I am on the plane on my way home from the 470 World Champs in La Rochelle, France, where we finished 6th place, which is the best finish of a USA men’s team since Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham also finished 6th at the 470 Worlds in 2002. We hope this is an omen of good things to come. Now, we need to channel the momentum of enthusiasm and support, so that we can keep getting better and achieve a life long goal of an Olympic Medal.
Postponements were common as we waited for the sea breeze to fill.
We were one of the last teams to show up onsite. This was ok for two reasons: 1) We each had a great summer of sailing with our respective keel-boat programs, so we were sharp from continual racing. Dave was leading his Melges 20 and 24 teams and I was calling tactics on a Shields, Etchells, and Marstrom 32 Cat. We both owe a lot to our big boat programs. 2) We did a focused training camp in La Rochelle in May with similar conditions.
After three days of training and heavy boat work, the Legends Trophy for Dave (explained below), and the chaos of measurement (our boat was fine, but it’s always hectic), we felt tired and jet-lagged but were ready for the adrenaline of competition to kick in.
The Legends Trophy
The day before the World Championships, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 470 Class and it’s past champions, the regatta organizers hosted a one day supplied boat event for 470 Olympic medalists and world champions. Invitees from USA included Steve Benjamin (Silver ’84), Kevin Burnham (Silver ’92, Gold ’04), Alison Jolly (Gold ’88) and Lynne Jewell (Gold ’88) Dave (my crew) and Morgan Reeser (Silver ’92) They ended up 6th (a taste of what was to come?). This fun event helped remind us of the 470’s heritage and the fun of the game, which lightened any tension before the first day of Open Worlds racing.
The historic old town of La Rochelle was buzzing with action from all the competitors.
The Racing – Qualifying Series and Gold Fleet
High speed spinnaker reaching on the last day of gold fleet racing.
The first day of racing brought banner conditions: a 12-18 knot sea breeze with nicely sized waves. We posted a respectable 1, 10, 7. We ended the five race qualifying series in 10th place, so we carried forward a non-discardable 10 points into the seven race Gold Fleet series of the top 39 teams (of 117 total teams). On day one of Gold Fleet we posted a 10, 33, which meant that were to finish well in the event, our discard race had been sailed – extra pressure for later. ‘Moving day’ was day two of gold fleet. We started consistently to finish 9, 10, 4 on a challenging racetrack with 10-18 knots of wind and hard to read wind shifts. On the last race of Gold Fleet, we got a little gun shy at the start and then were a step behind on shifts. We finished this race 23rd, but enough others made mistakes also to keep us in 6th place overall. However, we were not in contention for a podium finish in the Medal Race.
Pre-medal race team shot. Photo credit Louisa Smith.
Responding to the ever-changing Olympic format, the 470 Class decided to do an eight boat Medal Race. Scores count double and the points may not be discarded. We were eleven points behind 5th place overall (British) and nine points ahead of 7th overall (New Zealand). The biggest possible point delta to gain or lose on a team would be 14 points (Two minus Sixteen), so we knew it would be hard to change places. Instead, we focused on having the best race possible to keep pushing our own level. Our plan was to play hard for the right side. Current was quite strong, so we ended up further from the committee boat than planned and the French and British snuck in the gap. Still we were the second boat from the right side and third at the first mark. The New Zealand team diverged from the fleet with a ‘gybe-set’ on the run and moved into second place by the leeward gate. We pushed hard on the next upwind to be right on the tail of second and third. We made nice gains low on starboard gybe, but took the bait of a fake gybe from the Kiwi team and gybed too early. The Kiwi’s had just enough clear air on port gybe to round the final mark outside and ahead of us. We finished the medal race in a respectable fourth place, which solidified us in 6th place overall.
Approaching the first mark in the Medal Race.
Congratulations to the three medalists: Australia, France, and Greece.
Australia, France, and Greece on the podium receiving their medals.
Full results here.
Thank you and Future Plans
Our immediate sailing plans are to return to our big boat programs for rest of August and then in early September, we have a training event in Santander, Spain on the site of the 2014 World Championships.
Many thanks to our supporters: financial, technical, training partners, friends, and family. Kind Bar recently donated many boxes of product, which helped fuel us while racing.
I hope the summer has brought fun sailing for all!