Saturday, May 20, 2017

2017 USODA Team Trials Debrief

2017 USODA Team Trials
By Julia Melton
Peter Barnard, Julia Melton, Christian Predergast, Jack Baldwin

I’m proud to have coached three talented sailors from Chicago Yacht Club at the 2017 USODA Team Trials hosted by Brant Beach Yacht Club.  This regatta is the most important USODA event of the year. Each year all sailors must earn a spot for team trials at a qualifying event. This year, 223 sailors from around the country traveled to the coast of New Jersey to compete against the top sailors in the United States.  

Each sailor set personal goals for the regatta, from making the US development team to simply developing individual skills. The regatta concluded with every sailor having achieved or exceeded their individual goals. This event is undoubtedly one of the greatest experiences for kids to compete amongst the top Opti sailors as well as make new and lifelong friends on and off the water. 

Results: In the finals, Peter Barnard placed 56th overall in Gold fleet and qualified for the USODA National Development Team. In Silver fleet, Jack Baldwin placed 58th and Christian Prendergast placed 70th out of the 148 boats.

The team practiced in the days leading up to the four-day regatta and experienced a wide range of conditions.  There were many things to take away from this regatta.

Body placement and technique had a huge influence on boat speed. Upwind, it was equally important to keep the boat flat windward to leeward as well as from bow to stern. In choppy conditions, sailors needed to sit slightly further aft to prevent the bow from taking on waves.

Downwind, the goal was to keep the boat planing on a wave. I noticed that many Opti sailors were conservative and sat too far back which prevented the boat from planning. The stern is the widest part of the Optimist; by sitting further forward downwind, the sailor is reducing the submerged area and drag of the stern, allowing the boat to stay on a wave. Surfing the wave meant riding the trough of the wave, coming up on the wave when you lost speed and riding down the wave in the puffs.

The current was another factor that needed to be considered daily.  For example, on the last day high tide was at 1:15pm so the current on the course was not only moving from left to right near the channel, but also down the course towards the shore. This meant sailors could be more aggressive at the start because the current was pushing them below the line. Additionally, having good course awareness was crucial in current. For instance, on the reach leg sailors needed to sail a higher angle to make the mark and compensate for the current sweeping them downwind away from the mark. It is always wise for a competitor to research tides, current direction, and depths before competing at a new venue. The location of where the course is set in relation to channels and depth will determine how the boat will be influenced by the current around the course.  

Something the sailors really focused on during this event was mental preparation. We utilized positive affirmations and visualization exercises to stay relaxed. When a sailor is dealing with high pressure situations in an important regatta, it is important to stay positive and neutral-not getting too high or low after race. The ability to bounce back from success or failure is critical to an athlete’s success on and off the water.   

A big thanks to the Opti parents for their help in planning logistics and for their on-shore support and assistance. Without your dedication, events like this would not be possible.  

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