I left San Francisco on Friday, November 22 for the 2002 IMCO World Championships in Pattaya, Thailand. 16 hours later I arrived in Bangkok. Needless to say it took me a few days to get adjusted and comfortable in my new surroundings. Like most of the other westerners, I got sick after a few days and was out of commission for close to 36 hours. After a quick recovery, I was back on the board ready for action.
My goals for the regatta were to get as much experience as possible for future races. This was my first major championship in over a year, and I knew results would only come after months of competition and training. There were 3 other members of the US Sailing team in Thailand vying to qualify the US for the 2004 Olympic regatta. Our coach, Pierre Jeangerard was also onboard for the training before the regatta. For 2-5 hours every day, we practiced speed and tuning and well as pumping drills. Towards the end of the afternoon session we would line up against sailors for New Zealand, Australia, France, Canada, Mexico and Japan to test our skills. At the end of each day we would review the video that Pierre shot and analysis out sailing technique to see what we could improve on. My light air sailing technique was improving but I felt as thought my board speed wasn’t up to par at all with the majority of the fleet. This could have been my weight-at 170 lbs I am one of the heavier sailors in the fleet-but I tried to think that if I worked harder I could keep up the pace.
For 5 days, this routine continued. Off the water, I was able to see and experience some of Thailand. One of the best things Pattaya Beach had to offer was the resort like setting. There were probably 20 spots along the beach to get a massage, and for $5 an hour, I took advantage of it afternoon.
Nov. 28: 1st day of Siam Cup-a warm up regatta before worlds. The breeze so far had not gotten much above 12 knots in the week and a half since I arrived. Light wind was in the forecast for the next week. With 5-10 knots on the water, a course was set not far from shore-with more breeze in the open water but a geographical lift near shore. What to do? I chose to sail towards the land in hopes that the lift from the land would pay off, but it was apparent that speed would be the dominating factor in these marginal conditions.
By the third race the wind finally came up to 12-15 knots and I was rounding in the middle of the fleet with finishes much better. I was trying to focus on maintaining a positive attitude despite my lackluster results.
The first day of the world championship bought with it a magnificent thunderstorm that caused a delay to racing.
Race 1: 3-6 knots. Current was with wind. Wind was filling in from right side but sometimes patchy there. Off the line I was really slow in a fleet of 60 boards, it took 2 tacks to get clear air. I tried to play the shifts up the middle right and got to the starboard lay line too early and a big left shift came + the combination of an adverse current; I had to tack 5 times to get around the windward mark. I lost a lot of places here and realized left was the way to go. By that time I was way behind the fleet and sailing through the dirty air trying to catch up. The R.C had shortened the race to finish at the next top mark with the dying wind. I went to the left side but not far enough as the boards who went further finished in front of me.
Race 2: Wind 8-12 knots dropping to 5-8. I started at pin end of line heading to what I thought was the favored side of the course. Somewhere upwind I got caught out of phase with the oscillating breeze. Downwind the wind really died and I lost a few more boards that gybed inside and caught a breeze near the shore.
Race 3: Better start and I kept working strong up the beat. I rounded in the middle of the pack but again lost several boards downwind sailing through the adverse current. The most important part of the race is the pre start preparing and the 1st 5 minutes of the beat. It is you can gain or lose the most in a relatively short period of time.
Race 5: 12-14 knots. Better conditions for me. Start was close to favored pin end. I tacked 30 seconds after the start to get over to right side. Right shift arrived and I was 20th at the windward mark. I wasn’t able to keep the same angle downwind as most others around me. Upwind the left side paid off again but downwind I was realized that I would have to work harder and more efficiently.
Race 6: Wind was out of the NW with current more or less the same. I felt as though I could point better on starboard tack but was getting killed on port tack. I didn’t get to the breeze line soon enough and boards 100 meters away were walking away with double my speed. The wind finally settled to the right side with me on the left corner-not the best place to be but I got to see the whole race unfold in front of me. A special thanks to the St. Francis Foundation for their generous grant which helped me cover the cost of traveling to Thailand.