TEAM STRAMMER/BROWN

Our Road to Rio: 2016 Olympic Games

ISAF Sailing World Championships Start Tomorrow

1 Comment »

Tomorrow begins racing for what is the first hurdle on our path to the Olympics. The ISAF Sailing World Championships marks the the halfway point for teams vying for the 2016 Games, combing all 10 Olympic class World Championships into one event. By the end of the week, half of the Olympic berths for each country will be awarded to top performing nations. We are thrilled to be here and we are thrilled to be healthy after 17 months of on and off sailing. As we get ready to begin a long and tough week of racing, we understand we may not be at our campaign’s personal best, but we are surely peaking in all facets of our campaign for this year. For the first event in 17 months, we are feeling our best going into a regatta and expectations are high!

Tomorrow, we will be racing on Somo or Santa Marina race cirlces

Tomorrow, we will be racing on Somo or Santa Marina race cirlces

Our first objective will be qualifying for the 25 boat Gold Fleet during the first two days of the regatta. By Wednesday, teams will be assigned to their respective fleets, and the fight will begin for countries trying to earn their Olympic spots. In the 49er class, 10 Olympic country berths will be awarded during the event. Zach and I, along with our compatriots, are hoping to finish in the top 10 countries at this event. The tentative forecast for the week has light winds dominating the qualification series and then better Southerlies midway through the event.

Vista over the boat park

Vista over the boat park

However our championship concludes, Zach and I are extremely thankful for all of the support of our friends and family. Your support has kept this dream alive and we are proud to be here and represent. To follow along online, please visit the official regatta webpage or check our website for daily updates.

Full Logo-300dpi

Zach and I would like to thank the US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider, the Osprey Foundation, our generous supportersGladstone’s Restaurant, Harken, and Kaenon Sunglasses for their support!

Help us qualify the United States for the 2016 Olympic Games by making a donation below. For tax deductible donations, click here.

If you have ideas on how to support our campaign, please contact us!

ISAF Worlds-Olympic Qualifier

September 2014 is the first country qualifier for Rio. Help us prepare and secure the American entry!
$8,280Raised10,000Target
Choose donation amount:

Rising Tide Video: US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider

No Comments »

 

ISAF Worlds-Olympic Qualifier

September 2014 is the first country qualifier for Rio. Help us prepare and secure the American entry!
$8,280Raised10,000Target
Choose donation amount:

Rio Test Event Regatta Recap

No Comments »

Four days of racing have concluded here in Rio leaving only today’s medal race for the top 10 boats. Unfortunately, we will not be racing today having barely survived an opening series with a boat that provided little opportunity to succeed. Zach and I knew on day one that our charter was not in top condition, and it was going to take a lot of work to make it faster. Despite our best efforts, we could not make her go anywhere near top 10 speed. Below is a full recap of the racing.

Day 1: The Calm Before the Storm

After a full week of predictable sea breeze conditions, the first day of the regatta yielded calm conditions; the presence of a cold front to the south disrupted the normal flow. As is typical, a northerly flow is present during the mid-mornings, and the race committee decided to try the 49ers in the dying breeze. We had three starts all postponed when conditions dropped below the 3kt wind speed.

A look upwind on the Pao Course Photo: Rio 2016 / Alex Ferro

A look downwind on the Pao Course
Photo: Rio 2016 / Alex Ferro

Day 2: Blustery Southwesterly

The weather system that stifled yesterday’s races reconciled with a full day of tricky sailing on the Pao course just off Flemenco Beach under the cliffs of Sugar Loaf. The wind ranged from 5-15kts, shifting through 40 unpredictable degrees as the wind sometimes funneled, sometimes wrapped around the land features surrounding the course. In truth, Zach and I enjoy these conditions and posted some decent results on this tough day, but nowhere near our best.

Day 3: Sea Breeze on the Ponte Course

The following day normalcy resumed with the breeze and the skiffs were sent to the “bridge course” at the head of the bay. We sailed two races in which it became alarmingly apparent that our boat was not going well. From the start, we slowly bled boats, eventually finding ourselves in last after one lap and then further behind after two. Zach and I also managed to have two “missed-clips” and subsequent man over-boards in the last day of the race adding to our frustrations.

Day 4: Sea Breeze Expected But Not Present

The final day of the opening series ended with a southerly zephyr late in the day on the “middle course” named Naval. One race was started and completed before the breeze shut off for good. The fading conditions offered us a chance to end with a decent finish for the event but still fall in the overall rankings. Full results are here.

Photo Credit: Will Ricketson US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider

Photo Credit: Will Ricketson US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider

The admonishments of our coaches were true when it came to this place. Brazil is unique and we have to embrace this place both on and off the water. This trip was a good trial run and we will learn from the challenges we faced when we come back for more training and events later in the year. Zach and I fly home Saturday night and get a few days rest before a month and a half travel in preparation for the ISAF World Championships. You can bet we are excited to get back to our racing boat and our training in Santander where we feel at home.

Full Logo-300dpi

Zach and I would like to thank the US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider, the Osprey Foundation, our generous supportersGladstone’s Restaurant, and Kaenon Sunglasses for their support!

Help us qualify the United States for the 2016 Olympic Games by making a donation below. For tax deductible donations, click here.

ISAF Worlds-Olympic Qualifier

September 2014 is the first country qualifier for Rio. Help us prepare and secure the American entry!
$8,280Raised10,000Target
Choose donation amount:

Rio Training Update

2 Comments »

Rio is by far one of the coolest places we have been for our training. Steep rock walls fall into the sea, sandy beaches are filled with tan locals, and iconic monuments like Christ the Redeemer high above in the background are a few of the things make this place truly unique. At the Marina Do Gloria where the regatta is held, monkeys harass the sailors along Flamenco Beach while commercial airlines roar less than a thousand feet over our heads. There is a lot going on down here in Rio and we are entertained!

Looking at the Pao course from Flamenco Beach

Looking at the Pao course from Flamenco Beach

The last week of training has been fun but also very challenging. Since arriving in Rio, we have spent the majority of our time dealing with equipment issues. The sails that Zach flew down here didn’t make it on his plane from Miami. We spent hours and days talking with the airline trying to locate the sails, then get them to Rio, THEN get them delivered to our hotel. Often we were told the sails would be delivered by the end of the day but we were subsequently disappointed. It wasn’t until one of our teammates spotted the sails in the basement of our hotel, yesterday, that we finally could put this issue to rest. We are still not sure how they got there, how long they have been there, and why they were delivered there. We are lucky to have them!

Local art

Local art

In the mean time we have been sailing, but also piecing together our charter boat. Equipment is hard to get in South America, and the boats here are mostly older. When things are broken, it is salvaged at all costs. We are chartering a 5 year old boat that has been damaged and repaired several times. The deck was re-gripped with a grey paint and abnormally course granules which, unfortunately, aren’t very “grippy” and ruin our boots and bloody Zach’s knuckles. We have spent every hour in the boat park working on our boat to get it ready to race: getting sticker residue off the hull, finding and rigging a new mast, replacing all lines and bungee, aligning the rudder gantry, sanding the foils, finding sails, and waxing the boat. After six days of work and speed testing, we are finally getting decent speed. But the boat drama doesn’t stop there. We learned on arrival that our hull was missing the ISAF plaque and several class serial stickers on the wings and spinnaker pole. We went through the measurement process hoping the jury would allow our boat to race despite the infractions. Luckily, we are valid to sail the event, but we lost a day of sailing getting all the paperwork sorted.

Despite our bad luck with the charter, the sailing has been incredible. Each hour presents a new race course with different variables to consider. In many ways, the racing here is refreshingly difficult. The week ahead should be a lot of fun racing!

View from the hotel on the Niteroi side

View from the hotel on the Niteroi side

Off the water, we are thoroughly enjoying the team atmosphere. Team USA is across the bay in the town of Niteroi. We are all in the same hotel, which never happens, and it has been fun hanging out with our peers from other classes. There have been lots of dinners, hangouts on the porches at night, and even a few morning soccer games. We make the 15-20 minute commute each day by powerboat to avoid the 1-3 hour traffic crossing the bridge at the top of the bay. Driving is a bit crazy down here, so we don’t mind the crossing.

Tomorrow begins racing for the Test Event. Considering our boat situation, we are hoping to enjoy the event and learn what we can about the venue and the city for more racing and training later in the year.

McLube

Zach and I would like to thank the US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider, the Osprey Foundation, our generous supportersGladstone’s Restaurant, and Kaenon Sunglasses for their support!

Help us qualify the United States for the 2016 Olympic Games by making a donation below. For tax deductible donations, click here.

ISAF Worlds-Olympic Qualifier

September 2014 is the first country qualifier for Rio. Help us prepare and secure the American entry!
$8,280Raised10,000Target
Choose donation amount:

Our Road to Rio — The Test Event

No Comments »

That’s right. Zach and I are finally sailing on the Olympic waters of Rio De Janeiro just two years out from the 2016 Olympic Games. Moments like this are incredibly surreal. This is the place that has been in our sights for the last three years. This is the place we hope to make history in 2016. We are really excited to be here!

Commuting across the bay to Rio with Christ the Redeemer in the backdrop

Commuting across the bay to Rio with Christ the Redeemer in the backdrop

Despite our excitement, we are focused on the task at hand. To get to Rio in 2016, we need to qualify the country and our first chance is in September at the ISAF Combined World Championships. No doubt we have pointed out the significance of this event in every blog we have posted, and for good reason. We would consider the last year and a half a huge success if we were to finish in the top ten countries at the Worlds. We will have proven that despite our time away from training on the water, we have continued to show world class progress in every other facet of our program. Results are undoubtedly an important and simple indicator of a team’s success, but the time and energy needed onshore to make an Olympic campaign successful is equally as important.

We are here in Rio to build on the progress we saw at the Europeans by sharpening our racing skills against top International teams. We want close crosses, tough lanes, starting line battles, and raw boat speed lineups in the most difficult sailing conditions in the Southern Hemisphere. Guanabara Bay in Rio is known for tricky tidal currents that swirl in and out of the harbor. The geography of the harbor and the sea floor create hidden eddies and varying tidal rates throughout the bay that are ever changing. From the stories we have heard from locals who grew up racing on the bay, Zach and I will have our hands full trying to identify how to play these waters!

Course Area Diagram

Course Area Diagram

Racing begins on August 4th which gives us a week of training before the big event. Until then, we will be logging hours against the worlds best with an informal practice regatta starting on the 30th. In addition to our knowledge on the water, we will also be learning a lot about living here in Rio so we may learn to enjoy the venue for everything it has to offer since we anticipate spending a lot more time here in the future. More updates to come later in the week.

MarlowRopes01

Zach and I would like to thank the US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider, the Osprey Foundation, our generous supportersGladstone’s Restaurant, and Kaenon Sunglasses for their support!

Help us qualify the United States for the 2016 Olympic Games by making a donation below. For tax deductible donations, click here.

ISAF Worlds-Olympic Qualifier

September 2014 is the first country qualifier for Rio. Help us prepare and secure the American entry!
$8,280Raised10,000Target
Choose donation amount:

European Championships End; Rio On The Horizon

No Comments »

Races concluded on Sunday for the 2014 49er European Championships. After a tough qualifying series, Zach and I managed to put together some great races finishing the regatta with a pair of 3s. Overall, we finish the event 39th out of 89 boats, 9th in Silver Fleet, and top North American. We are seeing great progress in our ability to work together and execute. When we have great starts and fast first beats, we are finishing with top 3 finishes. We are happy with our speed and know that another month healing my shoulder will put our boat handling back on par for a top finish at the ISAF Worlds in September. There is little doubt that our anticipated comeback has been slow, much slower than we had hoped, but we are still optimistic and still working hard knowing that we still have time before we need to peak.

Rocks surrounding the racecourse made for short courses and lots of action!

Rocks surrounding the racecourse made for short courses and lots of action!

Zach and I are now back at home for a short break from competition, but still ever pursuing our projects and goals for the next event. Our last international competition before the Worlds is right around the corner, far south in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. August 4th begins racing at the Rio Test Event which will be our first look at the olympic racecourse. No doubt we are excited to have a look at this important venue to gain insight into venue specific training after the Worlds, and with a strong US Sailing Team presence in all the Olympic classes, it will surely be a fun event!

Harken Logo 1

Zach and I would like to thank the US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider, the Osprey Foundation, our generous supportersGladstone’s Restaurant, and Kaenon Sunglasses for their support!

Help us qualify the United States for the 2016 Olympic Games by making a donation below. For tax deductible donations, click here.

ISAF Worlds-Olympic Qualifier

September 2014 is the first country qualifier for Rio. Help us prepare and secure the American entry!
$8,280Raised10,000Target
Choose donation amount:

European Championships: Qualification Series Ends

No Comments »

Light winds prevailed the first two days here in Finland with breeze filling in for the final day of the qualification series.

The first day of the event, we sailed in the lee of the land right off the shore from where we launched. The racing was tight and extremely tricky with no side truly dominating the day. We were quite happy with our starts, being able to battle minutes on the line for our desired spot and executing clean accelerations. After the start, the race got more difficult with the early edges rarely paying. The top teams were frequently falling into the pelaton and often the last decision of the triple lap race decided the final outcome. We battled with our speed having made a last minute adjustment to our tuning prior to launching which made our decision making difficult. We made a lot of great decisions but didn’t have the ability to capitalize at the end. We finished the day with a disappointing 22-19-20.

The following day yielded no wind and, therefore, no races. Wednesday was our only chance to improve our standing before fleets split to Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Yesterday conditions were ideal with 16-20kts and sunny skies. We raced on the far course, course “C”, which had some innately difficult characteristics of its own. Finland has many small islands dotting its coastline with small channels to navigate through the submerged rock piles and islands. Course C is a quick sail away through these narrow channels, sometimes narrowing to 40′, and has a solitary rock and rock pile located next to each other on the bottom, middle left side of the race course. Earlier in the week, these features proved a to be a menace, taking out several centerboards and granting mass redress for poorly marked water hazards.

Course areas

Course areas

Zach and I sailed four races yesterday with great results: 13-7-12-5 moving us up considerably to secure our position in the Silver Fleet. We are still working out through our injuries and time away to get back to where we were in April of 2013 and looking forward to more racing time. Luckily, great wind is forecasted for the rest of the week! For full results, check the European Championships website.

OrangeK-Horizontal

Zach and I would like to thank the US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider, the Osprey Foundation, our loyal supportersGladstone’s Restaurant, and Kaenon Sunglasses for their support!

Help us qualify the United States for the 2016 Olympic Games by making a donation below. For tax deductible donations, click here.

ISAF Worlds-Olympic Qualifier

September 2014 is the first country qualifier for Rio. Help us prepare and secure the American entry!
$8,280Raised10,000Target
Choose donation amount:

From Kiel To Finland

No Comments »

Zach and I are now in Helsinki, Finland after some time off from training. This week, we are competing in our first European Championship. This is our first time to the area and it is absolutely beautiful. Before we talk about this week, let’s recap Kiel.

Kiel Recap

We had two cancelled sailing days at this event due to wind at both extremes. throughout our race series, we had great speed and put together full races for several single digit and top 5 results. Unfortunately, we did have two DNS’s in our scorecard: one from our spinnaker pole snapping and the other from retiring from a windy race to save my shoulder. These two results hurt our chances of making Gold Fleet especially in this truncated series. We did, however, fulfilled our goal of gaining racing experience leading up to the Worlds this September. As part of our four month plan, we will sail 4 regattas; focusing on working together in these high intensity circumstances. This is what our team needs the most after 8 months away from the boat.

BBQ with our favorite German friends!

BBQ with our favorite German friends!

Thank you Block Family for your continued hospitality and friendship!

Thank you Block Family for your continued hospitality and friendship!

Time Off and 4 Month Plan Revisited

Our non-sailing segments leading up to the Worlds this September are carefully planned and as important as our training. For me, every trip back to the US means a trip to Miami to check in with my medical staff to make sure my shoulder continues to improve. It’s also an opportunity for me to focus on my workouts, which contribute significantly to my recovery. Additionally, we use this time to work on projects. Our biggest project this week was acquiring Brazilian visas on short term notice. The consulate is unusually packed with soccer fans going to the World Cup!

As part of our plan, Kiel, the Europeans, the Rio Test Event, and the 49er North Americans are our four training events this year. Between competing at these events and “time off” we are hoping that we will be able to completely heal my shoulder and peak for the Worlds. With the guidance of the US Sailing and Miami medical staff, we feel confident we will be able to achieve a top performance in Santander!

49er European Championships

Racing begins tomorrow and we are expecting easterly winds at 8-12 knots all day. The forecast for the week supports great sailing conditions and we are excited to see how we compete against this stronger fleet. For information and results you can check out the regatta website.

sperryUSA

Zach and I would like to thank the US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider, the Osprey Foundation, our loyal supportersGladstone’s Restaurant, and Kaenon Sunglasses for their support!

Help us qualify the United States for the 2016 Olympic Games by making a donation below. For tax deductible donations, click here.

ISAF Worlds-Olympic Qualifier

September 2014 is the first country qualifier for Rio. Help us prepare and secure the American entry!
$8,280Raised10,000Target
Choose donation amount:

Day 1 Kieler Woche Regatta

2 Comments »

Zach and I are now in Kiel, Germany competing in our first event together since the 49er World Championships in September of last year–almost 9 months ago. We are very happy to be back competing again and welcome the chance to sail at the Kieler Woche Regatta. This is a incredible event tied to a huge festival that runs for several weeks.

Skipper's meeting and cloudy skies

Skipper’s meeting and cloudy skies

Today was a famous windy and wet summer day here in Northern Germany  as we were greeted with cool temperatures and showers. We sailed three races in the yellow fleet during our first day of qualifying races. Conditions were challenging as we sailed out in unprotected water–a rarity for our class since we are usually the course closest to shore for spectators. A confused 2-4′ chop was prevalent and the wind ranged from 12-25kts. After an hour postponement as the race committee wrangled with their anchors, we race a triple windward leeward. Without a doubt, my time away from racing made the race more difficult than necessary, but we sailed several great legs to finish 6th.

Getting the feel of going fast in traffic again

Getting the feel of going fast in traffic again

 

We met misfortune in race two when our spinnaker pole broke, folding in half as we went high to roll a boat downwind on the first run. This is a first for the both of us, but we weren’t fazed. We raced back to shore, replaced it, and were back ready to go for race 3. The breeze was built considerably during our last race to our favor. We were leading the first beat when we mis-judged the port lay line. Rounding the windward mark in 5th, we were bombing downwind with a large up phase in the pressure. As we got to the “gybe spot” we watched as boats ahead of us capsized. Thinking conservatively, we opted for a “chicken gybe” which meant we doused our spinnaker, tacked around instead of gybed, and then reached to the leeward marks on port. We successfully accomplished this maneuver and were flying on just two sails when a monster puff took us out. Sometimes we are going so fast that it’s difficult to keep the bow up! We capsized along with a majority of the fleet, and I made the call to save my shoulder for another day.

Sometimes it feels like controlled chaos

Sometimes it feels like controlled chaos

Tomorrow we expect more breeze and shifty conditions but less waves as we sail just off the dock on the “TV Course”. Live coverage of the racing can be seen here. Unfortunately, our two non-finishes today make us ineligible for Gold Fleet racing, top 25 boats after tomorrow. Currently we are in 47th. We are extremely upset that we won’t be able to enjoy the tight racing at the top, but we are happy with how we are sailing. We know that we are still a month away from being fully operational again, and we are quickly ticking off the boxes in preparation for the Santander Worlds. We are truly thankful for the support we have had during our hiatus from our friends who have never stopped believing.

gladstone

Zach and I would like to thank the US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider, the Osprey Foundation, our loyal supportersGladstone’s Restaurant, and Kaenon Sunglasses for their support!

June Training In Europe Begins

4 Comments »

Less than 800 days remain until the opening ceremonies in Rio De Janeiro, and already the pressure is on to prepare. Zach and I arrive today at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport for another stint of concentrated European training with the world’s best. In less than 48 hours we will have left our respective homes stateside to drive our equipment from the storage facility in Amsterdam to Santander, Spain. We have made training in Europe, and especially Santander, a priority over the next four months so we have a proper balance between practices and races. Many of our supporters often ask us if we enjoy our time sailing and traveling throughout the world, and I respond with mixed emotions. Without a doubt, we are privilege to see and experience the world, but we are in the pursuit of the acme of sport performance, which leaves us with few days to fully take advantage of our circumstance. Of course, experiencing different cultures means different foods are available, or not, and we have mixed emotions about this too! We try to always keep a few items on us just in case.

Frank's Red Hot Sauce, Cholula Lime, Mrs. Butter's Worth Syrup, Pancakes batter, Chili seasoning, Mr. Stubbs BBQ sauce, and soy sauce are some just some staples.

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, Cholula Lime, Mrs. Butter’s Worth Syrup, Pancakes batter, Chili seasoning, Mr. Stubbs BBQ sauce, and soy sauce are some just some staples.

For the next two weeks, Zach and I will be training in Santander, Spain which will host the 2014 ISAF Combined World Championships and the battle royal for Olympic country qualification. Having experienced a similar qualification regatta at the 2012 49er World Championships, we understand the importance and subsequent drama an event like this can have. It is our hope that our familiarity with the venue will help to give us a mental edge to get the job done and qualify the United States in September. Santander is a “heavy” venue in terms of the sea state we can expect. Swells can easily reach 2+ meters in combination with a “washing machine” like sea state on a few race circles. During our time training here this month, we will focus on sailing in these tough sea conditions.

Revisiting our 5 year plan

Revisiting our 5 year plan

As part of our 2014 goal, we are also expanding our knowledge by contracting coaches for specific needs. Unlike other Olympic classes, the 49er is a relatively new class and has several distinct developments over the course of its history. Boats sailed at the 2008 Olympic Games are almost completely different than the boats sailed in London just four years later; notably, the mast went from carbon and aluminum with a round-top main to a full carbon mast with a square-top main. As such, there are very few 49er experts for private hire since the best ones are the sailors we compete against! Creative thinking, thanks to a few of you, has helped us narrow down some talented coaches, but their fees come at a premium. We need your support to help us round out this coaching budget!

Santander Test Event 2013

Santander Test Event 2013

From Santander, Zach and I travel north to Kiel, Germany for one of our favorite events: Kieler Woche Regatta. This will be our first regatta together since the 2013 World Championships last September and an opportunity for us to dust off the cobwebs. 49er sailing is fun, but competition is what we live for! Looking forward to visiting with the Block Family during our time there!

More to come on our training and travels once we are settled in Santander.

gladstone

 Zach and I would like to thank the US Sailing Team Sperry Topsider, the Osprey Foundation, our loyal supportersGladstone’s Restaurant, and Kaenon Sunglasses for their support!

ISAF Worlds-Olympic Qualifier

September 2014 is the first country qualifier for Rio. Help us prepare and secure the American entry!
$8,280Raised10,000Target
Choose donation amount:

sperryUSA