksaw was close to the door of the trailer, but without the weight of all 4 of us in the car our car seemed perilously close to tipping at all times.
With Thomas and I hanging off the car to keep it upright, Fred was able to cut the trailer loose and we turned the car (with our boat on top mind you) into the wind. Luckily by now a kind Russian team had come across us, and with 6 guys we were able to flip the trailer back over and secure it. Once the situation was somewhat stable, we got in the car and hunkered down and waited for the storm to calm down enough for us to drive to a nearby town.
Later that day we dropped off Zach Brown in Zagreb so he could make his flight to Amsterdam, and after getting the trailer repaired by some awesome local guys with some tools (Thanks Ivan!) Thomas, Fred and I began the long drive North.
We drove all night and reached Medemblik without any trouble, and successfully found storage space for our boat, trailer, and car. Zach and Freds boat will be repaired, and luckily the damage was not too severe. She will race another day! Zach and Fred will return to Medemblik to continue their travels and training in a week, wish them luck!
More Lessons, and the Future
Aside from the sailing, this trip taught us many important lessons about this lifestyle. We made a lot of connections with teams who will be continuing to train for the next 4 years as we intend to, which will be crucial to our success as a team. We are already trying to set up ways for European and South American teams to join us in our training this fall and winter. It is also important to find friends on the circuit when we will be spending such long periods traveling and away from home.
Equally important to all these things is the simple fact that we came to Europe and did this trip. Managing the logistics and realities of travel is something that all Olympic sailing teams must become masters of, and by coming to Europe and making this trip happen we have gained invaluable experience towards becoming experts in the art of getting around Europe.
For now I will try and get healthy and Thomas will do some coaching. This summer we will return to our training schedule, doing as many events as we can and spending as much time as possible on the water with other boats. We also recently shipped ISV-968, our first training boat, to St. Thomas and we are REALLY looking forward to getting to sail in the Virgin Islands again. I find myself daydreaming about blasting downwind in Pillsbury sound, call me crazy.
Thank you to everyone who has made a donation, bought a shirt, fed us a meal, or housed us during the last year. Absolutely NONE of this would be possible without you, and we want to thank you all for your continued support.
Thanks as well to our sponsors at VisitUSVI.com, Gorilla Rigging, and Motive Pure. These companies made it possible for us to do this, and without them we wouldn’t even have a boat! Make sure to check out their awesome products, and come visit us in St. Thomas! If you make the trip let us know, and we’ll make sure to get you out on the water.
Stay tuned for our summer plans, and I am cooking up a video for you YouTubers out there as well.
Nate and Thomas