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Team USA Nieuwpoort, Belgium

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

I want to thank the Annapolis Yacht Club Foundation for supporting my trip to sail at my first international regatta in Nieuwpoort, Belgium. I was allowed to be part of a fantastic team where I met sailors from across the country. When my team met, we instantly got along and had fun together on and off the water. We enjoyed helping each other during rigging/de-rigging, applying zinc for team spirit, talking between races at the coach boat, spending time at team meals, and exploring after sailing.

The overall experience with the team was excellent. I have already had the chance to see some of my teammates at Nationals and other USODA events, and I hope to see them all again. The initial plan was to sail three practice days before the five-day regatta began, but due to flight delays, I had two days of practice before the regatta.

The conditions were all similar over the six days of sailing, with heavy currents, swells, and windy conditions. On the first day, the wind was 17-18 kts at the beginning of the first race and then picked up to the 20s. The waves were on the smaller side, with some up to 3 feet. On the second day, the conditions were around the same. On day 3, the wind was a steady 25 with gusts in the 30s, waves between 4-6 ft, and the current was 2.5 knots. Those conditions were very challenging, and 75% of the regatta still needed to finish the one race that sailed that day before the conditions required sailing to be abandoned. During that race, I struggled to get around the mark because of all the current, and it took me a bit, but once I found my way around the upwind mark I blasted off to my teammate, the closest opponent, and she rounded the mark a couple of minutes before me. As soon as we rounded the reach mark, the waves felt larger and larger, and I was terrified because the waves were 6 feet tall. So, when I tried to gybe, it didn't go well, and I swamped my boat, but I didn’t give up and I bailed it all out since there was such a big gap between me and the kids behind me. As soon as I got back into the action, I swamped again but it wasn't as bad this time, so I kept sailing. When I rounded the gate, I struggled a bit because of all the current, and my boat went into irons, so I hiked out to bring the bow down and fell out of my boat. About a minute later, the volunteers helped pick me up and de-rigged my sail. I was very scared and frightened, but I calmed down and helped my coach locate other people on my team. Once we grabbed everyone, we quickly towed them to the boat ramp as racing had been abandoned due to severe conditions.

On the 4th day, the fleets came out, and I did not make gold but was a top boat in silver. I was determined to continue to sail a good regatta with the two remaining days of racing. I had a great day and got a four and a one (UFD). During that race, I was u-flagged at three seconds, and when I submitted a formal scoring redress, there was only an audio recording, and I lost my protest. Even though I was upset, it was a great learning lesson to be more careful with my starts and remember risks and rewards. During that whole protest process, I was glad I had my coaches and team who supported and helped me during the protest and comforted me after I

lost. For the regatta's final day, wind conditions and sea swells were too high, and we were held on shore for AP until the regatta ended.

I am so glad to have had the opportunity to sail in Belgium. I got unbelievable experience in conditions we do not often have in the Chesapeake Bay. I got to learn from two new coaches and be part of such a great team. My experience in Belgium has made me a better sailor, more confident in my ability to sail in heavy wind/waves, tactics/decision making, and advocating for myself on and off the water. I am so happy that I sailed as part of Team USA in Belgium and made friendships and lasting bonds with my team!

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