Lessons from Aarhus:
What we took away from our month in Denmark
Our first Sailing World Championships served some incredible highs and lows. We competed alongside Olympians and world champions, and cherished every small victory. While our results don’t reflect our work, our scoreline improved almost every race due to our willingness to turn mistakes into experiments, and to try new approaches until we found something that worked.
We’d like to thank all our supporters and sponsors, as well as regatta organizers for continuing to make what we do possible. Special thanks to our Danish hosts for making us feel a part of their families, we will have to return soon!
Ready For Worlds
Hello from Aarhus! We’ve settled into our home for the next month of sailing, and are ready and excited to compete.
We spent the past month training in windy San Francisco Bay. We were glad to have the opportunity to sail with other American teams, beginners as well as veterans, in challenging conditions. Every morning spent dueling on the starting line with friends was just as valuable as afternoons spent out in breeze and waves, keeping our boat upright and moving fast. We made huge strides forward in both skill and confidence, and feel well prepared leading into our World Championships. Thank you to Treasure Island Sailing Center and Richmond Yacht Club for hosting us!
We are also happy to announce New England Ropes as our line sponsor. Because of them, we were able to spend our evenings obsessing over how much rope we could possibly fit in our suitcase.
We spent a few days at home resting, and after 24 hours of planes, trains and automobiles arrived in Aarhus Denmark. After a few days of rigging and adjusting to the time zone, as (as well as 20 hours of sunlight every day) we got on the water. Thanks to Ega Marina for hosting our first few training days, and to the event organizers! We are excited for the weeks to come.
On the Road
Since our last update, we have been quite busy traveling, fundraising, and sailing. This May brought us to Seattle, Miami, Santa Barbara, and finally San Francisco.
In Seattle, Shaner Mack Sailing hosted a happy hour at the Seattle Yacht Club for friends, family, and supporters to share more about our journey. It was so good to be back in the community, and to give back a taste of the adventure. Thank you so much to our event sponsors, including Fisheries Marine Supply, KAM Gear, El Gaucho, The Grape Choice, Sea Bags, Urban Surf, the Columbia Athletic Club, and the Seattle Yacht Club. Thanks also to everyone who came out to show support, especially Dan Clarkson, Victoria Liao, and Mom, without whom this could not have happened. To our supporters around the country, please get in touch if you are interested in us giving a presentation at your local club!
From Seattle, we went to Miami to collect our boat from the US Sailing Center. With a shiny trailer from Mack Sails and Charlotte’s two door Honda Sedan, we set out from Miami and drove nearly 3,000 miles to Santa Barbara, where we began our summer training.
For two weeks, we worked with Coach Willie McBride on fine tuning our boat handling, one maneuver at a time. Some days, we focused solely on the first step of a tack, or the best way to jibe a kite. Other days we focused on just the last ten seconds of a start.We ate. We slept. We went to the gym. And through all this, hopefully, continued to live our lives. Our success or failure as a team will depend not only on our strength and skills as sailors, but also on our ability to maintain stable, happy lives within the uncertain and unstable world that is high performance sailboat racing.
We are now in San Francisco, training with other young teams for the first time since World Cup Miami. Working as a team and collaborating on new skills with other sailors has pushed us hard, along with the venue itself. We are based at Treasure Island, where US Sailing plans to open a training facility. San Francisco Bay in the summer time never disappoints, we have had breezy conditions every day. We dipped our toes into difficult conditions coming out from behind Treasure Island onto Berkeley Circle during a full ebb tide and have the bruises to show for it. Days like this, spent fighting hard to control an unruly boat in rough seas are exactly what we need sometimes, to push us that extra mile.
We are excited to announce that Shaner / Mack Sailing qualified for the Aarhus Sailing World Championships in Denmark this summer! This event will be the first round of country qualifications for the 2020 Olympic games, and preparations are full steam ahead.
Charlotte and I just finished up three weeks of training in Miami. This training block had two important facets: one, continuing our work on maneuverability and speed, and two, learning to share living space and effectively communicate. When we go abroad, we will eat, sleep, sail, and work in the same spaces and will need to do so without murdering each other. With that in mind, we decided that for this training block I would live in Charlotte’s dorm room.
Campaigning out of a dorm room comes with several challenges; firstly, food. Charlotte and I go through over a pound of chicken in a single sitting while training, and the dining hall wasn’t going to cut it. We smuggled a hot plate and a frying pan into the room and cooked sitting cross legged on the floor. Anything tastes good with chicken broth and garlic, and we managed not to light anything on fire. I did however slice my finger cutting a cauliflower and needed to have it glued back together which set us back a few days of training. Lessons learned: invest in a cutting board.
I’d like to profusely thank Charlotte’s roommate Saige for putting up with the large pink caterpillar (me in my sleeping bag) in the middle of her floor. The phrase “sailing in Miami” tends to paint a glamourous picture in people’s minds; I want to be honest about the grit and absurdities of our reality as well as the golden moments.
Miami delivered the full spectrum of breeze and sea state, from light and flat to breeze on and big chop, and we made the most of every condition, talking our way through every maneuver. We have begun to count the transitions through each puff and lull. After water breaks or tuning stops, we practice full accelerations. When I fall silent, Charlotte reminds me to talk. I am grateful for every second I get we get to spend on the water learning. While we’ve been following results from Palma with mixed jealousy and happiness for our friends, the time we put in training at home and improving our skill base is well worth it.
February 2018: Biscayne Bay
“Let’s do another one,” said Charlotte.
“Again. We’re pushing it today.”
We ripped downwind in an 18 knot north-easterly and I began to throw the helm harder with every jibe, growing more confident as we powered out of each turn. Twenty jibes later, we’d run out of room on Biscayne Bay and stopped for water.
We spent the past two weeks training in Miami, and couldn’t be happier with our progress. Our sessions targeted changing our mindset; instead of waiting for the boat to feel “right” to perform maneuvers or make changes, we focused on making the boat feel “right” all the time. We want the ability to pick our angles, rather than being forced into a high or low mode by the feel in the boat. We aim to be able to tack or jibe whenever we want. In short, we want to boss the boat around.
After this training block, I’m confident we can.
Big thanks to Anna Tunnicliffe Tobias and Paris Henken for an awesome training session last Sunday, we had a blast!
See you on the water.
SAILING WORLD CUP MIAMI
We’ve just wrapped up our first international competition as a team. Last week Biscayne Bay played host to over 500 top notch sailors from all over the world. While our scoreline shows less than stellar finishes, we progressed by leaps and bounds each day of the event, and the inspiring level of competition and incredible atmosphere gave us motivation to take lessons learned back to our training. Huge thanks to the event organizers and our event coach Udi Gal for getting us through the week!
Day one of the event saw light to nonexistent breeze; the FX fleet waited several hours on shore before finally launching and getting in two light races. The first, we struggled with keeping speed and height through the lulls. By the second race however, we sorted through the changes that needed to be made to our upwind technique and earned a top ten finish.
Day two was slightly windier, enough to bring the boats to full power. Light to moderate conditions de-emphasize boat speed-- everyone goes fast. The most important part of the races by far were the starts, which we struggled with. Our lateral positioning against boats and accelerations were good, but we were too far back from the line. We intend on putting in some solid hours of starting line practice these next few months.
Day three got “fresh.” Wind gusted from 18 - 25 knots, sea state was 3-5 ft short chop. The FX course was downwind of the harbor, boats had to execute well timed bear-aways and jibes just to make it to the race. A few boats turned around and went back in immediately. It took most of the fleet several attempts to turn down before making it to the course. After our second try, our coach gave us our helmets to wear. Helmets are a relatively new piece of safety equipment in sailing. While serious head injuries do happen relatively frequently, especially in skiff sailing, sailors prefer to have their heads free to feel the wind. Most of us don’t wear them, even if we should. Neither of us had ever worn one in competition. Putting them on, however, took away the fear of injury and gave us both the confidence to push ourselves in difficult conditions. Any thought of hiding onshore with the other new teams vanished. We made it to the line in plenty of time for our start.
We approached the race with more “can do” attitude than technical ability; our upwind speed was off the pace slightly. This didn’t matter too much. Half the fleet capsized at the first windward mark. We waited for an easy wave set before bearing away, and nearly impaled a poorly placed coach boat in the process but got the kite up cleanly. We executed a stable jibe in the corner, where many others flipped, and came screaming in to the leeward gate. Unfortunately, when we arrived another boat had flipped with their mast across it, making it impossible to get through. We flipped avoiding them.
The boat came up quickly, and instead of attempting to bear away again, we backed our sails to slide between the gates, then turned upwind. The breeze built, and we bounced off wave peaks up the course, our centerboard coming out of the water. We’d gained some confidence in our tacks, and were able to use them to gain advantage on a few faster boats before the windward mark. We got around clean, and then looked for a good spot to jibe into the finish. A missed grab on the main sheet lead to our second capsize. This took longer to right as we had to douse the kite in the water.
Icing Charlotte's sore ankle in the lunch cooler as we wait for racing to start!
When we came upright, we didn’t risk putting it back up. We reached, both of us on the back corner on the wing, straight towards the finish. We were in 7th place, 20 boat lengths from the finish line when the time limit expired. Five boats finished within the time limit.
While it was disappointing to miss out on a top 10 finish by minutes, it was encouraging to know that after 27 days in the boat together we could put up a good fight. There was no racing the next day due to too much breeze. No classes sailed. Qualifying series was over. However, the opportunity to watch the medal races the next day and learn from the top 10 teams in the men's and women's fleets gave us a better idea of the target to aim for. Over the next few months, we will continue training and begin to focus on the specific mechanics that define excellence in our class. Can’t wait to get back on the water.
JANUARY 2018: MIAMI
< USST Training Camp, Jan 3-10
This week we have been busy on the water training with the US Sailing Team and Olympic Development program. This first training camp of the year has given us the opportunity to learn from a passionate group of experts in our sport. On the water, we've focused on speed and short course racing skills, putting an emphasis on our ability to react quickly to wind and weather changes. Off the water, we listen to talks on rules, weather, health, and a variety of other topics.
The entire team took time out of our training schedule to work with Debris Free Oceans, a non for profit organization in Miami working to reduce plastic pollution in our waterways. As sailors, we experience first hand the effects plastic pollution have on our environment, and were happy to do our part to help. In just an hour, we removed 3,000 pounds of trash from the mangroves and waterways around Coconut Grove.
October 2017: San Francisco Bay
"Wow, this goes fast. Guess I just have to be faster."
KATE AND CHARLOTTE BEGAN THEIR TRAINING WITH A TRIAL BY FIRE IN SAN FRANCISCO BAY...
I'm a firm believer in breezy skiff sailing as a test of character. As a new skiff sailor, moving past the fear of a boat you cannot control just to go sailing takes courage. The ability to get back on the boat after a capsize, after two, after a dozen while smiling and having fun is something very special. To succeed in the sport of sailing, you to be willing to fail and confident enough to get back up every time a little stronger.
When I invited Charlotte to crew for me for a week long clinic in San Francisco, she knew what she'd be in for. She booked flights within half an hour.
We've spent our Fall training blocs working on boat handling, with a special focus on communication and team work. We've been building a solid foundation so that this January, we can hit the ground running. New Years day we'll be full steam ahead training for our next mile stone, World Cup Miami.
Stay tuned for 2018!
See you on the water,