Monday, February 11, 2013

The New Quadrennium

RS:X Reboot · Maybe you've heard the term quadrennium. It means a period of 4 years, most commonly used in reference to the 4 year period between the Olympic Games. The RS:X Olympic Windsurfing Class is slowly coming back to life after its near death experience, when at the 2012 ISAF mid year meeting, the Council selected Kite Board Racing to replace windsurfing for the 2016 Rio Games. In fact, many RS:X Olympians began to learn and train for the new KBR Class. But, at the annual meeting in early November of last year, just 3 months ago, the ISAF Council reversed itself: the RS:X Class was in for Rio, KBR was out. Just a month after that decision was the start of the 2013 ISAF World Cup, a series of international regattas created to hone competition and promote awareness of the Olympic sailing classes. So in December 2012 at the Sail Melbourne OCRthe first of four regattas included in the 2012-2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup, the fifth edition of the annual series for Olympic sailing, just 3 RS:X racers registered and competed. KBR, which had already been scheduled for this World Cup event, was still allowed to compete: 46 registered. Meanwhile back in Florida...

Nearly a dozen RS:X racers competed for 2 berths in Limassol, Cyprus, host of the 43rd edition  of the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship, which will take place this July 11 - 20. The qualifying event, attended by 8 Americans and 3 Canadians, was held in Clearwater, FL January 19 - 21. Have a look at the results and note that Florida is the home of all but one of the 18 year old or younger US participants. Congratulations to the Clearwater Community Sailing Center and the Miami Yacht Club for fielding all of the Florida RS:X hopefuls.
Less than a week later, 5 participants from the Youth World Qualifier joined the field at the Miami OCR and were able to compete against real Olympic medal winners. From this group, one had an impressive 2 regatta performance. She won the Youth World Qualifier for RS:X and had the best finish for US RS:X at the Miami OCR. DaNews asked her a few questions:

Name: Marion Lepert
Age: 17
Education: Castilleja School — Class of 2013
Nationality: French (U.S. Permanent Resident)
Where do you currently live: Belmont, CA
Sponsors: Sailworks, JP - Australia, F 4 Fins, Boardsports

Was the just finished Miami Olympic Class Regatta your first international RS:X regatta? Does this mean you're going to campaign for the 2016 Rio Games?

Miami OCR was my first international regatta on the RS:X. My goal for this event was to learn as much as possible and to get some experience for the ISAF Youth Worlds this summer. I am taking the RS:X one step at a time, and we'll see where it takes me.

Do you have plans for college?

Yes, I will be attending college next year. I have not yet decided where, but it will be close to the water.

Your top US RS:X finish in Miami qualified you for the 2013 US Sailing Team. What does that mean for the rest of the year?

This is my first time on the U.S. Sailing Team, so it is a new experience for me. I hope to be able to compete in more international events and to improve with the rest of the team domestically.
You attended a week long clinic before the MORC. Was that sponsored by US Sailing? How did that clinic help you on the race course?

Yes, U.S. Sailing organized a clinic with Kevin Stittle the first week of January for RS:X sailors in preparation for the ISAF Youth Worlds Qualifiers and the MOCR. Since I have limited experience on the RS:X, getting to train with other people on the board before these two events was a tremendous help to me. U.S. Sailing also made it possible for all American RS:X sailors to be coached by Mike Gebhardt during the MOCR. He helped me fine tune my equipment and worked with me to improve my technique and be as fast as possible on the race course.

Share at least one thing that you learned from racing with the Olympians?

Olympians make mistakes too, and they fight hard to make up for them. Before the MOCR, I had a naive picture in my mind of Olympians as people who nearly always make perfect decisions. Numerous incidents during the regatta made me think otherwise, however. I saw, instead, that what makes Olympians different is how hard they fight to get back to the front.

You're a Formula racer back home, what motivated you to make the jump to the RS:X Class?

While I enjoy sailing Formula in the San Francisco Bay, there are few opportunities for women to sail Formula internationally. The international racing scene in the RS:X class is more exciting, and it's why I've decided to start sailing the RS:X.

San Francisco is by far the Kite Board Racing capitol of the US. Have you tried KBR?

Yes, and I love it! I got a raceboard in the fall, and I am excited to start racing in the local Thursday Night Kite Races in the Bay this Spring.

Why are you passionate about racing?

Racing is a lot of fun. I love the combination of speed, technique, and tactics, and the thrill that comes with it. I also like that racing gives me the opportunity to travel and meet people from around the world.

You've spent quite a bit of time flying this year. What 2 people do you wish you could have talked to on those long California to Florida flights?

I would have liked to sit next to any windsurfer or kitesurfer with crazy stories to tell.

What's your favorite website? when it is windy.

Music that inspires you? Music that makes you want to dance?

My favorite music changes every week. Right now, I like Ellie Goulding and ED Sheeran, but I have had many other favorite artists.

Where are your next 2 regattas?

My next regatta is the RS:X Worlds in Brazil next March. After that, the racing season starts in San Francisco, and I haven't decided yet what I want to do next.

More Hopefuls · The Miami Herald reported 2 locals were invited to the US Sailing Team: "Raul “Coqui” Lopez, 16, a 10th-grader at Miami Killian High, finished 19th out of 20 boats in the RS:X men’s class. But Lopez and 16th-place Carson Crain of Houston were the top Americans in their fleet at the week long regatta on Biscayne Bay, so both got the nod. Kathleen Tocke, 36, of Miami came in 10th in the 15-boat RS:X women’s fleet to make the U.S. team along with Marion Lepert, who finished ninth." Margot Samson, Solvig Sayre and Christopher Waldo add to the U.S. talent pool. For the Canadians, Laurence Bonneau-Charland, Jean-Sebastien Fugere and Olivia Mews are the early contenders. From Mexico, Mauricio Martinez De Alva, Isaias Minor Huerta and Nicole Level finish out this group from North America.

Lest we forget, the usual suspects: CAN 17, Nikola Girke, left the RS:X for the new boy/girl Olympic catamaran class, the Nacra 17. Zac Plavsic, CAN 33, was on the starting line in Miami. Dominique Vallee, long time Canadian number 2, will be coaching this year. Farrah Hall, USA 3, is all in for the Rio Games but missed Miami. Bob Willis announced his retirement after the London Games, last year. Ben Barger, USA 1, 2008 Peking Games, is enjoying a new job but maybe by this summer... David Mier y Teran MEX 1, had a strong finish in Miami and is ready for another Olympics. Demita Vega, MEX 5, failed to qualify her country for London 2012 but is back on the trail for Rio 2016.

New this year is an experimental racing format designed to focus more drama in the final race. Anyone who makes the final can win the event. Scuttlebutt explained: "After the Men's and Women's RS:X events completed their 3-day first round six race series, the top ten qualified for the quarterfinals after race six. The top four from the quarterfinals advanced directly to the finals. The bottom six from the quarterfinals advanced to the semifinals. Other sailors not in the top ten also have a chance to advance through the quarterfinal repechage into the semifinals. The semifinal held one race and two sailors advanced to the finals. The finals featured six boards and consisted of one race and the order in the final race determined the final places."


US Sailing did not win any medals at the 2012 London Games. For an organization that seemed laser focused on winning medals, it must have been a real blow to the empire. Craig Leweck of Scuttlebutt met with the leadership of the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider to learn what lies ahead. A few excerpts from his interviews:

The attitude adjustment: "...we are seeking to foster a cooperative effort within each class as much as possible and recognize that different classes have different needs and that there is no one right way to do things. We strongly believe that it is no one thing that you need to do to succeed; it's fifty tiny things to get a little better."

A practical plan: "The schedule has been re-tooled in the view that we want domestic training to be a strength. So the change is that we are going to train more in U.S. We are still going to be travelling to international competition because you still need that check-in to see where each sailors ranks on the international level."

Wisdom: "What we are telling youth sailors now is that there is no one Olympic pathway. There are multiple ways to get into the Game and multiple ways to make it to the podium, and we want to encourage different pathways..."

Read the entire interview on Scuttlebutt.

Major RS:X Events for 2013

World Championship | Brazil | March 1 - 6

ISAF World Cup | Spain | March 30 - April 6

ISAF World Cup | France | April 19 - 26

European Championship | France | July 1 -6

ISAF Youth Worlds | Cyprus | July 11 - 20

ISAF World Cup | China | October 12 - 19

ISAF World Cup | Australia | December 1 - 7