158 days of 49er sailing, learning, growing, and living abroad

  |   Regatta, Training, Travel

Makes for a reel of stories to share for years to come. These stories are best told in person when a bit of eye contact, intonation, and gestures can bring the story to life. Unfortunately, we cannot all be together around a campfire by the sea to share these stories. Here is a taste of some of the experiences we have been so fortunate to live because of your ongoing support as we get closer to the 2016 Olympic Games.


Results tell a story. However, to see and live the whole story we need to look deeper. The full story is filled with moments of joy, hardship, excitement, and most of all…growth. I can only speak on 27 years of experience in this life, but in those years, it has become clear to me that the most growth comes from the hardest times. Muscles grow stronger when put under excessive load causing trauma throughout the muscle. The response of the muscle is to adapt and strengthen to be prepared for more load in the future. We will call this “Hypertrophy.” The same is true for the mind, the soul, and the spirit. Hard times cause trauma to the spirit, and the effect is an adapted, stronger spirit. We will call this increase in mental toughness “Spiritual Hypertrophy.”


Hypertrophy is the theme of the 158 days since we left our safe, comfortable, loving San Francisco Bay. We left the Bay with one purpose, to expose ourselves to the toughest conditions and competitors in the entire world of sailing to spark our growth. Rather than sailing five days per week in the Bay getting even better at our strength of heavy air sailing, we decided to “Send It” to Europe to discover and develop our weaknesses, and eventually turn them into strengths to become the well rounded team we will be when results begin to matter this winter in Florida!


This will be a selection of stories that highlight moments of growth and hypertrophy on our path to excellence… A taste of the experiences that are making us better sailors and better people than we were before.


March 2015 – Palma de Mallorca, Espana


Our first regatta in Europe with the best of the best! Just 50 days from our first ever regatta as a team, finishing 14th in Gold Fleet. Expectations are high. Four qualifying races to seed 70+ teams into three fleets, Gold, Silver, Bronze. The key to success in these races was to get off the starting line clean, clear, and fast. At this point we did not have the skillset to get off the line like this and sail all the way to the favoured left edge of the course, leading to a Bronze Fleet result. This first international experience highlighted our next focus…Starting! Lets get to Garda!


April 2015 – Lago di Garda, Italy


We have 40 days in Lake Garda with one mission, to develop the starting skillset. Former champion 49er sailor Rick Peacock joined us as our coach (Thanks to all of your support), to develop our starting technique. Every day was filled with a balance of starting drills and cliff jumping in one of the most beautiful places we have ever been fortunate enough to enjoy. Developing excellent technique and time-distance skills to nail the start in a one sided race course and complete a 20 meter cliff jump is a matter of repetitions. Both must be practiced every day to progress and execute cleanly the way we did in the 40+ boat regatta that concluded our time in Lake Garda. We finished 16th with some really great races on our scorecard. We left Lake Garda as the top American team and the most radical cliff jumpers of the entire fleet. These days are a great example of growth in response to our hardships at the previous regatta.


May/June 2015 – Holland and UK


Epic stories from Holland are very limited compared to many other places we train and race. However, Medemblik delivered some days of heavy air and big chop for the Delta Lloyd Regatta! The windiest regatta of our 2015 tour thus far made for some unforgettable photo ops on unforgettable runs. This was a great chance to use and continue developing two of our new found strengths. Starting well, and crisp heavy air sailing positioned us in the Gold Fleet! A well sailed regatta despite a list of boat breakdowns from extreme conditions qualified us for our first Sailing World Cup Regatta in Weymouth, UK!


Beginning to feel comfortable with our progress and abilities, Weymouth and the 40 very best teams in the world sharply pushed us out of that comfort zone to highlight the next skillset to develop: boatspeed in ocean swell! Again, a tough result ignited the work ethic as we packed the kit for our final European destination.


July 2015 – Porto, Portugal


Ocean Swell, Waterfalls, and great coaching from Rick… This is where a pattern is exposing itself. For best results in Olympic Sailing Hypertrophy (A combination of physical and spiritual hypertrophy), there are three very critical ingredients! The first is a sailing environment/conditions that allow us to train the desired skillset (Big Swell!). The second is great coaching from someone we trust (Rick Peacock). The final ingredient is an epic element from nature to jump from to keep the spiritual balance aligned (Portuguese waterfalls for cliff jumping!). These ingredients and two weeks of training lead to great progress in boatspeed.


We would have been quite happy with the growth we saw in that period, but we were even more fortunate! Another growth opportunity was presented to us in the days before the European Championship! An unfortunate chain of events introduced my rib cage to the gunnel of the 49er with bone snapping force! I carried on training with a broken rib without much complaint. Sailing every day in physically demanding conditions, it was only a matter of time before the broken rib lead to a torn quadricep from altered biomechanics. This was a great “character building experience,” as well as a lesson of when to override your body and when to listen to your body.


Racing began on day one of the European Championship. The swell was there…but where was the breeze? We sailed three races in another condition that was new to us. Without speed, racing was very difficult. We had a Bronze fleet kind of day. The team dynamic was disrupted.


Resetting with a long discussion about technique, sailing style, and most of all…doing the simple things well; we launched into day two with ocean swell, moderate breeze, and a fresh attitude. After three solid races, this was a Gold Fleet day for us, despite a torn spinnaker and capsize at the last weather mark of the last race! Accidents will happen, but we were sailing as a team and sailing well!


Maintaining this “switched on” and “controlled” attitude on day three was a huge success. Things were starting to come together for us as a team…except for one detail. This was the day when the quadricep was beginning to show its damage. Waiting for the breeze to fill from early in the morning until very late in the afternoon, I made every effort to rehab and loosen up the injured leg. With the help of competitor and great friend Michael Kuschner and some grit, we were able to sail both light air races on the final day of qualifying.


Racing in conditions very similar to those of the first day, where we struggled, we had embraced a new approach to sailing in light air and big swell. A calm and controlled body movement always anticipating the power changing as the boat surges forward and back in the swell. With our new found speed and switched on teamwork, we had two strong races…another Gold Fleet day to finish the qualifiers!


Rising to the challenge with two excellent days of racing salvaged a very disappointing first day of qualifying. We qualified for Silver Fleet. After a fever ridden, sleepless night (Maybe a signal that it was time to give the leg some rest), we waited again for the breeze to fill. The waiting was torture, wondering how the day will play out. This was a perfect time for the first injury of my entire athletic career, just as the team was beginning to find the “flow.”


Backing each other and believing in each other as teammates is absolutely critical. David was behind me as we sent it into the swell on day four. Not just because as skipper, he is always in the back of the boat. He showed his trust and faith to help me muster the grit to attack the day one race at a time. We sailed a good first race, only to find that we were over early at the start. We started the second race and as we tacked to get to the favoured side of the course, the quadricep decided that it would take its rest if we would not give it willingly. This was my last day sailing for the next few weeks, but not our last day learning and growing.


With two days of racing left on the schedule, we did the next best thing after a hardship. Rick stepped in for me. This was an opportunity for Dave to learn first hand from an excellent resource, and for me to gain a new perspective on high level 49er racing as I coached from the RIB.


Training and racing full time for four months throughout Europe with the world’s best 49er teams has sparked the growth and Olympic Sailing Hypertrophy that we hoped to experience. We can say as a team and as individuals that we are becoming better people and better sailors. This is not easy, would it be worth doing if it was? The goal is the same, the learning curve is steep, and the competitive fire within is unwavering.


Massive thanks to all of you for the incredible support you continue to share with us!


Nunca na duvida.

AUTHOR - Dan Morris