My week at Oakcliff Sailing Center
Last week I travelled from Corpus Christi, Texas to Oyster Bay, New York as I continued my summer training in pursuit of the 2016 Rio Games. Departing Corpus, I was glad that I had some alone time to think about the events leading up to Youth Champs and to gain some clarity and begin to focus on my goal in the NACRA17, the Olympic Games in Rio!
I have to admit, the idea of sailing on Long Island Sound in the month of August was not a thrilling one to me. The only place that I have attended a regatta where we were unable to sail was on the Sound…and it happened three times over my sailing career. I was headed to Oakcliff Sailing Center for a US Sailing Team practice then to celebrate the launch of the Teams official summer home and finally to race at the NACRA17 National Championships, so it was going to be a great experience regardless of the wind.
When I got to Oakcliff late on Sunday night, I was amazed at the amount of space and the variety of their facility. A sail loft, debriefing/meeting space, boat repair facilities, beach, sailor housing…this place appears to go on forever. I dropped off my trailer and called it a night. On Monday I met some of the staff as I moved my trailer to it’s proper place for the week and began unloading my equipment. Jay Keohe, Dawn Riley and all the staff at Oakcliff were amazing.
I immediately felt like I was at home at Oakcliff. They showed me around, gave me a quick orientation on their structure and told me that everyone was here to help me get whatever I needed to get done. The emphasis was on helping me get it done, not do it for me…As I was unloading and then setting up my boat, there was a lot of commotion as Oakcliff’s new NACRA 17’s had arrived in a container along with all of our new carbon fibre masts. When I had my boat rigged, I was able to talk with some more of the people and help out a bit.
The rest of the week was spent assembling boats, discussing and reconfiguring rigging as more and more of the team showed up and we compared notes and some sailing in light breeze on the bay. Since my partner Katie Flood showed up on Monday night, we were able to go over everything on the boat and began working out our maneuvers on the NACRA 17 as this is the first time we have been on the boat together.
Katie and I have had a few opportunities to sail together over the last year. We spent some time sailing at Miami Yacht Club on my F16, sailed at the Spring Fever together and even went up to Clearwater for some training with Robbie, but it was all on my F16 and she never wanted to drive. On the 17, Katie was going to take the helm, so there were a lot of learning moments for us. A big, powerful boat that lacks the forgiving behavior of an F16 and sailing with the best of the best at our practice and then the National Champs was a daunting task, but we were both up to the challenge.
Racing proved to be great for us. We needed to work out our communication, especially on the starts but we were able to get up on the line, have some quality starts and sailed pretty well together! The variety of wind strength proved to be good for us, we would have been exhausted if there was big breeze all day every day of the regatta so when it got light, it gave both Katie and I an opportunity to catch our breath and rebuild for the next race.
Our regatta results showed us that we have a lot of work to do. We had finishes that ranged from DFL (we capsized downwind in one race) all the way up to a third place finish in the last race of Nationals. Katie did a great job at the helm, and was able to point out some issues I was having on my spin trimming. Our timing, movements across the boat and communication continually improved and we both felt like it was a positive learning experience! It’s great to have someone that lives in the same town so we can maximize our opportunities to get on the water to practice whenever possible.
Overall I was impressed with Oakcliff Sailing Center and I can’t wait till I get to go back there to sail with some amazing athletes and incredible people. It is awesome that they are now the US Sailing Team training facility, because it will give me the opportunity to go back often!