I spent the last week in chilly Clearwater, Florida training with some top US and international sailors, many who also competed in the Rolex Miami OCR. The one notable exception is Paul Goodison from Great Britain, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist and 2009 Laser World and European Championships (he's actually won 5 European Championships in a row). He didn't compete in the RMOCR, but he is coming back from a well-deserved break, and with his coach is now preparing for the 2010 European season.
The US team has had a dedicated coach for the past week as do the Canadian, Swedish, British and Austrian sailors. In all there are about thirty sailors working with coaches. The coaches work out a daily plan based on what the sailors need/want to accomplish given the conditions. They typically spend the first hour working separately with their designated sailors, warming up with boat handling drills around a windward-leeward course. Next, they'll do an hour of speed testing. Finally, all the teams meet for an hour of short races. Not having a coach or being on the national team, I have been adopted by all the teams and been allowed to play along. Being "adopted" has taken the span of a few training camps to accomplish, and came as my abilities and confidence grew.
When I first got to Florida in November, I joined the US Sailing Team Laser training camp in Clearwater. At that time I felt more like a speed bump while I learned the drills. At my second training camp in Miami, I became less of an obstacle, but didn't finish well in most of the drills or practice races. Near the end of that camp I decided to upgrade to a new boat and magically, it brought me into the fray. I even won a few drills and practice races. It gave me more confidence, and at the same time, raised the level of the other sailors' respect for my ability.
The great thing about training and sailing with these young guns is how accepting they have been about having me train with them. Some of it may be that their coaches are closer to my era and have clued them in to my background. However, I'd like to think it is due to the respect and camaraderie I've earned by proving that I can hang with them on the water. Although I've come a long way, I still have a long way to go yet if I want to actually race head-to-head with these sailors.
We're expecting more chilly conditions for tomorrow's start and will post daily reports.