A Sailing Christmas
You hear one mainsheet ratchet go, then bang — 124 more Laser radial sailors were off and sprinting up the course. This is the way my coach would describe the racing off of Coral Reef Yacht Club in the Orange Bowl Regatta.
I have been sailing Laser dinghies for the last three years. I have been privileged as a sailor to be a part of the Santa Cruz community. As a Laser racer I have been striving to improve my skills and test my abilities.
US Laser Nationals in Santa Cruz this summer gave me an awesome opportunity to be able to compete in a high-level regatta. After Nationals I wanted to continue to push my training and go for an even bigger regatta. Being a junior in high school, it is hard to balance school and sailing at the same time. The Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta was the perfect next regatta for me to strive for. With 300 optimist dinghies, 180 Lasers, and 110 Club 420s attending this regatta, it seemed like the perfect next step. The Orange Bowl Regatta is held out of Coral Reef Yacht Club in Coconut Grove, just south of Miami; at this regatta more than 40 countries are represented. I left on Christmas Day in order to arrive in Miami with a day to practice with my team. I set up the brand new charter boat with all the rigging necessary and went out sailing. I was practicing with team-CISA (California International Scholarship Association). We had about 15 Laser sailors from different parts of California, and two excellent coaches Chris Barnard, and Allie Blecher.
The First Day (Aggressive Day):
Sailing out, lining up, and starting with 125 boats is something you cannot prepare for mentally. I had practiced holding my position on the start line many times; however this brought a whole new meaning to holding my position. In order to start near the pin, I had to be on the line at or before three minutes into the start. The first start blew my mind. The three races of the day showed me that I had the pace upwind in order to stick with the top quarter of the fleet, however, I found what I excelled in upwind speed I needed to improve downwind. My focus for the next three days was to get out front at the start and the first beat, and then try to hold on, on the downwinds and beat out as many boats as I could, picking them off individually each downwind.
The Second Day (Too Aggressive):
As I had been discussing with my coaches, I came 3,000 miles out to Florida in order to sail in this regatta. Not being aggressive and not “going for it” was not an option after I have put so much commitment into this regatta. The day before I had seen that when I got a front row start, I would already be doing better than more than three quarters of the fleet; that was what my goal was for the second day, every single race to get a front row start. And I did it! … at a cost! I was over early twice that day, and it set back my regatta scores dramatically. With 125 boats in the pack; that was a full 125 points for each race. That pushed my overall position downwards maybe never to recover because no one knew if they were over until the end of the day. I took these OCS’s as a lesson to be aggressive on the line with the boats around me, but to be sure I knew where I was on the line. In order to do this I attempted to have a line sight; but with that many boats (and being off shore by at least two miles) it was nearly impossible. I recovered from those OCS’s by putting my head down in the breeze and just sailing upwind for as hard and as long as possible.
The Third Day:
With five minutes to spare I just barely made it out to the start line. The launch situation was very challenging at this regatta. They had great docking facilities, but with 175 lasers all wanting to launch at the same time, there was going to be a problem. It really made me thankful for all of the volunteers that helped out in Santa Cruz at Laser Nationals. They made it happen extremely smoothly. The third day was when my results struggled. While talking to my coach on her coach boat, my carbon tiller extension caught between the boats and snapped. With the quick addition of electrical tape, I was back in action; but with a much shorter tiller extension. This made me learn that results can be heavily affected by the mental game. I was discouraged and for the next two races of that day I was not able to adjust to the new conditions. However, I got back on my feet and ended the day with good boat speed and two good results.
The Forth Day:
Sailing requires one very basic element. Wind. The fourth day was void of that required element. We rigged up; the CISA group sat around talking about sailing strategy, and life outside of humid Miami; but we never got to sail. The fourth day was where I realized what an incredible experience I had, being able to compete in this regatta. Being a member of the CISA team gave me great coaches and additionally great friends who I will now know going to all of the big events later this year.
In summary, the opportunity to compete at Orange Bowl was an incredible experience on every level. I want to sincerely thank the Santa Cruz Sailing Foundation, the Santa Cruz Yacht Club, my coaches, CISA, and my family for helping make this dream come to fruition.