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Friday, December 9, 2011

Week Two Miami Training

Hello people in the snowy north! We are still down here in Miami, training hard! The internet in our apartment has been extremely slow and un-reliable and then it died. I'm stealing some neighbor's WiFi at the moment and sitting as close to the window as I can get! We have had a good week of training. There is a little Canadian cohort down here training. Two laser sailors with an RCYC coach; several Star teams competed last weekend, and two Finn sailors (Jeff and Rob) both from Ontario. I met Rob last year in Miami. We have been training with Jeff and Rob for the past few days. Paul Phelan is also down here doing some Finn sailing, and is letting us use his coach boat for our training. Yesterday we did a lot of short course work focusing on boat handling. It was super frustrating, as our spinnaker halyard was having major issues. We couldn't get the bungee tension right on the uptake. If the bungee was tight enough to take up all the slack so the halyard didn't tangle, it was so tight I couldn't get the spinnaker to stay down. As amusing as it is to have your spinnaker try and fly itself when you are going upwind, it doesn't help your sailing skills! But then if we loosened the bungee, the halyard would twist and jam when Hannah was trying to hoist or douce it. So besides that it was a good session. We did some small races with the Ontario Lasers, and it was really good to sail with other boats.

Today we stopped at West Marine to spend some more money. We picked up a new block and bungee for the spin halyard, and re-rigged the system. We headed out with the Finn sailors and had a good two hour session. We did some windward/leeward course work and the new halyard worked AWESOME! It was so nice to be able to hoist and douce the kite without issues! Unfortunately the jamming spin halyard took it's toll on Hannah's shoulder yesterday. She was experiencing a lot of pain today on the short course with all the sheeting. We went on a long upwind/downwind instead. The conditions today were perfect - warm, partly cloudy, 8-10 knots. It was beautiful out on the water. We have reached the end of another 5 day training session and we are exhausted! Looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. Sunday we begin our third set of 5 days of training and then we fly home for Christmas! It is very strange being down here in the warmth with all the Christmas decorations and advertisements. Blow up Santa's and lights just look strange on palm trees and green grass!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Training Day 3

Today was our third day sailing our new boat "Send It". So far she is very nice. We are still working out a few kinks, but mostly everything is working and she is sailing very nicely. Today we went for a jog and did some stretching in the park (we are very sore what with spending 8 days in a car) then we did some boat work, and then we went for a 2 hour sail. It was a bit cooler today and very humid, and there is a nice low pressure system in so we had 15-18 knots from the NE. The only other time we've sailed in that much wind together was I think Hannah's third or fourth day in the 470, so there have of course been massive improvements! We took a bit of a spill downwind and discovered that yes, Biscayne Bay is really shallow. Everywhere. Stuck the mast in the mud and lost the mast head wind indicator, but otherwise everything was fine. It was very nice to be in warm water and not hypothermic after a minute swimming around sorting out the spinnaker. The waves in Biscayne Bay are very short and choppy due to the shallow water and wind direction, so it was less about surfing them downwind and more about sailing around them and not sticking the bow into them as we were actually travelling faster than the waves.

Now we are making pita pizza and then we go to the gym to row and do weights! We are slowly getting back into the hang of this training thing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Miami!

We are in Miami! Finally! And we have a new boat! And it is warm here! So very exciting.

We drove from Yuma, Arizona to Van Horn, Texas on Wednesday. We stopped in to visit my Aunt Charlie in Phoenix along the way, and got to visit with my other Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Dwayne who happened to be visiting as well. On Thursday we had a short day and spent the night in Houston, Texas with our friend Kate Easton from the Glenmore Sailing Club. Kate recently moved to Houston for work, so it was great to see her new place. Her parents were also visiting, so we had a lively dinner swapping sailing stories as they go cruising each year with the Calgary Yacht Club flotilla. Friday we were planning on pushing through straight to Miami with maybe just a nap at a rest stop, but instead we blew a tire at around 11 pm!

We were going over a bridge in Florida when we heard the tire go. We pulled over once off the bridge, and assessed the damage. Of course the car was full of all our sailing gear, so we had to pile that all on the grass to dig out the spare! We changed the tire fine, just had a bit of an issue getting the wheel to let go (see the awesome video). Thanks to my Uncle Dwayne for offering advice over the phone. Interestingly, not a single person on the highway stopped to see if we needed assistance. Apparently chivalry is dead, even in the south!

We continued on the spare to Chattahoochee which proved to be a very tiny town with nothing useful. Hannah was excited to see Chattahoochee because there is a country song about it she likes. We ended up driving a bit farther and spending the night in Tallahassee. We got the cheapest sleaziest motel I've ever seen, and went for dinner at the Tomahawk Girl Bar. Class all around! We got our tire changed at 8 am the next morning and had a quick breakfast at iHop and we were off! We made it to Miami at 7 pm on Sunday and managed to meet up with our landlord Sonia right away and get into our apartment. It was a very long drive and we were totally bored out of our skulls by the end. We'd pretty much run out of things to discuss and just read our books or napped when we weren't driving.

Monday we slept in really late, then unloaded the boat and did a massive grocery shop. We are now mostly all set up for training! Today (Tuesday) we ran some more errands and continued to set up and rig the boat. The boat is a 2005 but is in great shape and is set up really nicely. It hasn't been sailed since 2007 I think. We went over it closely from stern to bow and replaced most of the electrical tape and bungee but otherwise the systems look great once we figured out what was what. The one issue we had was the jib halyard, but we managed to sort it out what with our assortment of luff wires and jib halyards from other boats! After a trip to West Marine and a second trip to Home Depot I think we should be able to sail tomorrow!

We have uploaded a bunch of photos from the road-trip to the Picassa web albums, including some funny videos from the boat loading and tire changing. Enjoy!
November 29, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Arizona

We arrived in Palo Alto on Monday night, where we stayed with my brother. Tuesday we spent the day in San Fran exploring. We saw the Golden Gate Bridge and went for a run in Golden Gate park. Then we went on a search for smoothies that got us stuck in downtown traffic. We headed back to Palo Alto and visited my brother's office, then went climbing at the huge climbing gym in Sunnyvale with Tom's co-worker Nykolai. The evening ended with Tom letting me drive his sports car until I made the clutch smell like burning. Awesome day!

Today we left palo alto at 6.30 am and took the 101 along the coast. Stopped in Santa Barbara for some lunch (very pretty with mountains, palm trees and ocean) then headed into LA. Wow did the volume of traffic suck! I didn't notice any accidents or crazy driving, just a lot of cars going slowly. Took us about 4 hrs to get through the city. We finally made it to Santee to pick up the new boat. By the time we finished loading it was 9.30 pm and we were still over 5 hours from Phoenix so we decided not to push it and stopped in Yuca Arizona for the night. Beautiful stars out in the desert where there is no light pollution!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 1 of road trip

We got up early this morning and packed up the car in the frosty cold. We took the ferry from Sidney to Annacortes, Washington. We decided on this route as we have both taken BC Ferries quite a lot and wanted something new, and also to avoid the long line at the border.

We got through customs and immigration with only minor questioning which is always a bonus. No one ever understands or believes us when we say we are driving to Miami to go sailing; I'm not sure why!

The ferry and drive to Portland were un-eventful and we made good time. We are spending the night with my good friend Gisella who is attending chiropractic school in Portland. She made us a lovely dinner even though she has two tests tomorrow!

Driving South

Well, today we are off on our adventure at last! We are driving to Miami to train in the warmth! We leave from Victoria this morning, and we are stopping in Portland, Palo Alto, Phoenix, Houston and Mobile before arriving in Miami! We take possession of our new boat in San Diego and we can't wait!

Make sure to follow along on the blog, website, facebook and twitter. We will try and write an update every night.

Huge shout out to Adrian Round for freezing outside all day yesterday to build us some bomb-proof roof racks! We'll get some picks up soon once there is daylight!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Website Re-launch

Well after several weeks of hard work and easy access to an HTML tutorial, we have re-vamped our campaign website. The new domain name is www.wildrosegirls.ca. Please take a look and let us know what you think! If you notice any issues we would love to hear about them. We have added a finances page with a more detailed breakdown of our spending, and re-done our sponsorship page to better showcase our supporters.

We also now have a twitter account (@Meers_Flanagan) as well as our Facebook Page "Wild Rose Girls."

Our new email address is wildrosegirls@gmail.com. Please keep in touch as we love to hear from our supporters! Email us and ask to be put on our mailing list to receive regular emails about the campaign.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nov 3 - New Photos

Matt has finished editing the photos he took of us last week while training. The theme seems to be "intensity faces". Just goes to show you how focused and hard we work during our training sessions with Bunny! Notice Hannah sailing without booties and dangling her foot in the lovely 10 degree water off Vancouver Island. Meanwhile I'm wearing 5mm booties and whining about the cold! Thanks again to Matt for the great photos.

Kerr Photography

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Last Training Day in Canada!

Today we met down at Royal Vic at 7.45 am to go sailing. I'm not sure if I've ever rigged before the sun was fully up before! We were on the water at 8.30 am for almost two hours. We had a really good session in 5-10 knots from the SE. It was really nice to have slightly more breeze and be able to fully trapeze. It also made the accelerations off the start line a bit easier, something we have been working on (and struggling with) every day for the past week.

Mathew Kerr came on the water with us today. He is a local sailor, photographer and friend. He took a ton of photos for us to use on our new website so hopefully we will have some of those up for everyone to see soon! Thanks Matt for getting up so early and freezing your butt off in the coachboat for us today!

Once off the water we quickly de-rigged and changed in order to whisk coach Bunny off to the airport. Of course some where in the rush the keys to my car got misplaced. A bit of a disaster; but we managed to get my spare key from my house and Bunny made it onto his plane! Hopefully my car/house keys turn up soon...

This concludes or intense training month in Victoria! Since Hannah and I started sailing together on Sept 27th we have trained 22 days and sailed 18 days. Our sailing has improved massively as Hannah has picked things up really quickly!

We have packed up our gear and will go back to dry land training for a few weeks. Then we will be heading down to Miami to train! More on that later. This weekend we are going surfing in Tofino to celebrate our hard work and new partnership!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

New Team Name

We had another light wind training session today with Bunny. Lots of boat handling; working on smoothing out our gybes and tacks in the light air and making things consistent. Things were going great until my back started acting up, something it has never done in light wind before. Too much crunching in the bottom of the boat and aggressive rolling perhaps? We still managed over 3 hours of solid training though.

We have decided on a new team name " Wild Rose Girls." Since both Hannah and I are from Alberta "Wild Rose Country" we thought it was fitting. Better than Kelsey Stroppel's suggestion of "Blonde and Gigantor" anyways! We will have a new website up soon, and we have a new twitter account @Meers_Flanagan and a new Facebook page "Wild Rose Girls." Things are moving forward with our planning as well. We have made an offer on a boat in San Francisco and we are going to head down to Miami mid-November to train. More details on our spring schedule and budget will be on the new website.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day Four of Training with Bunny

Things have been going extremely well with our training here in Victoria. Our new training sails arrived in the mail yesterday, so we have some decent cloth to look at now. We have gotten into a routine with a bit of boatwork each morning before heading on the water. We have scaled back the fitness a bit so as not to become too tired while training. Yesterday and today we had a mixture of super light, light and light-medium breeze. Bunny has been pushing us really hard, following behind in the coach boat and giving us constant direction. Then just when you think you can't handle it anymore, he says. "Well, that was good. Really good." And then you feel awesome, and realize you just learned about five new things in the space of ten minutes. Hannah is proving to be a natural at 470 sailing and I am extremely impressed with her vertical learning curve! One more day of training tomorrow and then we will take Saturday off for some rest, then another four days of training with Bunny.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October Training

Since Jen's decision mid-August to no longer continue campaigning the 470, things have been a bit tumultuous. I spent most of September searching for a new sailing partner and trying to figure out what to do. I am not that interested in campaigning for 2016, as I would like to continue to pursue my career in sciences; however 2012 is nearly upon us so finding someone suitable quickly would be difficult.

Since September 27th I have been back training out of Royal Victoria Yacht Club. I have been sailing with Hannah Meers, a young Laser Radial sailor from Strathmore, Alberta.We have spent the past two weeks training full time, which has been great! We have been doing fitness every morning and sailing every afternoon. It has been great to get back into things and have a steady routine. I love feeling constantly sore and full of endorphins! The sailing has been going really well, except for the general lack of wind.

We took this past weekend off to visit family and recuperate. This morning our coach Bunny Warren arrives. He will work with us for the next 10 days and offer some much needed guidance. At the end of our time with Bunny Hannah and I will evaluate if we want to continue and campaign for 2012 or if we think the timeline is too short.

I would like to thank everyone for their continued support of my sailing endeavors, and apologize for the delay in letting everyone know what is happening. Please check back regularly now for updates on our training with Bunny!

Recent Changes

Dear Supporters,

It is with much regret that I must announce that I can no longer participate in this Olympic campaign.  The financial resources required to continue our qualification process are beyond my means and as such I am forced to step back from competition at this point.  I have loved competing in the 470 and representing Canada. I truly appreciate all of your support and am so thankful for everything that you, our supporters, have done for us over the past two years.  Thank you for everything, from the bottom of my heart; it has been a privilege to sail for you and for Royal Victoria Yacht Club.  While I step back from sailing temporarily, Erin will continue on with a new partner. I fully support Erin's decision to continue competing, and hope for her success in 2012.  

Thank you again for your financial and emotional support. Erin and I could not have gone as far as we did without you, and I appreciate every single one our you, our supporters.

Yours in sailing,
Jen Braem 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 13 - Day 5 Racing at Europeans

Today was another long day with 3 races. We were once again the first team(s) off the ramp and out to the race course. We tuned up with the Russians in 6-8 knots and then headed down to the Race Committee. We were still really early, so we went back upwind for a bit to try and find some trends in the wind shifts (no trends, really random!) than back down. We were third start so settled down to wait our turn and watched the multiple and strange clouds move around the sky. At one point there was a solid line of black clouds down the course that were billowing more black stuff out the bottom; which was fun to watch and try and predict what it would do to the wind.

They got off the Men's Silver fleet okay, but the Gold fleet had a general recall and then a huge left shift came down and they had to re-set the line, and then another general, and then more shifting wind.... you get the idea. They ended up having to re-set the entire course and move the Race Committee so we didn't get our first race of the day started until after 1 pm. The general trend today was we didn't have great starts and the wind shifts were super random and the pressure was up and down. We struggled to put it all together. As we crossed the finish line on the second race, the Jury boat called us over and asked us where our life jackets were. We pulled them out from under the spinnaker bag and they instructed us to put them on. We did so, and then they came back and told us they were protesting us in that race for not wearing them. This was ridiculous, as the rules state you are only required to wear them when the RC is flying flag "Y" which they were not.

During the start sequence another boat failed to keep clear of us and we had to avoid them; so we hailed protest. The thing about starting is it's easier the better you are - because no one wants to start near the World Champions, so they always have lots of room. Or the really good teams look for weaker teams (us) to start beside. Not that I'm complaining, but at this particular instant we were just fed up with working really hard on our starts and constantly getting messed up by other boats not respecting the rules; and perhaps a tad grumpy about being yelled at by the Jury.  Our start ended up being okay, but not great. Again we struggled to figure out the shifty/puffy conditions and were a tad distracted by all the protesting. So all in all not a great day, although we didn't make any huge mistakes and had some solid mark roundings and reach legs.

Once off the water we filed our protest and prepared to sit around and wait for the hearings. Both protests ended up going really well. We won the protest about the start incident and we had the other protest dismissed due to ambiguity in the wording of the sailing instructions. Now to re-focus on tomorrow. Since we had three races today we have only one race scheduled for tomorrow. The forecast is for very light conditions so hopefully we don't wait around too long and we get in a solid race!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 12 - Day 4 of Racing at Europeans

Well we've had some interesting weather conditions over the past two days. Yesterday the forecast was for the wind to die in the early afternoon and it did. We had one race in med-light conditions. We were doing okay until the last two legs when a combination of small errors and the fact that our centreboard bolt was leaking and we were basically sinking pushed us to the back of the fleet. We then drifted around in almost no wind and watch the agonizingly slow progression of the men's fleet finishing their race. The Race Committee then postponed us on shore so we headed in. The wind came back up a little bit later in the afternoon so the Race Committee abandoned our races and sent the men back out so they could finish their qualifying series.

This morning we woke up at 3 am to a thunderstorm with lightning and pouring rain. It continued to rain until about 8 am and then was off and on. The storm was in the weather forecast, but wasn't supposed to come through until 2 pm; so it shifted the whole forecast ahead. We got down to the boatpark and it was grey and cloudy and rainy and there was no wind. The forecast was to clear and for the wind to build from the South. They postponed us on shore at 10.30 (right after we got changed!) but only for about 45 minutes. We went out and tuned up and the breeze was already picking up. We had three races in some mixed conditions. With the wind from a little more to the south, our race course was forced to be smaller due to the islands in the way. As a result the race committee chose to have us race the Outer 3 course - three windward/leeward legs instead of the standard two. The wind was up and down in pressure and the waves were quite choppy, which made it challenging to keep the boat at full speed all the time.

We were fast whenever the pressure was up but then struggled with our speed when the wind eased off. The wind was filling from the left but then small black clouds would drift overhead and bring in a right shift. As the day progressed the wind shifted more and more left, skewing our race course so now the island was pretty much in our course. Also because the course was so short, the Race Committee barely had time to reset the marks before the leaders were onto the next leg of the course. At one point in the third race there was some confusion as one of our leeward gate marks was actually still in a motor boat.

The first race we had several general recalls and then we nailed the start, it was awesome. The second race we were holding our spot and then at 15 seconds a wave hit the bow and we were stopped dead, so as a result we were late off the starting line. The third race our start would have been perfect except our Russian training partners stuck their bow in below us at about 30 seconds to go! Overall the starts were much better today which was great. Our racing was also better, we had some really good mark roundings (also a few really bad ones) and made good decisions. We consistently finished ahead of 4 or 5 boats.

Now it is sunny again and the forecast for tomorrow is for sun and 12-15 knots. We will probably have 3 races again tomorrow.

In other exciting news, we were awarded one of the 470 class association solidarity grants which pays our registration for this event (400 Euro). Thanks so much to the 470 Class for their support!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 2 of Racing at Europeans

Jen here,

A great day for us here in Helsinki!  We had two races in really nice conditions, about 12-15 knots from the west.  Today was definitely a new day from yesterday, and our focus was very much on achieving a good clean start, holding our lane after the start, and then keeping things simple ie. tack on the shifts, go to the favoured side of the course, keep our manoeuvres clean.  I'm happy to report that for the most part, we did just that.  Our starts in both races were clean and we enjoyed clear air off the line.  Unfortunately in the first race we thought we'd caught a shift and so started at the starboard end of the start line...but the breeze shifted back and we were on the wrong side!  However, we ground back five boats throughout the first race and then found that we'd gained five more positions due to boats that had been disqualified on the black flag at the start.
Second race we started at the favoured end of the line with full speed and clear air.  We managed to squeeze out four boats in the first minute of the race and continued to focus on clean and accurate sailing.  This simple plan seems to have worked out for us, because when we finished the race I looked back to see how many boats we were ahead of...and for the first time there were too many spinnakers to count!  I think the best part of today's racing was the feeling that we're actually starting to implement some of the things that we've accomplished in training. Here's hoping that we can do the same tomorrow.  The forecast for tomorrow is light again...only four or five knots, so it will be another test of focus for sure.

But now it's time for bed!

Cheers,
Jen

Saturday, July 9, 2011

July 9 - Day 1 of Racing at Europeans

It was a very long start to the regatta today! Our start time was originally scheduled for 10.55 am. So if you work backwards and want to be on the race course an hour early, and it takes half an hour to get there, and you need an hour on shore before launching and it takes half an hour to get to the harbour.... you end up getting up at 6.30 am. Then you arrive at the harbour and it turns out they changed the start time to 11.55 but didn't put it on the website. Then there is no wind so you sit on shore postponed until the wind fills in at 3.30 pm and go racing for 4 hours (because the sun never goes down this far north) and don't get home until 10 pm. Needless to say we are a bit tired this evening!

The racing did not go great for us. The conditions were light with choppy waves and big oscillations in the breeze. The first race we had an okay start right at the Committee Boat and tacked out and headed right. Unfortunately the wind decided to slowly shift 40 degrees left, so there wasn't much we could do about that. The second upwind we went the correct way but over-stood the layline. The second race we thought we made good decisions but then we were enlightened by our coach! I guess this is why we pay him the big bucks. We started at the pin and headed left. We thought our start was decent and that left was the way to go. It did come back right at the top but we managed not to over-stand the layline this time. Both downwinds our angle seemed really good and we thought we should pass boats but we had forgotten about the current farther out on the left that was helping out those boats.

So we learned lots of things about our race course today that we can take into our racing tomorrow. We were originally scheduled to race on a course about 2 miles farther away but they changed the course area on Thursday, so we hadn't had a chance to train on the new course before the event. While the new course area is closer, it is also full of un-marked rocks! Never mind just avoiding them, it is rather annoying to have a small island come between you and your ideal tactical race when you have to go around it.

Anyways, it is early days yet in this event as we have 13 races scheduled! 2 more races tomorrow starting at 11.55 am if there is wind!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 7- Helsinki

Jen here,
Well the boat is all snugged down and ready for racing which begins the day after tomorrow.  Quatich (our boat) has been checked over, polished, bolts tightened, and decalled up with sponsor stickers for the event.
We had our last day of training today with just Bunny, as our Russian training partners prefer to take their lay day on the penultimate training day before the event.  We worked on starts, tuning, and some boat handling in light breeze and you know, for a short 1 1/2 hour session in light air, it was fantastic and very productive.  We managed to work through a couple of little tricky bits which were hanging up larger manoeuvres, and it felt really good to sort those items out.
It's been hot again in Helsinki (remember my first post? Haha! I told you it would be hot didn't I!) and as we waited for wind I was sort of overcome with irony.  Of all our training and events so far this season, Finland has been the warmest and it's the furthest north!  In England I usually wore two sweaters and a jacket. In Holland I think there was one "shorts worthy" day but the duration of the event was definitely what I would call tepid.  Now that we're in the land of the midnight sun, it's sunscreen, water by the litre, and the lightest wetsuit you can find.  So funny now that I think of it.
Big news on the 470 course...the race committee has moved our course to the same spot that the Laser Radials are using this week.  That means it's only about 2 miles to the course rather than 4.  It's going to be nice being that much closer, although really it's still a 30 minute tow out to the course and an upwind sail back for 2 miles.  The one downside is that we hear rumours of reefs in the middle of the course.  Apparently some of the Radials this week were planning their strategy around which bits of rock they'd sail around.  Well, here's hoping it all goes well!

Cheers,
Jen

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July 6 - Training and Measurement

We have been continuing to train here in Helsinki. Yesterday we sailed in really light wind and did some tuning and some small races. Today we had a longer session in more light wind. It has been cloudy for the past few days with gradient breeze, and the same was forecast for today but then we woke up to sun which pretty much killed the gradient. We had a really good session working on starts and racing. You know the session was productive when you find yourself mildly frustrated the entire time! Our starts improved greatly over the course of the day and we had good communication in the boat but we still need to work on it a lot. We tend to either get the timing right and accelerate poorly or mess up the timing but have a good acceleration. Obviously the ideal situation would be to arrive at the starting line at full speed at go! We did some small races again with several other boats and this was good until the end when we were sinking! We had loosened the centerboard bolt a bit because the centerboard was a bit stiff but we loosened it too much and the gap slowly let water into the boat. It was less of an issue earlier in the day as we could go fast enough to drain the boat but once the wind died down again we started filling up.

Once back on land we prepared the boat for measurement, always an enjoyable experience! Measurement is when they inspect the boat and equipment to ensure it meets the class rules. We had to do full measurement again, and our centerboard and spinnaker pole did not pass, even though they measured in fine last season. So we had to add 1 mm to the centerboard and take 1 mm off the spinnaker pole. Once this was done we got the sticker of approval.

It was a long day in the sun but a good one. We train again tomorrow and then take Friday off before racing starts on Saturday.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 2 of Training in Helsinki

Jen here,

Okay, remember when I said that we were supposed to have "light winds, warm conditions, and gee, I hope that we can get Erin on the wire!"  Well, I the wind gods were paying attention because yesterday had a 12-14 knots...and rain!  We sailed out to our race course, which is roughly four miles offshore, and once we got there, it occurred to me that I had no real concept of where our harbour was...particularly after we got a wind shift!  Fortunately, we had compass bearings and so had nothing to worry about.  The waves were beautiful out on the course, bigger and steeper than the ones that we had even in Weymouth last month, and it was great to work on surfing them downwind.
We worked for about three hours with our Russian training partners, Natasha and Diana, as well as our good Polish friends, Agnieszka and Yola. We warmed back into things with lots of upwind tuning and working on sailing the boat accurately for the choppy conditions in the harbour and then the rollers out at the course.
On the way in we worked on reaches, and things got a bit hairy.  Although is wasn't too windy, we were struggling with shifts in the breeze as we reached behind an island. Unfortunately we capsized and Erin got a pretty big scrape on her neck.  She landed on the boat and hit her neck on something, we think the shroud.  It was a disappointing way to end the day, and she came home and iced it for the evening.  I'm sure that  things will end on a more positive note today as there were definitely moments of shaking off the rest from two weeks away during yesterday's sail.  Looking forward to getting back out into the waves though!

Cheers,
Jen

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Arrived in Helsinki

Jen here,

After a few weeks of rest and recovery in Canada, we're back on the road. This time: Helsinki!  This is the ISAF Open Europeans, meaning that all Olympic classes are holding their European Championships at once.  The match racing has just wrapped up, and Lasers and Radials began racing today.  Yours truly will trained here for five days and then begin racing on July 9th.
So far Finland is very beautiful, and reminds me of a mix between Vancouver Island and the Northwest Territories.  It's got the islands and the rugged coastal feel of the west coast, but that northern energy that comes from being above the 60th parallel.  Trees are a bit smaller, days are...well...they don't end really at this time of year...the sun sort of just rotates around the edge of the horizon all day and all night.  But there is a distinct feeling of wanting to take it all in and soak in as much summer as possible before winter comes knocking on the door.  Bet you didn't know that I actually lived in Yellowknife as a kid?  This is perhaps why I feel an instant bond with Finland, it makes me feel like I'm back home up north for a bit.

Today we set up the boat and went for a short sail.  We had intended to go for longer, but the wind died off completely and there were some ominous looking thunder heads on shore.  Helsinki is in the midst of a heat wave at the moment, and daytime (okay who am I kidding, it's always daytime!) temperatures are frequently above 30 degrees.  This translates into little wind for us, and the forecast for the week appears to be light light light.  Do any of you remember our posts from last year in Holland though?  Good old Den Hague was extremely light for the weeks leading up to the World Championships and then blew the dog off the chain throughout the regatta.  You never know I guess, so we'll train to be ready for anything. To be honest, after five weeks of 18-25 knots in Holland and England this spring, I'm craving some more of that beautiful breeze, so my fingers are crossed that we'll be able to stretch out on the wire, hike hard, and "make the boat go fast" as coach Bunny would say.

Take care!
Jen

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thur. June 9 - Day 4 S4G

Today we had a better day of racing. No equipment breakdowns or capsizing (at least while racing!). We had two races; the first in 12-15 the second in 15+ knots. The first race we had a not so great start and went left, as the wind was predicted to shift left. This was a mistake. We came back into the top third surrounded by really good teams so we thought it might be okay but then the whole fleet crossed in front! We had a good downwind and picked up several boats on the upwind. The last downwind we second-guessed the game plan and lost some boats. The next race we decided to set up early - none of this coming in late and starting second row. We found a hole and managed to defend it and had a wicked start. The pin was favored and the left was looking good for about 5 minutes. Then more pressure came down the right side. It was interesting to watch the race again on TracTrac you can see the boats on the right hand side just suddenly go faster. Although we finished at the back again in this race, it felt like a really good race. We made good tactical decisions, were paying attention to the wind and were very fast upwind. We also stuck to our game plan and had a good start. Tomorrow we will try and do it all again in the last two races before the medal race on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wed June 8 - Day 3 S4G

Today we had two races in 18-25 knots from the SW. Let's start with the positives. We had a really good start in the first race, tacked out and had a clear lane. We were going wicked fast and looked really good. We didn't overstand the top layline and got pushed down by the current and had to tack back out, but all in all a solid upwind leg with us rounding in the 20's. The second race was similar; our start wasn't as great and our lane wasn't as clear but we had a really good first beat. We did not capsize upwind which I think is a first for us when racing in these sorts of conditions. Usually I get knocked off the boat by a large wave and lose my confidence on the trapeze and then it happens again; so I was very pleased that we did not do any of that today, as there were lots of big waves!

On the downside, we managed to rip not one but two spinnakers cleanly in half. The first one was on the first downwind of the first race after capsizing trying to avoid a leeward boat. (The kite got tangled on the spreaders and ripped). The second was our spare kite; and it got ripped on the first downwind of the second race when it wrapped itself around the jib out of a gybe. So not an ideal situation as we had to finish both races today under two sails. Not very fast but we did manage to finish them.

So it seems to be always something with us! My theory is we are just making new mistakes having solved ones we were making previously. As we all know, winning at sailboat racing is all about who makes the least amount of mistakes. Tomorrow we have two more races scheduled and 15-18 knots forecast so another day of windy sailing!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tue June 7 - S4G Day 2

Today we had 2 races in 15-18 knots. The first race we did not have a great start and then on the top reach the fairlead for the spinnaker barberhauler blew, so that was a bit messy. We finished the race but our downwind speed was not up to pace as a result. Between races we did some jury-rigging and that was good. The second race we had a second row start but tacked out and were doing quite well; rounding 20th at the windward mark. We lost boats on the reach and run and then picked some back up on the next windward. Unfortunately we capsized at the bottom of the last run and so got passed. A tiring and frustrating day. The wind trend was to the right, but the pin end of the starting line was biased. We were focussed on our gear instead of the wind and so we sailed the left side of the course each upwind leg. We managed to make it work for us, but could probably have done better if we could have evaluated the conditions more between races. There are 2 races scheduled tomorrow in similar breeze, hopefully we can put it together.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mon June 6 - Skandia Sail for Gold Day 1

Hello everyone. Today was the first day of Skandia Sail for Gold. We took Friday off and then sailed short training sessions on Saturday and Sunday. Today we were scheduled to begin racing at 11 am but there was no wind. We were postponed on shore for several hours while the clouds and sun fought it out. Finally the sun won out and we got a tiny bit of wind. We launched somewhere between 2.30 and 3 pm and towed out to the race area. We tuned up with our new Russian training partners and started a race somewhere after 4 pm. We totally screwed up the start and had to do penalty turns off the line so it was not a brilliant start to the regatta! The wind was light and patchy (5-8 knots) with very choppy water and current pushing up the course. We were actually going quite fast in a straight line on both the upwind and downwind legs but just couldn't put it together tactically today. So we finished at the back of the pack in both races. We got off the water around 8 pm and home around 9. Tomorrow is another day and it is supposed to have good breeze so we are happy about that!

You can follow along with the regatta on the event website. There should be live tracking, video, pictures and twitter and facebook updates.

I have put some new pictures and some geeky videos in the photo album below so go take a look and let me know what you think.

Weymouth - Holland 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wed June 1 - Training in Weymouth

We had a solid 4 hour training session in Weymouth today. 8 - 10 knots from the West and it was actually sunny and not freezing cold, which was a nice change. Still not sure why I even brought shorts with me to Europe, as it never seems to be warm here!

We did some upwind tuning and tacking/crossing drills with the Russians. We struggled at the beginning of the day with getting back into light air sailing mode after so much breeze. The pressure was up and down a lot so it was tricky to keep the boat flat and going fast all the time. We had a good long downwind during which Jen and I had a good discussion about our downwind communication and then we joined in with some racing. The racing didn't go great but it was very good practice. We had terrible starts which didn't help our upwind speed as we kept getting stuck in dirty air. The downwinds improved a lot over 3 races and we were working well together. After the races we did some more upwind tacking with the Russians and worked on our roll tacks. I kept getting stuck on the centreboard so Bunny advised crossing farther back in the boat. This helped a lot but also puts my head and Jen's head very close together coming out of the tack. We are both flinging ourselves through the boat to get across quickly; I am facing backwards and Jen is facing forwards so I foresee a head clunking at some stage in the future!

Tomorrow the forecast is for lighter winds which will be good practice as we haven't trained in light winds in awhile now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Back in Weymouth

So we are back in Weymouth and begin training again tomorrow. A re-cap on recent adventures: Last week we were in Medemblik, Holland for the Delta Lloyd Regatta. The event featured lots of wind - so much that they cancelled racing on Day 3 and Day 5 of the event. We struggled a bit in the big wind conditions but nothing like last year. We still capsized a fair bit but when we were upright we were fast; twice making it to the windward mark in 9th. We worked with Dayne Sharp at this event. While not a 470 specific coach like Bunny or Dave; he is a great coach. He really helped us with understanding downwind tactics and angles and general racing strategy, as well as making some very key comments to improve our heavy wind sailing.

We left the regatta early due to some logistical complications and so missed the last race on Sunday. I won't go into details but basically we had assumed racing would be done Saturday and we needed to deliver our coach-boat back to Weymouth. We drove Saturday night and caught the 7 am ferry from France to England. We arrived Sunday morning in Weymouth, unpacked the boat and gave it to Sam to work on and ran some errands and then went to bed! Monday we took off (I slept and watched movies, it was glorious). Today we got the boat back from Sam and set it up again. We had some minor fiberglass repairs done as well as sanding and buffing the hull. The boat is now white again instead of scum colored! We also switched masts today, as we put a small bend in our mast in Holland from sticking it in the mud (the water is only about 12 feet deep). We have straightened the mast, but will now use it as our back-up only.

We are once again working with coach Bunny; as well as a Russian team. We are partnering with them to share coaching costs and also hopefully to develop a long-term training partnership. We are really excited about this as it is an amazing opportunity. It basically means we can afford twice the coaching and we are no longer going it alone. We have another boat to compare settings with and work with which is awesome. This event will be the trail event and then hopefully we will continue to work together throughout 2011 at Europeans and Worlds etc.

Skandia Sail for Gold is the next event. Racing starts Monday June 6th here in Weymouth, England at the 2012 Olympic Venue. This event is our first Olympic qualifier - if we place top Canadian we will have a spot at the Pre-Olympics here in Weymouth in August as well as a spot at the 2011 World Championships in Perth, Australia.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 4 Medemblik

Just a short post. We just got off the water it is 6 pm. We had 2 races in 18-22 knots. The first race we had an awesome start and were rocking and then we capsized a bunch upwind. Then a bit more downwind. Nevermind, we finished the race! Next race we had a not so great start but were rocking upwind. Managed to stick with the fleet and tack on the knocks and were top 10 when capsized just before mark. Got it up really quick and the rest of the race was solid. Chewing down boats on the upwind (when we are upright we are wicked fast) then lost a few on the downwind. Finished with the fleet, ahead of some boats. We'll see what the results show, I don't know how many boats dropped out etc. So a decent day except for the fact that it was not warm and raining. Ah Northern Europe, how we love you! 2 more races tomorrow, off for some warm dinner.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 3 in Medemblik

This morning we are waiting on shore to see what happens. We have a 2 pm scheduled start but all the other fleets just got sent in due to too much wind, so we will see what happens.

Yesterday it was sunny and there was no wind in the morning; we had a 1.30 start that was postponed by 2 hours. We fixed our gasket and sat around and then headed out at 2 pm. We tuned up and had our first race around 3.30. The wind was super patchy and shifty, more pressure on the left. We didn't have a great start and went too far left on the first beat. The second beat we tried to consolidate back towards the centre and got caught too far right out of the pressure! We ended up a few boats from the back of the fleet. The second race was abandoned half way through because a 40 degree shift came through and we were flying our spinnakers into the windward mark. We thought it might be home time after that (it was after 6 pm) but they let the new wind fill in and we had another race. It was similiar to the first, patchy breeze around 4-6 knots with big pressure bands coming through. We got rolled off the start by the World Champions, but managed to clear our air. Then we were mostly just confused tactically for the whole race! We were at the back of the pack but I have to say our reaching was much much better. We didn't lose any boats on the reaches and pulled off some really good mark roundings on the reach legs, so that was really great. It was a long day on the water and we got in just after 8 pm. We had a really good tactical discussion with our coach over dinner and have some new ideas to implement in the future.

Hopefully we will get in some racing today! You can check the event website for more info.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 1 of Racing in Holland

Jen here,

Well, day 1 of the Delta Lloyd regatta is down and it was a doozy!  The breeze was a really nice 22-25knts and we set out on our 3 mile sail to the race course feeling good.  It was a bit dodgy, though, because with trying to weave in and around the other race courses, it took us a bit longer than we anticipated to get to the course and so our warm up time was quite minimal.  Nonetheless, we had a great first start and the boat felt high and fast throughout the first race.  Hmm...it all would have been terrific if we'd gone the right way!  We didn't loose out too much, though, and rounded the top mark in 9th place.  Unfortunately, we had a bit of an altercation with a Chinese boat, and had to do take penalty turns on the downwind.  We finished the race in 20th but were generally happy with our performance within the race.
Ironically, the second race scored us a better result with a 17, but we were much less satisfied with our sailing.  The boat seemed sluggish and it was difficult to find the grove upwind.  We also enjoyed two fairly fantastic capsizes, first on the start line at about a minute and a half to go (yours truly didn't ease enough vang when she bore away).  No worries, we got the boat up and off the line.  The second capsize was right into the finish reach where we got a bit cheeky and decided to fly the kite in on a reach.  We figured, hey the top boats did it! Aaand, we practised reach sets all last week with Bunny in England...I'm sure it'll be just fine!  Well, let's just say our pride suffered a bit on that one!

Things are coming along well, though, and we're pleased with our progress in breeze over last year.  Tomorrow is set to be a light day, so the new challenge will be shifting back into light air sailing after training in breeze for the past two weeks.

Cheers!
Jen

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22 - Training In Medemblik

Today was our first day of training on the water in Medemblik. It is a very cute small town in northern Holland. From the map it looks like the water we are sailing on connects to the North Sea, but it is in fact dammed off. The water is mostly fresh water because so much of it is water pumped off the fields! To get to the sailing centre you drive along the road which is on top of the dyke right along the water. The town itself is full of small canals that the houses back onto. Each family seems to have their own tiny motor boat and yesterday everyone had taken to the canal with a picnic to enjoy the sunny Sunday. There are sheep and cows and goats everywhere; the canals act as fences to keep them in pasture. There are also lots of ponies - Jen is determined to either ride one or bring one home!

We had a good 2 hour session today in confusing wind conditions. The wind was from the SW so blowing off shore and generated by a series of small black clouds. It averaged probably around 18 knots but was up to 25 and down to 12 very suddenly. The waves are very short and choppy and close together as the water is so shallow. We stuffed the bow into one in our first gybe of the day and discovered just how shallow it was when we capsized! A bit of mud on the top of the sail and Jen's mast head indicator was destroyed but otherwise no harm done. The boat is ready to go for the regatta. Our coach for the event (Dayne Sharp) arrives tomorrow morning. We will train with him tomorrow and then racing starts on Tuesday.

Now back to our Ikea bungalow (more on this later) in the bungalow park which features a petting zoo, bowling alley, mini golf, and swimming pool!

Pictures from Weymouth and Holland

Here is the link to the Album I have created. Check back for more pictures soon!
Weymouth - Holland 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Arrived in Holland

Jen here,

We wrapped up our week of training in Weymouth with coach Bunny, and have just arrived in Medemblik for Delta Lloyd regatta.   We spent six days with Bunny, training in beautiful 12-18 knot breezes each day and working on a check list of items. Essentially we sailed in a square for six days, working on tacks, gybes, reaches, and straight line speed up and downwind.  Both Erin and I are feeling like it was a very productive week, and we're looking forward to implementing our training into race situations.

We again housed with our wonderful German friends, Tina and Sanni, and coach Zizi.  Between the girls and Zizi, and the various German team mates who drop by for dinners, we've dubbed our place the "German/Canadian commune."  The result is that there's techno aplenty, lots of bread, meat, and cheese, and some Sunny Boy cereal always on the stove.  It also means that to get to the Aga to do any cooking, you have to wade through all the wetsuits which are hanging to dry out each night!

Today we set the boat up here in Medemblik, and got ourselves sorted out for coach boat and logistics for the rest of the week.  It's a beautiful venue here, and I'm excited for training tomorrow with the two Canadian boats which are here as well.

We'll let you know how the week progresses!

Jen

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday the 13th - Training with Bunny

Today was our second day on the water with our new coach Bunny, and it was great! We did a couple hours of boat-work in the morning (why not, eh?) and then finally hit the water at 1 pm. It was an intense and focused training session and it was awesome! It was so great to have our very own coach watching our every move and giving us constant feedback. With the control systems in the boat working much better we were not fighting the boat and were able to focus on sailing. We basically spent the day sailing in a huge square inside the Portland Harbor  We went upwind focusing on sailing fast at all times and making our tacks more smooth and coordinated. Once around the top mark we sailed a tight reach - our weakest point of sail and where we usually get passed by many boats when racing. Bunny was great at working us through how the maneuver is supposed to proceed and we started to get a feel for when it feels "right", something we have been struggling with for the past year. Then onto the downwind where we worked to simplify and speed up our gybes and also our strategy for approaching the bottom mark. Then another tight reach towards the break-wall and a stop for a break.

It was really helpful to work on each part of a race in order so we could think about our strategy, but because it wasn't a real race we didn't have to worry about other boats and could focus on the boat handling. I think we made some major improvements in our understanding of certain skills and techniques. We had one spectacular wipe-out where we capsized to windward turning from a reach to a run which was quite amusing; sadly we did not catch it on video! We were only on the water for three hours but we were working from start to finish and were completely exhausted at the end. It was honestly a struggle to finish my dinner I am so tired. It is 8.30 pm and I am off to bed! We should have some pictures up tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ready for training in Weymouth!

Well today was an excellent and productive day! Conveniently jet lag doesn't seem to affect me, so I managed to go to bed at 10.30 pm last night and wake up at 7 am this morning. I walked down to the Castle Cove Sailing Club to meet Morten and Jens. They transported our boat for us from Germany to Weymouth. The German Federation is currently training out of Castle, so their trailer was there with our boat on it. Morten was kind enough to drive me and the trailer over to the Weymouth-Portland National Sailing Academy, where we will be training. (Castle is quite expensive and we have received permission to train from WPNSA). I found some wind-surfers camping in the parking lot who were kind enough to help me get the boat off the trailer, and then I started digging through all the kit to see what was there!

We haven't seen the European boat "Quatchi" since 470 Europeans last September. While I trust Marlene and Annina completely (the german team who trained on our boat in October in exchange for storing it all winter) 470's are so complicated it is hard not to get confused and misplace things. Everything was pretty much there, so I moved the boat into the boat park where I found some familiar faces: Ollie and Andrew and Mike and Luke, two Canadian men's 470 teams. I started rigging and I have to say I love our European boat. It is rigged just a little bit more intuitively than our boat back at home. Things make more sense and are less complicated and they work better. The boat went together very straight-forwardly. There are a few more things to fix but nothing major. I quite early and headed back into town to pick up a few things. I haven't been to Weymouth in over a year, but I managed to navigate alright. I found the hardware store, the boat chandlery and the vodafone shop and got a good walk uphill in the process. Also, it was sunny and warm all day, which was excellent.

Tomorrow I will finish setting up the boat with our coach Bunny and go for a test-sail. Jen arrives tomorrow evening and then we will begin training on Thursday.

Arrived in Weymouth

Just a quick note to say I have arrived in Weymouth! I got in yesterday afternoon and found the Germans alright. Today I put the boat together. Jen arrives late tomorrow direct from teaching an instructor clinic in TO and we begin working with our new coach Bunny Warren.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Opening Day at Royal Victoria Yacht Club

Last Saturday was Opening Day at Royal Victoria Yacht Club. For those non-sailors, this is an annual celebration of the end of winter and the beginning of the sailing season. Members dress up in white pants and navy blazers and there is a ceremony and a sail-past, in which everyone sails past the Commodore of the club and salutes and is blessed. This year was especially fancy because it was the 100 year celebration of Royal Victoria Yacht Club becoming "Royal". It was also the day after the Royal wedding! Jen and I got dressed up (we don't own white slacks though) and participated. Ed and Dianne Life were good enough to take us aboard their boat where we had a great day of sailing in the sun. We also managed to get ourselves interviewed in the Times Colonist which was great! I'll add the article here as a permalink since the other one will probably go dead soon.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Paralympic Training Camp

We have been on the water for the past 7 days training out of Royal Vic. Brian Todd (National Team Coach) has been running a training camp for Paralympic sailors and was kind enough to include us 470's as well. It has been quite interesting training with the 2.4m, Skud 18 and Sonar. All three boats are keelboats, but from there the similarities end! The 2.4m can point almost directly upwind so you don't want to start above it on the line. The Skud has an asymmetric spinnaker so it sails on a very tight reach downwind, and the Sonar is really big so there is just no wind anywhere near it. Needless to say the short course racing we have been doing has been quite exciting, as a different strategy is required for dealing with each competitor.

With varying weather conditions and finally some sunshine these past two days it has been a really good camp. Our boat handling is constantly improving. I think we made some especially big improvements on our double-tacks and 360 degree turns on Sunday. The way our communication and teamwork has come together in the past 6 months is really noticeable, every maneuver happens more quickly and we get less frustrated with things when training because there is constant communication about what is happening and what is about to happen.

Now a few days off and then back on the water this Easter weekend!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Joy of Sport

Jen and I recently attended an event where Kristina Groves spoke about her own involvement in sport and some of the challenges she sees with women's involvement in sport in Canada. I recorded her talk and have posted it here so if you have 30 minutes I recommend listening to her explain it in her own words. (sorry for the poor audio quality).

video
Her talk really got me to thinking about my own involvement in sport. Jen and I have the benefit of returning to competitive sports after taking time to complete our degrees, so we are both very aware of the role sport plays in our lives and why we want to go to the Olympics. For some athletes who grew up competing it may be the only life they know. For myself, I love being outside first and foremost. I love walking through the forest, observing the leaves and flowers and rocks and play of the light. I often just sit quietly on top of a hill or on the beach and observe the world. Being on the water is equally amazing with the wide open horizon and constantly changing weather.

Secondly, I'm competitive. Not in an "I want to crush you" sort of way, but rather in a self-challenging manner. I like knowing things, and I want to be an expert at everything I do. Competing is the best way to guage your performance as well as improve it. The Olympics is the ultimate affirmation of knowledge and experience in sport, so I want to go. Or at least I want to try my hardest to go, and if I am unsuccesful I will at least have given it my all.

Third is the people and places sport has brought into my life. I very quickly forget where we placed in the results, but I will never forget the amazing places I have visited and the friendships I have made over the years through my participation in sport. From playing soccer and skiing in Calgary as a kid to biking up a mountain with a friend in Ireland to living and competing with fellow sailors in Istanbul it is the people from around the world that make the experiences memorable.

The point Kristina brought up is that women's participation in sport is still incredibly low, and the way most women participate in sport is not for the same reasons as me. The average women goes to the gym or yoga or pilates alone, and often does so in order to lose weight or remain trim to fit a specific societal body image. A recent Times Colonist article highlighting two individual's completion of a workout regime seemed to highlight this. The female participant was pleased to have dropped 3 dress sizes and discussed not cheating on her diet which limited her to 2 fruits a day. There was no mention of enjoyment or friendship.

Jen and I both go to the gym in order to improve our fitness for sailing, but for both of us it is our least enjoyable part of being an athlete because it can be a bit lonely and a bit unstimulating compared to the race course and the team atmosphere. I currently work out with my gym buddy Christa, whom I met on craigslist because I needed that comradrie in order to motivate me. I met my running buddy Bonnie through a running clinic, and I play soccer and go climbing with different people again. Jen and I both eat very healthily, but this generally involves eating tons of fruits and veggies (which I love) and fewer refined sugars. Our diet (and by diet I mean "the food we eat") is not regimented but about moderation, so I don't feel the need to "cheat" whatever that means.

When people find out Jen and I are trying to lose weight the standard comment is "why, you look great!". While compliments are nice, our weight goal has nothing to do with how we look or about trying to fit into certain clothes or being perceived as attractive. Every boat has an ideal combined crew weight which maximizes performance, and Jen and I just happen to be on the larger end. While obesity is becoming a major issue in our society, I think weight loss as the primary reason for being active is incredibly sad, and an individual's level of activity tends to be a better indicator of overall health than their waistline.

So what am I trying to say? I have a passion for the outdoors and for sport in general because it is FUN and involves people I LOVE! As a result, I lead a healthy and active lifestyle and have a better understanding and appreciation for my body. This is what I try and pass on to the athletes I coach - a lifelong passion for sailing, whethor competitive or recreational; local or worldwide. So my suggestion to women (and men) everywhere? Grab a friend and go play outside!

Women in Sport Brunch

On Sunday April 3 Jen and I attended the Women In Sport Celebration brunch at PISE, the Pacific Institute for Sport. This event was for female athletes from all over BC and included some tasty food, an excellent talk by Kristina Groves (four time Olympic medalist speed skater) and the Women in Sport Awards. There were three categories for the awards, Volunteer of the Year, Organizer of the Year and Athlete  of the year. We had sailors in two of the three categories. Jess Round was nominated for Athlete of the Year after representing Canada at the 2010 Youth Worlds in Istanbul, Turkey with her sailing partner Erin Berry; and Tracy Terry took home the award for Sport Builder of the year for her hard work with the Pacific Region Cadets. Congrats to Tracy!

The talk by Kristina was really the highlight of the event for me. Kristina recently suffered a severe concussion and as a result might be retiring from competitive speed skating. Her talk focused on the role sport has played in her life and the challenges she sees for the average women's involvement in sport. While celebrating how far we have come, she also pointed out how much work still remains. I recorded Kristina's talk and have included it and my own thoughts in a separate blog post.

Here are some pictures from the event.



Spring, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jen back from coaching

Jen here,

Erin has been busy coaching here in Victoria with the Prairie Region Cadets and I was with the Royal Vic 29er team down in San Diego last week. I must admit that it was wonderful to get into some warmer weather and water...even though the folks down in San Diego found it pretty cold and thought that I was the "crazy Canadian girl with the flip flops on."
The 29er Mid Winters West spanned three days and we included an extra day of training.  Jess Round and Erin Berry as well as 29er rookies Sophie Papp and Maddy Innes made up "Team Girl Squad" for the weekend.  With up to five races a day there was plenty of action, and some excellent crash and burns to be seen on the race course.  Even the top teams were exhausted after five races on Saturday, but non more so I think than our intrepid Maddy and Sophie.   A big kudos to the girls for toughing out the regatta and pushing themselves harder than I think they even thought that they could push.  In fact, they both learned about just how physically demanding a day of racing can be especially if you get behind on eating and hydrating.  Next time you see the girls on the dock, just ask them about the tow back in on Saturday when they were both as sick as dogs.  We've ALL been there girls!
Thanks too to Jess and Erin for sharing their knowledge and experience, and proving to be great training partners.   It's always so much better when you have a solid set of training partners to tune up with each day, and to debrief with at the end of each day.  Way to go girls on a great regatta!

Thanks too to our billets, the Stewards. The Stewards are possibly the hippest and coolest family in Southern California...and that's saying a lot!  Amy, mum and school teacher, is the kind of teacher that every kid wishes they ever had in school.  Dan'l, aka Dad, is a Navy Seal, and we're pretty sure that he's actually Chuck Norris...I think I saw him open a jar of jam with his mind.  D'Amy, daughter of Amy and Dan'l, is the most athletic thirteen year old I think I've ever met. After 29er sailing with Erin, D'amy is currently trying to figure out how to fit some skiff sailing into her Sabot, Laser Radial, 420, and swim schedules.  Thanks to the Steward family for their hospitality!

Jen

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cooperative weather makes for productive training

Jen here,

I'm ashamed to say that it's been two whole weeks since our last blog update!  Truthfully, we've been having a bit of bad luck with our training up until this week.  For the past two weeks, it seemed that there was either absolutely no wind (really! the bay looked like a mirror!) or there would be a storm blowing 40-45 knots!  We realize that training in heavy air is important, but felt that 45 knots was definitely beyond our limit at this stage of the game.  Fortunately this week the weather has been much more cooperative and we've managed to make up some of our lost training sessions.  Today was a beautiful 20-23 knot day, which we haven't had the opportunity to train in for a long time.  With the big swell and the nice breeze, conditions reminded us a bit of what we'll be sailing in when we go to Weymouth and compete in Sail for Gold in June.  Well, our waters a bit colder though, and there was an element of managing the ice cream headaches from the spray that hits us in the face when we sail. 
This weekend Erin and I are also teaching a coaching clinic for BC Sailing, and so we'll be dusting off our coaching hats for a few days.  Then next week I drive a trailer of 29ers down to San Diego to coach two fantastic 29er girls teams.  Then it's back to sailing sailing sailing for team Jen and Erin!

Take care!
Jen

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Late winter hits us in Victoria

Jen here,

The day after our Louis Riel training camp winter seemed to hit us again...with a foot of snow in Victoria!  Needless to say, training has been put on hold while the temperatures dipped to as low as -9 with the wind chill.  What does this mean for us? Lots of time at the gym! I've been focusing on strength training to try to get my back and shoulders as strong as possible, and working on a nutrition plan to help keep weight down while working on my strength. 
I had the opportunity to teach an instructor course in Vancouver over the weekend. It was a nice change of pace and all the candidates involved were enthusiastic and shared great ideas about coaching.  This was a Program Manager course, which certifies instructors to run their own learn to sail programs.  Lots of good ideas flying around the room and meaty discussions about promoting active and healthy living through the sport of sailing.  Very inspiring!

Cheers,
Jen

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fundraising Opportunity for Canadians

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) have teamed up on a Facebook fan campaign to harness all that passion and support for our budding athletes as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.




For every new Canadian fan of Canada at “Keep Exploring” on Facebook, one shiny loonie will go to the Canadian Olympic Team. The promotion runs until February 28, one year after the Closing Ceremony.



Share this with your friends and family to help support the Canadian Olympic Team.



Here’s an example Facebook post to share:



Support the Canadian Olympic Team! Visit Canada, Keep Exploring on Facebook and athletes will receive $1 for every “Like.” http://www.facebook.com/KeepExploring





Sincerely,



Olympians Canada Secretariat





(Click the image above to link to facebook.com/keepexploring and press ‘Like’)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Upcoming Training: Louis Riel Camp

Jen here,

This week we're shifting our primary focus to the gym and to some nagging boat work.  These are items which didn't prevent us from racing and training in Miami, but which certainly need attending to. Luckily, Adrian Round, (Anne's husband, and if you remember, Anne was my helm for the 29er XX event...we're all one big happy family!) is helping us out this week. Okay, "helping" is a bit of an understatement. Adrian is single-handedly removing any minor form of wiggle, waggle, or slop from my steering system and also repairing a nasty fibreglass repair in the partners of our boat (the partners are the part of the boat that help to support the mast). 

I would like to pretend that I could do these repairs myself...and admit that Erin and I both attempted MacIvor-like repairs in the boat part in Miami. Who am I kidding? Adrian is infinitely more knowledgeable, well equipped, experienced, and detail oriented when it comes to this type of thing! Many thanks to you, Adrian, for fixing up our boat and letting us get back to fixing ourselves at the gym.

This weekend we'll be back on the water training. We've got a four day training camp at Royal Vic called the "Louis Riel Camp." The name comes from Team Manitoba, who will be joining us for their long weekend which involves Louis Riel Day.  We'll also have the Alberta Sailing Team with us and Paralympic sailors from all the western provinces.  Should be a great weekend!

Cheers,
Jen

Thursday, February 10, 2011

29er XX Event

Jen here,

Erin and I are both back in Canada now, and taking a short break this week after five weeks of winter training down in Miami.  I stayed an extra week to sail the Seiko Superbowl 29erXX event with Anne Round. This was a fun and relaxed event which proved to be a good opportunity to practise transferring my 470 skills into another boat, and to transfer my helming skills back to my old position of crew! 
The boats are simple, straight forward and fun. That is not to say that they are easy though!  In the breeze agility and the ability to respond quickly to changing boat balance proved to be the most important thing for Anne and I.  I can't say that our cat-like reflexes were quite on par with the more experienced skiff crews once a bit of breeze came up, but in the lighter wind, we were able to keep up with even the experienced crews.  Our best result was a 5th in the first race, having lost our 3rd place to two other boats right on the finish. This was a highlight of our weekend, and Anne and I, the two renegade skiff newbies from Canada looked at each other after the race and thought "wow! way to go team!" 
Next weekend Erin and I will get back to work in the 470.  As much as I truly enjoyed skiff sailing, and look forward to more in the future, I must admit to being a devoted fan of the 470.  It's complicated, challenging, and sometimes incredibly frustrating...but that's what makes the 470 so rewarding.

I've attached a link to photos from the 29erXX event. Anne and I are sail number CAN6.  I wonder if the 470 class association would ever consider incorporating pink sails into the picture???

http://photos.friedbits.com/201129erxxsuperbowl/h39cd1e76#h3eb24625

Cheers,
Jen

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2.4 Sailing in Miami

Jen here,

After a bit of a computer overhaul, I've finally got the footage from 2.4 Sailing in early January edited and uploaded into a short vid.  The sailors are Brenda Hopkin from Canada, Meg Pascoe from team GBR, and myself.  Enjoy!

Miami Wrap Up

Jen here,

Well, OCR is all wrapped up and the trailer is on it's way back to Victoria where it appears to be...not as warm or nice as Miami!  Erin is off in a few hours, but I'm fortunate enough to be staying for another week to sail the 29erXX Seiko regatta with my good friend Anne Round.  This will definitely be a nice way to end off the trip, with a fun and action packed yet low pressure event.  Erin and I are happy with the progress that we've made since our last OCR regatta one year ago, and feel that we're on the right path with our training.  A huge thanks to our coaches, Steve, Dave, Brian, Erik, and now Zizi and Rafal. And of course to all of you who have followed along, supported us, and sent us your warm wishes and love.

Thanks again!

Jen

Friday, January 28, 2011

Jan. 28 - Day 5

We had 3 races today in a puffy shifty NW breeze. It was extremely cold on the water today and it was a long day of sailing. We launched at 11 and tuned up with Sanni and Tina. We started our first race just after 12. We had a good start but had to tack and clear our air after a couple minutes on starboard. We headed off on port with a group of boats. The fleet was pretty evenly split; and the breeze was rather confusing with big cold puffs coming in from the right and warmer light air from the left. We rounded in about 12th and the wind lightened up for most of the rest of the race. The second upwind the wind went really fluky and we didn't protect left enough, losing a few boats near the top of the course.

The second race the wind came in quite strong from the right again and after the first race and discussions with our coaches we decided the left side was a safer option. We had a brilliant start and powered off on starboard tack. The fleet headed all the way out past the lay-line, in fact past the gybe mark before tacking. We came back into the top mark on a close reach and rounded in 5th. The first downwind was a bit crazy - the breeze was on and had shifted left making the first part of the downwind quite tight. The entire fleet was together and people were just continuously pumping the spinnaker - by the bottom mark I wasn't sure my arms would be able to take down the spinnaker. The second upwind we headed left again but had slipped back in the fleet and struggled to find clean air. The breeze softened up again and we finished in light and fluky stuff having been passed by most of the fleet.

The third race was mostly a test of focus. We didn't have a great start as the boat above us started way early (they must be OCS in this race) and sailed over us. We were forced to tack out and struggled to find a lane the whole upwind. The wind was up and down, the course very choppy and with the sun low in the sky it was as struggle to see the puffs/shifts coming. Then on the second upwind the women's and men's fleets got all tangled up and it was very confusing. By the time we finished the race we were just tired and hungry, as it was after 5 pm.

So ends Miami OCR for us this year. Tomorrow the top ten boats in each fleet will compete in the medal races, including our good friends Tina and Sanni (GER 61).

Although it is not reflected in our results, we have improved leaps and bounds over the past year. We have consistently gotten good starts in this event, and have managed to round the mark in a top 10 position in four of the nine races. Our boat speed and ability to point upwind is on pace with the rest of the boats. Our major area of focus for the next few months will be on our reaching and downwind speed and boat handling coming into mark roundings.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jan. 27th - Almost Race 6

We headed on the water at Noon today for a 1 pm start but there was no wind. We got a tow out with Zizi and Rafa and our training group and then drifted around for several hours while the race committee checked the wind (or lack thereof). The Finn's were supposed to have 3 races today but had only completed one when we got out there, so we knew even if the wind filled in we would still be third start. Finally at around 3 pm the Race Committee started the Finns and then the 470 men in about 2 knots. We then started our sequence, but had to stop half way through as the Finn's were approaching the leeward mark. They re-started our sequence and we got a start off. We had a really good start and headed off on Starboard tack as there seemed to be more pressure on the middle/left of the course. The breeze then proceeded to shift right and die completely. It was agonizingly slow going, and we got all mixed up with the Finn fleet. At one point we were on starboard tack and Ben Ainslie was coming downwind on Starboard tack as well. Technically we had right of way - but its Ben Ainslie! And there was no wind! It was very silly. We rounded the top mark in 7th or 8th and then got sailed over by a few boats on the very very slow downwind. Sanni and Tina proceeded to coach us as they sailed over us - helpful and humorous at the same time. Finally the Race Committee abandoned the race for us and we towed in. We will try again tomorrow with 3 races scheduled and a forecast of 6-10 knots.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jan. 26 - Race 5

This morning was rainy and gross and there was no wind so the Race Committee postponed us on shore for two hours. The wind report wasn't looking good; the low pressure system was finally moving through but there was supposed to be no wind behind it. We headed on the water at noon for a 1 o'clock start and the breeze filled in from the SW. There was a group of large black clouds moving across the sky from SE to NW, and it was really interesting to observe its progression after just having had a weather talk by Eric Holden, the Canadian Meteorologist. The wind went left before the cloud moved over head and then the wind increased to 15+ knots and started going right. We knew there would (probably) be no wind behind the cloud, so we kept our rig set up for light air. After one general recall we had an awesome start and tacked out right. We were really really fast upwind - we went from being behind and to leeward of a pack of boats to being in front and to windward of them. We were actually winning the right side of the course for a large portion of the upwind. As the cloud passed overhead the breeze died down to about 8-10 knots. We came back into the top mark in second on the right hand side and ended up rounding the top mark in 4th, just behind Sanni and Tina who had gone left. Then we struggled with the reach and watched as most of the top boats sailed over us! More things to work on. The downwind was good; we had good speed and were surfing as much as possible. Unfortunately we had to give 2 boats room at the leeward mark and couldn't quite get behind them. The second upwind and downwind were sailed in lighter breeze and we held our position. We finished this race in 19th which is our best race yet for this regatta. It is such a great feeling to have a good start and a great first beat - we find we sail with more focus and energy when we are up with the leaders and there are so many more learning opportunities sailing in this kind of traffic.

We have a late start tomorrow (1300) so can sleep in a bit. They will probably try and get in 3 races to make up for only having one today but we shall see!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jan. 25 - Races 3 and 4

We had another two races today in medium wind conditions. The forecast was for 15-18 increasing to 18-22 but the big breeze never really materialized. The first race was in 15 knots we had an okay start but got shot out the back after a few hundred meters. Left had been paying and was looking good on the first beat so we chose to just stick out the bad air and head left with the pack. This proved to be a bad call as we ended up behind coming into the top mark. The downwinds were tricky today as the waves were coming across the course and were surfable, but the big waves were very slow moving and if you didn't play them properly you got stuck going up the front of the next wave. We managed to pick up one boat somewhere on the first downwind/second beat. The breeze shifted right and died down to about 12 knots towards the end of this race and we were searching for power. We changed our rig set up between races and tried to eat some food (my protein bar fell out of my mouth while trapezing so Jen kindly shared hers). We got our coaches Rafa and Zizi to take a look at our sails before the next race and felt like we had the boat up to speed. On the starting line we lost our leeward hole at about 30 seconds and were totally shot out the back! This hasn't happened in awhile, so it was a bit frustrating. We tacked out and cleared our air and found a lane. The breeze was sort of persistently shifting right and we didn't consolidate back right enough during the first upwind, ending up on the left side at the top mark at the back of the fleet. The second upwind went much better, we felt very fast and picked up a boat. The last downwind we again struggled to find our groove in the choppy conditions. We thought we had sailed a good leg but came into the mark neck and neck with the other Canadians, Dana and Karen. Unfortunately we had to give them room at the mark and just lost them on the final reach to the finish.

After the race Zizi and Rafa made us sail upwind again and gave us several helpful pointers on our upwind speed. Although today wasn't a brilliant day for us we remained in good spirits and hope to continue the upward trajectory tomorrow. Please check out the event website where you can view the races live as well as find the results and photos.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jan. 24th - Races 1 and 2

Today we had two races in 8-10 knots and very choppy seas. We didn't have a great day of racing; we just couldn't seem to get the boat up to speed and struggled in the fluky wind. Before the race the wind was quite shifty and gusty, once the race began the time between the shifts because quite long and holes developed on the race course making the tactics much tricker. We did have a great start in the second race so that was good! Tomorrow is another day and hopefully we can get find our boatspeed again. The weather has been a bit strange... there is a low pressure system moving in so it should bring some wind but the weather reports can't decide whether it will arrive tomorrow or Wednesday.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jan. 23 - Ready for OCR

We are all ready for the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta which begins tomorrow morning with an 11 am start. We have had a great week training with our new training group; learning and improving on our starting and acceleration techniques as well as continuing to work on our boat handling. We also did a ton of boatwork, as in keeping with the 470. The boat is ready to go and after a day off today so are we!

Today I slept in and then cycled to the Fairchild Tropical Gardens with Sanni and Tina. There was a chocolate festival at the gardens so along with the many different types of palm and fruit trees there were vendors with free chocolate samples! It was a fun relaxing afternoon and we are now gathered in the living room reading our Sailing Instructions and getting ready for tomorrow morning. For more information on MOCR please visit the event website.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jan. 19th - Training Days

After taking Monday off (no beach sadly as it was pouring rain and there was a hurricane warning!) we have been back at it training these past two days. Yesterday we hit the water at 8.30 am to train with the other Canadian 470 sailors (6 boats!) and the CYA coach Erik Stibbe. Erik is down in Miami coaching Lasers but has kindly made some time in the very early morning to work with the 470 sailors. In some very light wind we did a bunch of windward/leewards and some starts. After two hours we all headed in for a break. And by "break" I mean boatwork. We managed a whole 3 days of sailing during the regatta without any boatwork, so there was plenty to do! After a couple hours of that we headed back on the water with Geoff and Tyler to do some more training. We did some speed testing and switched skipper/crew and boats a few times to help the boys with some pointing issues. It was good for us as well as we could analyse our own movements and actions and how they contribute to our overall boatspeed and pointing. After some more boat handling and downwind sailing we headed in again, having put in a solid 5 hours of sailing over the day.

Today was another long day; it started at about 3 am when everyone woke up to torrential downpour. I think everyone else in the house was thinking the same thing I was: "Shoot, all my sailing gear is hanging outside to dry!". The humidity this morning was absolutely incredible; everything was soaked but nothing would dry and your sweat would not evaporate. We headed out at 8.30 to work with Erik again but didn't last long. Somehow our mainsail, spinnaker and jib halyards had become crossed inside the mast and we couldn't hoist or douse our spinnaker without dumping our rig tension. We headed in to sort this out which took about 2 hours of fiddling. We fixed it just in time to head back on the water with Sanni and Tina and our new training group! It was us, the German girls, the Polish girls and the Danish girls working with Zeze and Rafa the German and Polish coaches respectfully. We are super excited to have a group of girls to work with and the training was excellent. We are the slowest of the four boats, but this is a good thing as we must always work extra hard to keep up and stay focused. We did some small windward/leeward courses working on leeward mark rounding transitions; then some starting and acceleration practice and some small races. It was great to watch what the other girls do on the starting line and there was an excellent discussion during the debrief about different techniques for staying forward on the line and working the boat to windward. Towards the end of the day we all joined in with some group races. The group racing is a staple in the 470 fleet. It is organized by the coaches and happens every training day before a World Cup event. You usually need to be invited to join in and there are specific rules to be followed or you get yelled at. (For example: if there are more than 10 women's boats they must start on their own and not with the men;  if you are over early or foul someone you must do a 360.) It was an excellent day of training and now for a nap!

Check out the photos Zeze took during NA's. This is in race 3 on day 1 when we were doing really well!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jan. 16th - NA's Day 3

Today was the third and final day of racing for 470 North Americans. There was no wind when we arrived at the boat park this morning but by 9.30 it was starting to fill in. It has finally warmed up so we were able to discard our wetsuits and sail in summer gear today! The women had the first start today but we still had several general recalls. The first start we had an amazing start with tons of room to leeward; unfortunately this one was called back and so was the next one. The third start wasn't recalled but was terrible for us; we immediately tacked out to clear our air and got forced further and further right by other boats which was not what we wanted as the wind was in a left phase. We rounded in last and remained there for the rest of the race. It just wasn't our race, we were making stupid mistakes and not focusing. After the finish and some water and food and removing some layers of clothing we were feeling a bit better. The second race the wind shifted left 10 seconds before the start and there was a lot of confusion on the line as some boats double tacked and some were too far forward and some too far back. We managed to make it work for us and got off cleanly. Then someone tacked right in front of us, so we tacked out and tacked back right in front of someone else... it was a bit of a messy upwind leg with the normal order of boats out of sorts. The breeze stayed in a left phase for the entire upwind and there was some shouting from the top teams on the lay-line coming into the first mark. Some teams who were black flagged off the start bailed out at the top mark and a few more on the downwind. We couldn't seem to get up to speed on the first downwind, it was looking good until we came back into the mark and had to give 3 boats room. The second upwind we were in line with the world champions and pacing them for speed (they weren't having a great race but it made us feel good). The wind was in a left phase again and I couldn't decide if we should stay right and count on it shifting back or consolidate towards the middle/left of the course. We tacked in and it turned out to be the wrong call; we lost about 12 boat lengths on the boats that stayed out right. The last downwind and reach were agonizingly slow as the breeze had dropped to 3 or 4 knots.

We sat around intending to watch the medal race but they were taking so long to set it up we got bored and sailed in. Our German friends Sanni and Tina had pulled out of the last race due to frustration; but they managed to get it together and won the medal race!

Overall it was a really good regatta for us. We know how to start now and have the boat speed upwind. We sometimes have the boat speed downwind and our boat handling is not brilliant but functional and repeatable. Our teamwork and communication has improved immensely and we have settled into our roles in the boat and trust each other's decisions now! We are looking forward to a day off tomorrow and then we will continue training for the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta which begins on the 24th.