This is the final training flash from the last Rio camp prior to the Olympic Games.
Over the final three days of the coaches' regatta, we raced on the Bridge & Sugarloaf courses inside the bay and Copacabana course outside the bay in an effort to imitate the conditions that the Laser fleet might experience during the Games. Obviously, it wouldn't be racing in Rio without a few curveballs. On days 3 & 4, we held races in northerly breeze on Sugarloaf and Copacabana courses. Left was better on the first leg. This breeze is typically not raceable & it will be interesting to see if they race in it for the Games.
I was a bit disappointed at the quality of the racing however. General recall worthy starts that were allowed to go & competitors fouling without spinning among other things. Oh well, just a reminder not to expect too much out of sailing in the month before the big show. The results are not that important.
For my teammates & their coaches, it's largely an exercise in finalizing the basic processes and decision points for each course. The weather picture for the day, the wind, the current, etc. Then synthesizing what those things mean for the basic positioning on the first leg. This also means refining the interactions between coach and athlete to deal with the restrictions applied to the coaches.
For all of the classes outside of the Laser and Laser Radial, the competitors are making the finishing touches on their boats and equipment. Sail selection, mast selection, board and rudder selection etc.
The overall theme really is refinement by elimination. Eliminating the unnecessary equipment, thinking, distractions and other controllable variables bring the mental clarity & fluidity needed to perform under the Games pressure. Addition at this point is harmful. You cannot win by adding anything new, but you can certainly ratchet up the anxiety.
At this point, my teammates and coaches seem to be enjoying the calm before the plunge. The major work is done and now it's time for them to leave Rio for 12 days of rest before returning at the end of July to an entirely different atmosphere.
Then it's game time for Team USA!
For myself, it's hard to believe my last trip to Rio is over and done. Since January 2014, I've spent almost 100 days sailing there on 10 separate trips. Brazil is my most visited foreign country. It's a place where I've had both ups and downs, but the place has grown on me. The people I've met there, the weather, the landscape, the awesome training and racing, teammates & coaches of mine have left an indelible impression on me.
But it's also a place with its own difficulties both on and off the water...especially for American sailors accustomed to being able to fulfill every immediate need both on and off the water. Trash in the water, heaps of daily towing to get to & from the chosen course areas, strange current & breeze behavior, broken equipment, sometimes extreme heat, strange food, underequipped gyms, foreign language & attitude...the list goes on. Many things are less than ideal. Letting go of the way that things should be and going with the way that they are. It's a choice. Choosing to see small opportunities instead of obstacles. Finding out the difference between what you thought was essential and what actually is essential. All of these things are a very visceral reminder that you get out what you put in. I have never experienced another place inside or outside of sailing that builds these character skills to the same degree as Rio. But these things have made the whole experience richer.
I also feel that it will be a bit surreal following the Olympic sailing from afar in Minnesota. I will be watching through the same medium as everyone else on TV or computer. But it's a game that I've been inside since 2013.
I understand how fluid the racing can be in the moment. A bunch of individual competitors' decisions produces a single race that could have gone many different ways. The fluidity of each race is ultimately cemented into a permanent result when they are added up and the smoke clears. The podium accommodates 3, but the top step only 1.
This effort has been an amazing journey.
Thank you all for sharing it with me.