The Best of 2004

It is the end of the season. I am sitting here in my house in California realizing how lucky I am that the sun is shinning and it is about 65 degrees. It has been a year in which I sailed a lot of days but did not get the results I was looking for in general. So I am a little down on sailing right now. The ISAF conference is going on this week but I am not there, not terribly interested in that either. Paul Henderson is retiring after 10 years of dedicated service. The sport owes Paul a great debt of gratitude and I am sure that will be expressed through the various activities this week in Copenhagen. I wonder who is more relieved, Paul, Mary or ISAF. My editors gave me some subjects to write about but I found no interest in the usual

Post Olympic’s

The Olympics in Athens was a fantastic experience. A once in a life time experience

Preview of the 2004 Olympic’s

The Olympics will be over by the time you read this article, and that will be the big news. I am in Athens right now training for the month of July. I am treating this as my only chance to go to the games and I am really hoping to get a medal out of this effort. This will not be easy and in the Star Class I would say that, given the conditions here, any of the 17 teams can medal.

In looking back over the 18 months of fairly intense preparation, I am reasonably happy with the effort and results. On the sailing side, last summer we competed in the pre-Olympics in Athens and the ISAF Worlds in Cadiz. We got Silver in Athens and 8th at the Worlds. Decent results and a lot of time in the boat. In the fall we won the North American Championship in October then trained in Miami 2 weeks/month through February. I have put more time in the gym than I could afford to if I had a job. I have averaged two hours/day. No one who has a family and a job has that luxury. I have been fortunate to make it happen. In March we sailed the first few races of the Bacardi Cup and took a break for a week. Then we sailed the best regatta of our lives to win the trials.

So the lesson I take from that is the preparation and build up to a

Olympic Games ~ Final Report

I am not going to spend time here analyzing what I could have done better. I do that every night in bed. I would just like to make a few observations and thank a few people.

First, Phil and I are truly blessed to have had the opportunity to race in the Olympics and represent our country. With so many people around the world experiencing difficult times, this must not be overlooked.

For me, the biggest reward out of this will be if I succeeded in demonstrating to my children how much hard work goes into trying to achieve lofty goals. After all, as parents, our biggest job is to set an example, and I hope that my children, 14 and 15 years old, know a little bit more about what it means to work really hard for something.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who supported and followed our efforts over the past few years. I have seen it written in several articles that I spent over $100K of my own money on this effort. This is true but that money was spent just preparing and winning the Olympic Trials. I want to make it known that since I won the Olympic Trials, all my expenses have been covered. These amounted to another $125K. The bulk of this funding came from US Sailing and the St. Francis Yacht Club Foundation with an additional $10K raised around the Lorain OH area, Phil’s home town. Also, the New York Yacht Club fundraiser in May was a great success and needless to say, all these funds were very much appreciated!!!

What’s next?

After resting for a couple of days I am back to Farr 40 sailing this week with the Samba Pa Ti team. We have a warm up regatta this weekend at San Francisco Yacht Club then the World Championship starts September 8th-11th at St. Francis Yacht Club. Should be a great regatta with about 30 boats from all over the world participating. After that, I am going to Sardinia for the Swan Cup sailing with my friend Leonardo Ferragamo. As I write this, is realize that I need to take a step back, out the moment, and realize that I am blessed to have this life.

Olympic Games Race Day

A long tough day for us. Serious character testing stuff. Not much good to report.

We got tangled up with the Spanish and the Irish as the start and got off the line behind. Then we worked the left, mostly because the right looked sickly light. The left looked good for about 5 minutes, then it was all right and in a big way. The Dutch team, who banged the right corner, had a 1 minute lead as they reached in to the first mark…the shift went that far.

We were second to last but had made some major comebacks in this regatta so we thought the volatility would be good and it was still a long race. The bottom line is that everywhere we went was bad and we got further and further behind. We finished last and it was a long sail around the course in last. Very frustrating and disappointing.

Ross MacDonnald of CAN finished second in the race and the French were 8th so CAN got silver and FRA Bronze. We lost fourth to the Swiss by one point and finished up 5th just three points ahead of GBR in 6th.

I really did not sail my best at this regatta. It’s the rarity of this regatta that makes it so important. The Olympics only happens once every four years and even then, you have to qualify to represent your country. It has taken me 20 plus years to get this opportunity and to not sail my best has been very frustrating.

I have thought of a few things that I may have done wrong, such as being here since the 4th of July but it is too early for me to draw a certain conclusion. One thing is that there were 5 races that were in a “typical” breeze and 6 races that were in “random” wind. You could argue that if you are going to sail in “random” wind, you don’t need to train on site much at all.

The results seem to bear that out somewhat. The sailors who spent the most time training in Athens were Loof SWE and Percy GBR.

I will write some more thought in a few days after I digest this a bit more.

I changed my flight and I am getting out of here at 0555 tomorrow morning. I am really looking forward to getting home to Kentfield and being with my family.

Thanks for all the great support that you have given Phil and I over this campaign!

Olympic Games Race Day

Today, of course, would have been one of the best sailing days of the last two months. 18-25 knots of breeze from the southwest. Nice big waves. We checked over the boat and just relaxed today. Phil spent the afternoon with his family. I am watching the Olympic on TV between naps and eating everything around the house.

Here is a few of the emails I have received in the last 24 hours. I share them with you because I think they are all great pieces of writing and deserve to be seen. I hope my indulgence does not upset any of the authors.

Hey Paul, Anything can happen out there, so keep a positive attitude and go enjoy sailing in the Olympics – good things happen when you’re having fun.

Good luck, Bruce Nelson

Paul & Phil,

For what it’s worth, your predicament before the last race reminds me of mine in Naples in 1960. To gain the Bronze we had to win the race and Agostino Straulino and his crew Carlo Rolandi, from Ialy, had to finish fifth or worse. So Buck Halperin (my crew) and I realized our chances were slim and we were pretty depressed, but we sucked it up and blew everyone away in the last race and Straulino finished somewhere about 7th. So-o-o-o, my dear Paul and Phil, FIRE ONE!!!!!!

I think it would be nice to have more than one thing in common with Paul, that is when he and his crew hauled me out of the water at the dock after the second race in Sardinia in 1989. I had won the race but then promply fell in the water trying to tie up my boat at the dock.

All the best,

Bill Parks

Hi Paul/Phil

Peter Stoneberg was kind enough to pass on your emails from Athens which has inspired me to send you this.

I have been following your Olympic programme with great interest . You have both worked very hard too win the US berth and the support you are receiving from family and friends reflects that effort.

I have been taping away thinking of something inspirational to say but in your case its difficult to better the comments from your daughter.

My only thoughts are that in reading your emails you are being pretty tough on yourself and that perhaps now is the time to appreciate the occasion get your heads out of the boat and let it rip,you have already won a medal in the minds of many.

Kind Regards Geoff Stagg

Paul,

About 2 years ago I attended a talk in our yacht club given by the Womens 470 Sydney Gold Medallists [Jenny Armstrong and Belinda Stowell]. They were accompanied by their coach [Ukranian, Victor Kovalenko] who didn’t say much except this-

On a race course there are 3 types of sailors-

1. Those who are sailing

2. Those who are racing

3. Those who are fighting

The fighters win!

Keep on fighting Paul

Regards,

John O’Driscoll

[One Design Sailor from the Royal St George Yacht Club, Dublin, Ireland]

You can do it Paul. Let er rip, mate!—Peter Harken

dear paul and phil,

a medal is within your grasp – you can totally do this, dont let go! we are following every race, cheering and praying. we couldnt be behind you more. YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES!

– lynne, sydney and sophia florence rey

p.s. we have a colossal crush on your sailing coach…

Hi,Cayard

tieni duro che siete i pi

Olympic Games ~ Letters

Tough day for the USA. We got a 6th and an 8th while the French got a 3,1 and Canada got a 8,2. So we are 5.8 points out of third and 9 points out of 2nd. Torben Greal of Brazil clinched the gold medal with his 4th in the last race.

Athens served up a pretty typical day today. Seabreeze with the left being heavily favored. We stayed away from the fighting for the left side of the line and ultimately we payed for that. In each start we could not hold our lane and were forced to tack out to the right. I was a bit shy on the line, always mindful of not getting an OCS, but that conservatism cost us. There were some opportunities to come back from the right, Peter Bromby (BER) did it, but we could not find the lanes or the wheels to make it work.

We battled around the course, never catching on fire but did manage to come out on the good side of two close finishes. Hopefully those two points will be key on Saturday.

So now it is down to one race and we have to make up 7 points on CAN and 9 on FRA. We will have to go out and have a very good race and see where the chips fall. It is a tall order but we are tall people…Phil is anyway. We will work on our plan tomorrow with our coach, Tony Rey, who has been a fantastic help this week.

Tomorrow is a lay day for us and the Tornado’s, the only two classes left. One nice thing for the US Team is that John Lovell and Charlie Olgletree have clinched at least a Silver in the Tornado Class. They are two points out of first. So they will just let it hang out on Saturday and try to get gold.

Olympic Games Race Day

Short story. We gained a few points on Second place CAN.

Slightly longer story; The race we sailed poorly, we won. The race we sailed well, we finished 15th.

Torben Greal of Brazil all but won the gold today with his 2,7. He has just outsailed everyone so far, no on is even close to his consistency.

The conditions today were initially 8 knots from 235 softening to 4 knots from 200. The last lap of the second race was very light..less than four knots of wind.

In the first race, we had a good start and went left with Grael and Percy. Our speed was very good. Unfortunately the right was the place to be most of the day. We got it wrong all race up to the last leward mark. There the committee moved the windward mark to a heading of 220. As soon as we rounded the leward mark, we tacked onto port to clear our air. I looked at the compass and it said 225. Then I saw the mark almost right in front of us. Strangely, the others were fighting to go left and stayed on starboard tack. We stretched toward the mark, finally got a small header, tacked and had a nice lead. Greal sailed a great race to scramble out of the left and still finish second.

In the second race, we had a good start, sailed fast, crossed the competition when we could, and were in 6th at the last leward mark. MacDonnald (CAN) and Holm of (DEN) were about last and second to last. This was shaping up well. Up the last windward leg, we lost four boats, all on the right side of us. Down the last run, we went in the middle and lost boats on both sides to finish 15th. We lost two points by 2 seconds. That is bad. I remember last year here, one of the keys to our success was that we won all the close finishes.

Anyway, we are still third, three races to go and for sure, as we were shown again today, anything can happen on this race course.

Five hours in the heat, concentrating and creeping along at a snails pace has left me tired. Going for a quick dinner and big sleep. Tomorrow will bring more sailboat racing.

Olympic Games Race Day

We were more lucky than good today. We finished 6th and moved into third place. The scores are very tight except for Grael who has a big lead.

Today we had Meltemi wind, (wind off the land), about 22 knots at the start and as light as 14 knots at times during the race. The wind was shifting through about 25 degrees. We had a good start and good speed but never got in phase with the shifts. We trouped around in 12th most of the day and got a nice shift, more by luck than skill, on the last run to pass four boats.

It is very testing out there. To be out of phase…going the wrong way…and not be able to get back into phase is very frustrating and costs you a lot of distance as the shifts are big. It requires a lot of patience…more patience than I have at times…to just hang in there and try to make something of your position. This is the ultimate testing ground of patience.

Ross MacDonnald got hit by Peter Bromby before the start and it tore out Ross’s jib tracks and did some other damage. He sailed the course with just a mainsail and was awarded redress after the race. They averaged his points so far(26 for 5 races) and that gave him 5.2 points for today’s race, so that will keep him in second place.

The race was won by Freddy Loof, the current World Champion and probably the favorite going into the regatta. Freddy has had a very tough time this week and is still in 12th overall after winning today’s race. The French sailed the best of everyone moving from 12th at the first mark to 2nd at the finish. Rohart (FRA) was the 2003 World Champion. Third was Ian Percy (GBR), fourth Neeleman (NED), 5th Grael (BRA), 6th USA, 7th Holm (DEN), 8th Bermudez (ESP).

The big event was the Swiss fouling the Brits at the top of the 2nd windward leg and going from 3rd to 10th after doing their 720. They were very unlucky. As the Swiss approached the windward mark on the starboard layline, they got hit with a 20 degree header. They tried to shoot the mark, lost speed and ended up on port tack in front of Percy, who shouted “protest” loud enough for Marazzi’s mom to hear back in Bern. That took the edge off a potentially spectacular races for the Swiss.

Olympic Games Race Day

Back on track today. It was a very difficult day wind wise. 30 degree shifts and unstable wind strength…8-12 knots. To give you an idea of the day, the Spanish led at the first mark and finished last. And there weren’t spinning 720’s. It was just that tricky out there.

We had a good start but fell behind on the first windward leg and run by not looking out side the boat enough. For the last four legs, we got our heads out and got in phase and steadily marched back up through the fleet to finish 3rd. No doubt, we had our fair share of luck as well. You have to be lucky here to do well.

Ross MacDonnald sailed well and won the race. Torben Greal, the regatta leader looked set to take his first bad race as he rounded the last leward mark 12th. He played the right side of the 3rd beat and rounded the top mark 2nd and finished second to maintain his string of top five finishes.

Our third moved us up into a tie for fourth with the Swiss. The wind died completely after the finish of the first race and then filled from just about every direction over the next three hours. We waited out there until 17:00 when the committee sent us in. So tomorrow we will have one race to make up rather than a lay day.

The points are still very close and there is more than half the regatta left to do. Tomorrows forecast is for a fairly strong Meltemi…possibly over 20 knots.