2017 World Championship
The World Championship was quite the event for the US Teams. Hopefully we've used up our bad luck early in the campaign and will have only good luck from here on out!
Teams Gibbs/Chafee and Gulari/Scutt arrived in La Grande Motte on August 25th, excited and ready to train in the Worlds venue before racing began on September 5th. The first few days were spent doing boat work due to an error on the part of Nacra, but thankfully the teams were out on the water by August 27th with Coach Sid in the powerboat to make sure one of the teams stood on the podium. The World Championship had been declared a funding event by US Sailing, meaning that each team had to attain a certain result in order to receive a certain amount of funding. The pressure was on, but we all felt confident in the US chances.
In the lead up to the regatta, both US Teams had been engaging in practice races with their fellow competitors (a usual occurrence before a regatta) and were consistently near the top of the fleet, if not outright winning races. Everything was looking good. Sadly, on August 30th, Bora and Helena capsized rounding the top mark of a practice race which resulted in the loss of parts of 3 fingers for Bora. If you'd like to read more, the official press release can be found here: http://www.ussailing.org/bora-gulari-injured-in-training-accident-prior-to-nacra-17-worlds/
Bora flew home for further surgery, but Helena remained to watch the racing and help in any way she could. It was a shock for everyone, but with only a few days until the regatta the team had to refocus on the event and proving that the American's are indeed a force to be reckoned with.
Riley and Louisa continued training and preparing for the regatta. They took their boat through Measurement and while the measurement officials seemed to take special interest in their boat, there were no problems. They were given the all clear.
The regatta began on September 5 with a beautiful blue sky and warm sun. The forecast called for light winds that day, favorable to Riley and Louisa's comparative lighter weights. The racing was on the more 'offshore' course, and looked like a great day to start the World Championship. Race 1 began with light winds and everyone sitting on their hulls. Riley and Louisa had a decent start, but sailed really well up the first beat, showing patience in the light winds to round Mark 1 in 2nd place, trailing a Spanish boat. They held their position the entire race, happily finishing the first race of Worlds in 2nd. The next race saw similar conditions, only this time, Riley and Louisa rounded Mark 1 in 1st and as soon as they hoisted their spinnaker around the top mark, their lead was solidified. They played the second beat well, covering loosely as need be, and finished the race in 1st. The final race of the day was by far the greatest, as they held their lead for the entire race and finished a full 2 minutes ahead of the next boat. Day 1 was complete, and Riley and Louisa had scored a 2,1,1. They were winning the World Championship, and the team was ecstatic....until they were informed that the measurement committee was protesting them.
In a frustrating turn of events, the measurement committee decided that by removing the rubber stoppers from their dagger boards, the US team had violated the rules and should be penalized. Both US teams and coach had decided to take the rubber stoppers off because they were preventing the board from sitting properly in the case and the squad was worried that this would lead to a board breaking--a legitimate fear after the last race of the Aarhus Test Event was cancelled over fear of board stability.
The US team argued in the jury room that because the measurement committee had been made aware of the rubber stopper removal during the measurement process and had given the US team the all clear, they shouldn't be penalized. However, the measurement officials said they had not been aware of the removal prior to the races and the removal was a safety issue. Sadly, the jury sided with the measurement officials, and the US team was given a 50% Discretionary Penalty on all three races of the day. Instead of scoring a 2,1,1 the team would now carry a 14, 13, 13. Instead of winning the regatta, they were now barely making Gold Fleet.
Day 2 began, and as a slap in the face, the US team watched as the measurement officials walked around the boat park informing competitors of rule infractions they were making and giving them an opportunity to remedy their infraction. An opportunity they never gave to Riley and Louisa. When confronted, the measurement officials insisted that they were being fair and equal to all countries. Clearly, there was nothing to be done about the irregular enforcement of rules, so Riley and Louisa decided to try and forget about their frustration and focus on the sailing.
For the rest of the regatta, Riley and Louisa sailed on a course closer to the harbor which created much choppier wave conditions than what they'd sailed on the first day. It was challenging to keep the boat foiling in the waves, but the real challenge was starting. Riley had very little experience on the starting line of a Nacra17 race, let alone the starting line of a World Championship. Many of the races were spent trying clawing their way back to the top portion of the fleet, but even with that challenge placed before them, they performed admirably.
Despite the DPI the US team qualified for Gold Fleet, but they couldn't help noting that if they'd kept their original finishes, they would've been battling in the Medal Race instead of barely making Gold Fleet. Lesson learned though: all future measurements will be fully recorded.
On Day 5 of the regatta, Riley and Louisa scored a bullet in their second race, scoring their first bullet in Gold Fleet. It was a great feeling to get a clean start and hold their lead for the entire race. It helped boost their confidence that with more time on the starting line, Riley and Louisa will be winning regattas.
Day 6 of the regatta, the last day, was easily the windiest day the sailors had seen. There had been a few windy and wavy races earlier in the regatta that Riley and Louisa had done adequately in, but this big breeze proved to them that their weight was going to be a serious issue if they didn't do something to change it. Each of them finished the final day feeling highly motivated to put on the mass they needed to be able to sail to their full potential in windy conditions.
The 2017 World Championship was a frustrating regatta for Riley and Louisa, but it was also a very valuable learning experience for the pair. They learned a lot about what each of them needed from the other during a race, about where their weaknesses are, but most importantly, they gained confidence in their own team. They crossed the finish line in the Top 5 in 6 of the 17 races -- 1/3 of the regatta. For their first World Championship as a team, in a new boat, that is impressive and they can't wait until the big 2018 World Championship to raise the percentage of Top 5 finishes to almost 100%.
World Championship Site
G/C Results from Worlds
Full Results Here
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