clay's blog

Not Good Enough...

By clay - Posted on 17 December 2011

This is the hardest blog entry I've had to write in the past three years.  I went into today with a 35 point cushion on Rob Crane and a 40 point cushion on Brad Funk in our US Olympic Trials.  All I had to do was be within five places of Rob and stay four places or more in front of Brad, and I would be going to the Olympics.

We sailed two races in about 4-8 knots and chop.  The breeze was from the sea breeze direction, but it took it's time to fill in.  In the first race, I had a good start at the boat and tacked out to the right.  The right looked good early in the sea breeze, and I was leading the charge over there.  A few minutes after the start a boat to leeward of me tacked quickly on to starboard.  At first I was surprised he tacked, then I thought I could cross him, but at the last second I realized I couldn't and fouled.  He started screaming "protest" and I had to do a 720 penalty turn.  All of a sudden I was in the back of the fleet.  When the breeze is light and the track is short with many laps (we sailed three lap trapezoids on shorter courses) it's very difficult to catch up.  I ended up 41st in the first race.  To make matters worse, Rob ended up winning the race and Brad was in the low 20s.

Determined to be more aggressive in the second race, and knowing that the points were close, I started right at the favored pin end of the line.  I had an awesome start, winning the pin, and sailing to the left.  I was winning the race, and Rob and Brad were in the middle in not that great of a spot.  I sailed out on starboard until I got pretty headed, tacked and crossed the fleet in first place.  As I sailed into the middle, the breeze got lighter for me and pressure filled on the sides.  I hitched back to the left for the pressure, but couldn't get to it in time.  Finally, at the top a righty came in which hurt.  I rounded in the 20s and could only climb back to 21st in the race. 

Rob Crane had a 1-2 on the day to stage a massive comeback and win our US Olympic Trials.  I have to give him credit because he had an amazing day on the water.  He played the first beats very well and was 1st and 5th at the two weather marks.  From there, he just stayed in front and did what he had to do.  I ended the regatta in 23rd place and ended up beating Brad on a tie-breaker to take 2nd in the US Trials. 

But if you're not first, you're last....


Another Atypical Day in Perth

By clay - Posted on 15 December 2011

Today was the first day of Gold fleet racing, and we sailed two races in a shifty, puffy 5-15 knot offshore breeze.  In the first race I had a great start near the boat and played the middle right.  I was a little out of phase at the top, and I ended up rounding in about 20th.  I was able to pick off a few boats throughout the race and ended up with a 13th, which is a keeper in Gold fleet!

In the second race, I liked the left side of the course.  I had another good start in the middle-pin area and sailed off the line on the lifted tack.  I had good speed and was looking to lead the group back from the left, when the breeze kept shifting right and right.  The beat turned into 80% starboard tack, and I was hung out to dry.  I rounded in the deep 30s and tried to catch up, but I made a mistake on the second beat by sailing in the middle.  There was much more pressure on both sides, and I kind of got swallowed up by the fleet.  I ended the race with a 44, which is fortunately my drop!

Tomorrow is a lay day and then we have two final races on Saturday before the medal race on Sunday.


Two Keeper Scores on Last Day of Qualifying

By clay - Posted on 14 December 2011

Today was a very tricky day on the water.  I was in Yellow fleet today, and as luck would have it, I started third again!  After a short postponement ashore for my fleet, I headed out in what looked like a light sea breeze.  The sea breeze never really came in though, and the breeze dropped from 10-12 at first to 5-6 for the most part of the day.  It was light, very lumpy, and very shifty.

In the first race, I had a mediocre start in the middle and was bounced around a bit before rounding in the low 20s.  I had an ok downwind, passing a few boats, and then headed for more pressure out on the left.  I was able to get some pressure and big left shift to pass a lot more boats and move into 9th place at the weather mark!  The race became a bit of a parade after that since there were too many fleets on the course to move the marks enough.  I ended up with an 8th.

In the second race, I really liked the pin and decided to get a bit more aggressive on the line.  I won the pin end and was looking great!  A few hundred yards off the line, there was a big left shift and pressure and all the boats above me were pointed at my stern.  I tacked and crossed the fleet, pointed at the next mark.  A few boats went behind me and further into the lefty.  As we sailed across the beat, the wind went further left, and I ended up rounding in 4th.  I was duking it out with some guys around there, but I think we all hurt each other a bit too much and allowed a few guys to catch up.  What could have been a race for a top three or four turned into a six person battle for 3rd.  I missed a puff on the last beat to fall back to 7th.  I passed one on the reach and held on to 6th at the finish.

It was a tough day out there, and a lot of people put up some high numbers.  Tomorrow starts Gold Fleet racing, and with the points so close, I'm looking to have some more good races to move up a bit more.


Tricky Day Two

By clay - Posted on 13 December 2011

Today was the second day of the World Championships, and once again, I was in the fleet that started last.  I sailed out in a cloudy, stormy 10 knots and waited for the first two fleets to finish their race before starting mine.

My race was anywhere from 5-15 knots.  I had an ok start in the middle and quickly tacked to port, leading the fleet to the right.  I was looking good as the guys on my hip all started to cave, but it was so choppy and light that whoever was in the brief pressure looked best.  I ended up rounding in about 12th, but it was pretty crowded.  On the first downwind, I got nervous that the course-right side had more pressure, so I sailed all the way over there.  But by the time I got there, the cloud had gone by and I was in less breeze.  I went right for more pressure on the second beat, but a huge lefty and pressure came in, and I struggled to get back.  I tried to gain as much as I could, but could only claw back to 25th by the finish.  It was a weird, unpredictable, and tricky race!

In the second race, the breeze was up more which made it easier to use my speed.  I had another ok start in the middle and crossed to the left.  At the top mark, I found myself in about 10th.  The top four boats pulled away from the fleet, and I was in a group from 5th-12th.  I had a good first wind to move up to 6th, and then I bounced around there for the rest of the race before finishing in 6th.

It's been weird so far in Perth.  No "Doctor" sea breeze, but instead two stormy, rainy days.  It was very unstable today.

Two more races tomorrow before we split into Gold-Silver-Bronze for Thursday.


Solid Opening Day at the Worlds

By clay - Posted on 12 December 2011

Today was the first day of the World Championships in Perth, Australia.  I was in Red Fleet and waited until the other two fleets finished their races before starting mine.  There was a bit of uncertainty in the morning about the start time which lead to a couple hours at the boat park.  At 1:15 we finally headed out to the course for a 2:45 first start.  By the time we started, the breeze was 15-18 knots with big waves.  There were also lightning and thunderstorms all around us today!  It was wet and windy!

In my first race, I had a good start near the boat, but there was a big lefty early in the race.  I tacked out underneath the group from the pin and played the middle right.  At the top, I got passed by boats from both sides and rounded in the low 20s.  I had a great rest of the race and picked off a few boats each leg to claw my way back to a solid 8th!

After the first race, the breeze picked up into the low 20s.  The pin was a little favored, but the group was really pushing the line.  I started above the group and had great speed off the line.  I was in the top five most of the way up the beat, but got a little out of phase at the top to round in 10th.  I had an awesome downwind to move into 5th place.  I stayed in 5th for the rest of the race.

Overall, it was a solid first day.  Two more races are scheduled for tomorrow.


Short-listed for Rolex Yachtsman of the Year; Ready for Racing in Perth!

By clay - Posted on 09 December 2011

I received some exciting news a couple days ago when I learned that I was short-listed for the 2011 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award!  It's a huge honor to be mentioned alongside some of the best sailors in the United States, and it was nice to be recognized for the good year I've had on the water.  Here's the press release.

Back to the task at hand:  The big day is almost here!  On Monday, the Laser World Championship starts in Perth, Australia.  This regatta is important for a lot of reasons.  Primarily, this regatta is the second half of the US Olympic Trials.  The results from this regatta, coupled with the results from the Sail For Gold Regatta in Weymouth, England, last summer, will select the sole US representative for the Olympics next year.  At the Sail For Gold Regatta, Brad Funk, Rob Crane, and I were all pretty close, so the spot is still up for grabs next week.

All stickered up and ready for racing!  Photo Credit: Mike Kalin

Secondly, this event is the first opportunity to qualify our country for the Olympics.  The top 35 countries at the Worlds will qualify their country, while the remaining spots will be given out at next year's Worlds in Germany in May.

Finally, this regatta is for the World Championship.  Not only will this be the most competitive regatta of the year, but I think this Worlds will be the most competitive regatta of the quad.  While the Olympics is always a challenging event for many reasons, the Worlds features multiple sailors from the same country.  Moreover, this regatta plays a role in every country's Olympic aspirations, so I expect it to be tough!

I've been in Perth for almost a month now, so I've had plenty of time on the water, in the gym, and on my bike.  I've said before, the training before the Worlds is the best anywhere because all of the top guys are here and sailing every day.  Last week, for example, we were doing rabbit start races with almost 100 of the best Laser sailors in the world!  It was a sight to see!

Enjoying Christmas Down Under at the Opening Ceremonies with Derick Vranizan. It was 100 degrees that day! Photo Credit: Mike Kalin

I'm feeling ready for the event, and I'm anxious for it to start.  It's been a long campaign, but one I've enjoyed thoroughly and hope that I can prolong!  Because I'm at the ISAF Worlds, an event that happens once every quad, all of the classes are here for their World Championships.  They've divided the regatta into two halves, with the Radials, Finns, Men's 470, and Women's RSX classes sailing the first week, and the Lasers, Stars, Women's 470, Men's RSX, and 49er sailing the second week.  So watching and waiting for the other classes to finish their regatta has been interesting.  It's cool to track the results and cheer on my US teammates in the World Championship, but at the same time, it's made me want to get going with my own event.

So I'm anxious to get going!  Check back on Monday for an update after racing!

Update From Perth

By clay - Posted on 30 November 2011

I've been in Perth for over two weeks now, and the training has been going really well.  For the most part, we've had between 15-25 knots out of the sea breeze direction.  We have seen a few days where it's been really hot out which has lead to a stronger offshore breeze in the morning and a lighter sea breeze in the afternoon.  The bottom line is I'm still expecting a windy Worlds, but I wouldn't be surprised if we had a day or two of light to medium breeze.

I say it every year, but the training before the worlds is the best you will ever get.  Everyone is arriving early and training hard, and after a few line ups and speed-testing on the way to the race course, we all get together for a few races as a group.  It's really cool to compare speed with all of the top sailors in a low-key setting before the event starts.

On Friday, December 2nd, there will be an opening ceremonies that we're all attending.  In fact, the regatta organizers are making it "mandatory" by shutting down all of the venues until 3 PM so people don't skip it to practice.  All of the athletes are going to be ferried up the Swan River and into Perth city in their team uniforms for the ceremonies.  It should be pretty cool! 

Later this weekend, we get our event boats as part of the early charter program.  I'll have access to my event boat for the week or so before the regatta starts, which will be nice to get used to.  This year the boats will be assigned based on ISAF ranking, so our sail numbers will be our world rankings at the time of the registration list.  We'll also get American Flag stickers to put on our sails so that it will be really spectator friendly.

The city of Perth and Fremantle have done a great job preparing for this event.  Everything is running smoothly so far, and I'm ready to get racing!  12 more days until my event starts!

"Center of Effort" Blog Article

By clay - Posted on 23 November 2011

Check out this great interview on the "Center of Effort" blog by Judy Krimski!  In the interview I talk about the campaign process and the Olympic Trials!


Happy Thanksgiving from Down Under!

Perth Training

By clay - Posted on 21 November 2011

After a 36 hour trip from NYC to Perth, Australia, I arrived last Monday night.  On Tuesday I retrieved my Laser that I purchased last year and left in Perth and prepped that for practice.  Then I went to the gym for a workout and worked on getting over the jet lag.  Perth is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, so it's pretty much the exact opposite schedule for being awake and asleep.  It's tough to get used to! 

Since last Wednesday, I've been sailing, working out, and biking quite a bit.  A typical day for me is waking up at about 8 AM and having some breakfast.  Then I head to the gym for either a workout or a bike ride.  I come home for a quick shower and a bite to eat before heading down to the Fremantle Sailing Club at about 11.  After rigging and getting changed, I head out on the water from about 12-3 with the group of international Laser sailors who are here training.  We typically do some speed tests and line-ups before setting a course and doing about three medium sized windward-leeward races.  Then I head in, de-rig, shower and sort out my gear, and come home for some food and relaxation.

The conditions have been exactly what I've expected:  we've had about 20 knots with medium sized waves, temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s, and lots of sun.

Everything has been going really well, and I'm enjoying my time down under.  On Thursday, a bunch of Laser sailors are getting together for a Thanksgiving dinner, so it'll be nice to be with some friends and eat some Turkey.

The plan is to continue to train for the next few weeks before tapering for the regatta which starts on December 12th!

Off to Perth!

By clay - Posted on 10 November 2011

Since returning home from the Pan American Games a few weeks ago, I've taken some time off from sailing while still working out in the gym and on my road bike.  Over Halloween, I went up to Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead, MA, to sail in the Halloween Team Race.  What a difference a week makes!  The week before I was sailing my Laser in 95 degrees and light air in Mexico, and over Halloween I was sailing a Sonar in 30 degrees and very windy conditions in Massachusetts.  The event was a lot of fun and was a nice change of pace from the Laser scene.

On Saturday, I start the long trip to Perth, Australia.  My route is JFK to Dubai, Dubai to Perth and should take about 35+ hours door-to-door.  I'm pretty sure Perth is about as far away from NJ as possible.  Once there, I'm going to start training for about a month.  Then I'll sail the World Championships which starts on December 12th and will serve as our final qualifier for the Olympics.  It's amazing how quickly the past three years have gone by, but I'm ready for the event to start!

Check back for updates on my training in Perth!

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