That's a wrap! Finishing 24th in gold fleet at the worlds is a major accomplishment for us at our first world championship together. It marks our progress and shows we are on track ✔️
Worlds was a great way to end our summer tour of Europe. When the summer started we had put in 5 months of sailing together in Miami alone on a retrofitted boat. At the time our focus was on just learning how to foil well enough to join the fleet and safely get around the course. We knew that once we were able to race well, our learning curve would skyrocket.
Well, our suspicions turned out to be correct. Once in Europe and sailing with the fleet, we were blown away by how much we were quickly picking up. Truthfully, we were just as surprised by the number of challenges there were to overcome in order to get on pace with the fleet.
Slowly but surely we counted our improvements over the summer even when setbacks challenged us to maintain our confidence. We pressed more energy into the campaign every day. The two weeks leading up to the Worlds we sailed our first full training camp with a tuning focus as part of the US Squad. It was the first time since we started training in January that we had a focused time block with other US teams and a coach. Along with Gibbs/Chaffee, Gulari/Scutt, and Parent/Atwood Nacra teams we emerged from a solid training block prepared to do battle at the World Championship.
On day one of the Worlds we arrived at the boatpark feeling ready to send it. The forecast called for breeze into the high teens and low twenties. We made sure our spares kit was well organized and that we had lots of food and water in the coach boat. After a very windy downwind sail to the course we lined up with the other American teams to check speed and course features. When the starting sequence began we knew our priorities: balance, bow down, stay relaxed, look for lefties.
In the last 15 seconds to the start we were positioned to win the pin. First race jitters went out the window as we pulled the trigger. 10 seconds after the gun I looked back and realized that we had won the start. 30 seconds into the first beat we were leading the race. What a big change from a team that struggled to have Gold Fleet boatspeed at the Europeans only 3 weeks prior!
4 windy laps later we finished second to the Italian team of Tita/Banti. For the next two races of the day we used good starts and boat speed to fight for some top ten scores, and we ended day one of the World Championship in 10th place overall. We knew that this was not necessarily where we would be able to compete in moderate conditions, but we let ourselves appreciate how cool it was to have a strong start to our first Worlds together. Big takeaway from day one: we learned that we are pretty fast in 18-25 knots and big chop!
For the next two days of qualifying we strategized to have good starts and sail smart races that would lead us to Gold Fleet. In lighter conditions of 5-10 knots, we didn't quite have the same edge that we did in the breeze. Our starts were good and we often sailed well in the first two laps, but struggled to put together a strong second beat. When qualifying ended we had a lot of notes for the future, and were happy with our qualifying position of 18th place. On to Gold Fleet, where the top sailors are all put onto the same racecouse - and the stakes get higher!
GOLD FLEET BEGINS:
Gold fleet racing is tough at a peak World Championship like this one! In the first day of the final series we struggled to start well, but fought hard for some top 15 scores. Our focus at that time was to fully utilize the opportunity to sail in what will be one of the most competitive fleets we will see for the next 7+ months until the next World Cup in 2019. Together with our coach we chose a few things to work on, and were happy with our progress. After 8 months of sailing together, we nailed some of our first full downwind legs completely stable on the foils (no ventilation!), while looking around and focusing on strategy and tactics. That might sound like what you're supposed to do in a sailboat race, but I promise, being "head out of the boat" is way harder than it sounds in a foiling class in tight Gold fleet racing!
On our final day of Gold fleet racing, the weather forecast was for a pretty wild and unstable offshore breeze with gusts into the high twenties. At first the Nacra Gold fleet was slated to sail on one of the standard inshore courses, but as the weather grew more questionable, the OA determined that it would be best to showcase our crazy foiling antics on the medal race course close to shore. With 15-30 degree windshifts and variations in the breeze between 12 and 25+ knots, I can promise you that it was an exciting day! We launched ready to give the last day of Worlds everything that we had. In the first race we worked our way up into the top 10 on the last downwind, but when we jibed in a massive gust to get to the finish line, we capsized. We did our best to keep some boats behind us at that finish and shake it off. Unfortunately the next two races we struggled to find a break. When the day was behind us, it was not what we had expected as a team. Our final day at the 2018 Worlds was a tough one on the water, but a great opportunity to see that flat water, shifty, gusty racing is a place that we can make a lot of improvements in the next year!
So, we finished our FIRST World Championship together as a team as the 24th overall team in the world and the second US Team in the World by only two places. Are we satisfied? No, not at all. Am I proud of us? Yes, more than I can explain. We left many points on the table, but they have shown us a continued path to improvement and success. We have come far enough in only 3 months of active racing to snag top 10 finishes at the most competitive event of the last two years. Now that is something to be happy about.
We are encouraged and motivated to continue on this steep learning curve that we started only a few months ago. At the end of our European season we head home for domestic training having demonstrated to ourselves that our potential is as great as we believed it would be when we decided to start this journey together in January.
Training for the 2019 Worlds starts now.