4th Para Country
5th Para Sailor
1st Grand Master
Half of the starting line
Most of the World’s best Para Sailors were in Rauma. The regatta was fairly light, smooth water and shifty. The starting lines were not easy, which meant it was challenging to have a good overall finish. Racing against this fleet I was able to learn a lot of new things necessary for me to be able to keep successfully competing. It was a very good building block for me to reach my goal, to compete and medal in Rio next September of 2016. I have continued my task of learning as much as possible over the last 6 months against the top five 2.4 sailors in the World. They are experienced and well established. Their Olympic programs and teams are all well in place. Their tech part of boat building is very strong. I would currently rate myself just behind this group and I feel in my heart that I am starting to challenge them. In Rauma, I had better boat speed and my handling skills also hugely improved. I was competitive.
It was a wonderful to be able to finally sail my own boat, the Kanaloa, built at Charger in Finland. With their expertise, I believe I was able to successfully modify her, and feel confident that these changes worked. My 2.4 fits my style of sailing, and Kanaloa did not disappoint.
I was so impressed to see that 5 out of the top 7 finishers were Paralympic sailors. They are soooooo good. It was a great experience for me to be racing with them in Rauma.
Bjomar Erikstad, Norway, 1st Para Sailor, 2nd Overall,.
This guy is unbelievable, Bjomar has no arms, just hands coming out of his shoulders.
He trims with his teeth!!
Note : Dacron Sails
A 7 leg race on a course, in an area that we did not sail on again.
I had a very good start, on the line, many were over and none were called, including the eventual winner who started 4 boat lengths ahead of me on my wind. This showed what I was up against with the RC. Do I take the chance they won’t see me and pull the trigger? Or keep it safe and try to battle back.. I chose the latter. No letters in my scores… This was one of my goals.
I sailed around in 2nd to 4th the whole race. The RC said the finish would be above the top mark. Halfway up the last beat, after I moved to the left of the fleet, they dropped the finish 20 degrees to the right. I was way over stood and ended up 6th, my top 3 finish was gone.
Light, holes and shifty. First race good start, good race, 3rd finish.. Gave me confidence to start that way.
Second race, fouled on both sides at the start!, got off the line 63rd. Rounded 41st top mark and finished 24th. A keeper in this fleet, great recovery, good speed.
Third race, my best of the Regatta. Very light, ok start, light and patchy. Played the fleet on the first leg rounded around 7-10, held position on the run, but on the next beat, passed all but one boat, the eventual series winner, by the top mark. I gybed set into 1st place, and held this position to the bottom mark. I ended up playing the right side on the final leg and loosing at the finish line but I was very happy with a 2nd.
Last mark, last race of day one, I am leading, third around Stellan Berlin, winner of the last 3 worlds.
The light and tricky day fit me well. Conditions that I would expect in Rio. Boat speed was good and my sailing matched.
Second Race Day
This was a day of top 5 starts but not finishes. I was not fast with a little more wind 8-12 knots. I started just to leeward of the good guys and could not hold my height. This did not feel good. Still a consistent day with 11,11,13. My sailing was good with shifts and puffs. Passed boats ok. But I just didn’t have it.
Rounded just behind the current gold medalist, Helena Lucas, GBR, 3 Para, 5th Overall
It was a pleasure to work with Jay Kehoe for the first time as my coach. He did a great job seeing things that I can’t see from a small boat so close to the water. Great support on and off the water.
On the Lay Day, we went over the rig tune and made some changes. New boat, new rigging and it settled in, and was now stretched. We re-tuned the rig, and the next day of racing the boat came alive. Best speed I had, which if I had that tune the day before, I think I would have had all top 5 finishes. I know that is hind sight but just learning here. I can always let the rig off but never make it tighter…while racing.
Third Race Day, Moving day
Not the right direction of moving.. Went from 4th to eighth. Two bad races and one ok race, or even very good race. I did not get off the line at all. The fleet just fouls and pushes the line. The RC lets them go.. Even on a Black flag. The 2nd race of the day I was headed for the pin start, and was going to be forced over in a black flag situation. I bailed out with 5 secs to go and gybed around and started on port. Some how, after taking more transoms that I can count, I got clear and started to play the shifts. There were many and, it was amazing! I was 3rd at the top mark.. Go figure. Made the mistake of trying the right side of the course on the next two beats, and dropped to 7th.
What the day taught me was , just stay cool, work the course from where you are and good things will happen.. How many times have I learned this?
Heiko Kroger, GER, 2nd Para, 3rd Overall
Last Race Day, 2 races, last chance.
With no real bad races, I could go for it. Went and won the pin, sailed a good race in different conditions, very shifty, left favored. Top 7 at the top mark, passed boats on the run to round 3rd and finished there after holding off with good speed and shifts on the final 3 legs the top 3 boats in the series.. Felt good again with everything.
For the first time in the regatta I picked the wrong end of the line. Sailed ok, but finished poorly for a throw out. Wish I finished stronger, but the 3rd was good enough to move me up one place.
What Did I Learn
So many things!
Sailing: I have learned enough to be competitive right now, but not enough to win. These conditions should be very similar to Rio. The start with 100 boats was hard. In Rio there will only be 16 boats, and the starts will be more civil. Seventy of the boats here did not care what they did and you could not count on them to sail to the rules. I am ok with starting in normal size fleets. I can trust my starting to be consistent.
Instruments: My compass did not work well. A last minute change on Lay day to use the Pro Start’s COG saved the day. No more funny numbers when the heel changed. I am going to have to figure out how do handle the situation. The compass is important in a tidal area like Rio. I really want the COG with the Pro Start and the compass to see the current set… I need to re-think my compass.
Rig: I learned a lot about tension, and spreader sweep. I spent time observing the winning boats and their systems. I now have a plan to improve in this area, which will make a difference.
Boat: There are many things that I was really happy with on my boat. More improvements still to be made though once I get her back to the US. It was not possible to do this in Finland and compete.
Sails: All of the competitive teams have excellent sail programs. This is nothing different than I am used to in the big boats. I am very fortunate to be currently using standard sails from Quantum and North. Now that I have the experience I am looking forward to developing my sails for my boat and rig that will suit for Rio conditions.
Rauma was key in my development toward Rio. Sailing against the best, and having just enough experience to be able to see the differences in speed and programs, will help me build on.
After this regatta, I now have the confidence that with hard work, good team management, great coaching and sufficient funding we should be able to medal in Rio.
My success in Rio, will all come down to raising more money for this program. My competition is all funded by their countries, they are Pro Para Sailors. To this point, I have been lucky to have support from the Windmark Olympic Foundation, St. Francis Sailing Foundation, USALCO, Quantum and North Sails, Gill, Velocitek, and Kaenon. The months are ticking by now and with only a short time left to continue my quest. I am only 25% there with my funding. The next 4 months are crucial in my boat and sail development.
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