Painful Lessons Learned This Summer

If it takes pain to grow…then I have grown a ton this summer as I have had many painful lessons learned this summer!

When I decided to sail in the 2013 US Sailing Youth Champs this summer, I knew that it would take a lot of focus, dedication and work to become the youth champion. I was willing to put in the time and effort, but first I needed a plan…and then a crew to make it all happen!

Before I set out to find a crew for youth champs (Taylor had turned 18 so he was not eligible for Youth Worlds next year) I wanted to put together a training program that would give me every opportunity to accomplish my goal.  That way prospective crew would understand what they were getting into before they agreed to come on board.

Having spent nearly half of my life sailing competitively, I have learned a lot about how to train for highly competitive events. It requires that you sail with high quality coaches, train with and compete against competition that was as good and hopefully far better than the competition you were going to face at the event you are training for and to keep mental and emotional distractions to a minimum while training! With this all in mind, I put together a program that would give me all of this and more. I had training in several locations in the USA and Europe, two top level regattas overseas and sailing with two top coaches from around the globe.  Having this in place, I went searching for a crew…

Time was of the essence as the US Sailing deadline for the event was only a month after being informed that Youth Champs was the qualifier for next year’s Youth Worlds and so I talked with many sailors I knew, none had any cat experience, but we had time to work through those issues. Unfortunately, the pressure of having to leave the boat they have been training on to jump into a boat they have never even seen let alone sailed was too much and they each decided it best to stay in their current boat to apply for the regatta. Not to worry, I was able to find someone with a little bit of cat experience who was willing to sail my training schedule to be able to win.  Problem solved, right?

As we were going through this process, it was suggested to me that sailing with more than one coach might be bad for results.  Furthermore, I was told that training and racing in Europe before Youth Champs was a waste of time and money because I could accomplish my goal by staying in the States. It was tactfully delivered and made me think that I was putting too much effort into my plan and I could possibly achieve my goal with less travel and more time on the Gulf.

So Max and I changed our plan, and we trained in the USA mostly with just a coach and us and occasionally added a local team for a few days as training partners. We sailed in the Northeast, in Florida and in Wisconsin before getting our feet wet sailing at US Nationals.  We did not sail well as we were a bit overwhelmed at being our first real regatta together.

David and Max in Racine

We then headed down to Corpus…We did not win…We did not sail well…It was an eye opening experience.

I realized that first of all, I should have focused on winning Youth Champs and not Youth Worlds as much and sailed with Katie as we had sailed well together in the past and since we are both in Miami, we had plenty of time to sail together. Grabbing someone with little racing experience and someone I had never sailed with prior to being selected to race Youth Champs together was not a good idea! Nothing bad about Max, I should have had better focus on the important goal and the need to sail with someone I knew before committing to an important event.

The most important lesson I learned was to always trust my instincts. Not going to Europe was a mistake. I had lined up top coaches from South America and training partners that were far stronger in the boat than anyone at home. My sailing history had told me this was important but I was convinced that this was not the best for me. I should have realized that other people may not have my best interest at heart and they may have an agenda that differed from my goal of winning. I needed to follow my plan and trained the way I had found to be effective through my past experience.

So I did not meet my goal at US Sailing Youth Champs.  I did not win.  I lost the regatta. But not all is lost!

I learned an important lesson and that is to trust my instincts, think with a clear head (not emotions) and make decisions that I know are best for my future, regardless of what others say or think. This is an important lesson to learn as I transition into a full-time campaign for the 2016 Olympics in the Nacra 17.

I know that I will have a lot of people offering advice as I work towards the US Olympic Trials for Rio, some of that advice will be valuable and offered with good intention and others will try to derail my progress towards success because it is not important to them or it otherwise is not good for them for me to do what is necessary to win. I will have to take all these comments and process them through my experience and make a decision on what is going to be best for my future. After all, the decisions I make will directly affect my future.

So I did not reach my goal.  I failed! But in failure I have learned important lessons that have already made me stronger and will help me to be successful moving forward.

David and Max sailing in Corpus Christi, Texas

My sailing at this elite level can only happen with the support of my parents and sisters, my coaches on the US Sailing Team, my campaign contributors and sponsors. Thank you to Harken, Keanon, SEA and Sperry Top Sider for believing in me and making it possible for me to become a great person and an elite athlete in my sport. Lets keep it going and show them all what dedication and the youthful spirit can do!

I love sailing and I love the thrill of competition on the water. I am dedicated to my own success and know that there will be bumps in the road as I work towards becoming the best I can be. I am strong and can take my lumps. They will not stop me, they will not prevent me from winning! Those bumps in the road…bumps by any name will only help to make me stronger, more focused and more dedicated to achieve greatness!

If you are a sailor, you know what I am talking about. If you are not a sailor, come for a sail with me and I will show you why harnessing the power of nature and the energy of Mother Earth is the greatest thrill that anyone can enjoy in this life we live!