Nick Dempsey has just come away with a medal from the first big RS:X event since the Olympic Games, now on his blog he shares the experience and his thoughts on the new racing format.
It’s always good to come away from an event with a medal. It’s even better when you’ve gone in to that event more unprepared than you’ve ever been in your life!
The ISAF World Cup Miami was a great loosener for me having not really done any sailing since the Olympics. After I made the call to do another Olympic campaign for Rio I’d planned to get back on to the board in December. But when it came to it I just didn’t feel ready.
Instead of feeling bad about what I should or shouldn’t be doing I made the decision to draw a line under 2012 and start afresh in January. Miami was the deadline I set for myself where I had to be back on the board.
I arrived in Miami for five days training before the regatta, but in the first race my whole body was like ‘Oh my god I can’t do this!’ I’d probably been out on my board three times since the Games, none of which were planing conditions, so to be racing and planing again, well I just got spat straight out the back. The board felt heavy, I felt slow and it hurt.
At this stage I was thinking I would be pleased to just get through the event in one piece! But when you’re in that sort of environment your competitive instinct always takes over and within half an hour I was fine again. Rusty but fine.
I’m a racer and it’s my nature to want to win every event I enter. You can go underprepared but when you’re actually there you can still do everything properly and the way you would do it as if it was any other Grade One event. There’s no point doing an event otherwise.
The racing format was certainly one of the most talked about parts of the week, and I’ve already made it clear I wasn’t a fan.
We found out when the Sailing Instructions were issued a couple of days’ before racing how it was going to work. You have to be open-minded to these things and when you know that the racing formats are being experimented with you can only form a valid opinion, and give what you hope will be valuable, credible feedback, if you’ve actually tried it yourself.
But it was obvious right from the outset that this particular format would be leaving too much to chance. You could qualify last from each of the fleet series, quarter-finals and semi-finals and still walk away with the gold medal if you won the final six-board race.
How can you spend four years of your life training for what could come down to one 15 minute blast in Rio where the winner takes all, regardless of how they have sailed in the rest of the event?
A sailing regatta is supposed to reward consistency over the course of a series. Ours is an environmental sport where conditions can fluctuate from day to day. But you always know that over the course of a series invariably things will level themselves out, and the people who have been consistent across the full range of conditions – ie the best sailors that week – will win the medals. It’s the way it should be, not a winner-takes-all final race showdown.
My preference would be to go back to what we had in Athens, with no medal race at all. It was simple then; the person with the least points wins. It’s like golf, everyone understood it. Now it feels like they’re just trying to make the sport something that it’s not, and in doing so, the sport gets further away from athletic achievement and consistent performance.
The overriding feeling in the boat park was this format just isn’t fair competition. It is always nice to beat Dorian (van Rijsselberghe) though!
For the Worlds in Buzios, Brazil next month we go back to the standard qualifying, gold fleet, medal race format we’re used to, which I’m grateful for.
The plan was to fly out to Brazil at the weekend but we turned up at the airport on Saturday and found KLM were not too happy about all the luggage we were taking so were delayed and finally arrived today. It was a slightly epic and rather long journey - battling against the carnival traffic to Buzios but we arrived to 20 knots and sunshine and it is amazing as ever.
I’m looking forward to getting out there and reuniting with my Olympic training group, including Ivan Pastor, who won in Miami, and my Skandia Team GBR teammate, Tom Squires, to get him up to speed as a training partner.
It’s going to be three hard weeks’ training but it’s what I need. The camp will be all about sailing; probably an hour-and-a-half every morning, lunch, then two hours every afternoon. Fitness will come, but first and foremost I need to spend real time on the board again.
Buzios is beautiful but it’s not like the US or UK at the moment, where there are state-of-the-art fitness suites in the hotels and apartment complexes. In Buzios you could do some mountain biking but with the limited amount of time in the venue I have that can all wait until I get home. I have to take advantage of being able to spend quality time on the water.
It will be difficult to win the Worlds, but not impossible. It’s likely to be very windy and we aren’t expecting a range of conditions, but you always find something extra at a Worlds.
Between now and the Worlds, which start on February 28, I’ll be enjoying getting my kit together again and just being out on my board really starting to look ahead at what the next three-and-a-half years can bring.
Check out more from Nick here and head to the next page for his previous blog post.
Just days after windsurfing is reinstated as an Olympic sport for Rio 2016, British Silver medalist Nick Dempsey announces that he will continue his campaign in an effort to become the most successful Olympic windsurfer of all time. Dempsey shares his thoughts on going for gold and enjoying kitesurfing on his new blog.
It’s obviously been a massive few weeks for windsurfing after the RS:X class was reinstated for the Rio 2016 Olympics at the ISAF Annual Conference in Ireland.
Everyone just assumed I’d immediately jump at the chance to do a 2016 RS:X campaign but the truth is I’ve spent a good few days this week thinking about whether that would be the right thing for me. I had to question if I wanted to do it and whether if I did do it, would I be able to do everything required of me to win a gold medal in Rio.
The reality is being an Olympic windsurfer is bloody hard work, bloody hard work, and it is a huge commitment. Also by the time the next Games come around I’ll be 35, would age potentially be an issue?
But after a lot of really good discussions this week, with people who’s opinions I trust and respect, I made the decision to go for it. The British sailing team manager, Stephen Park, made a really good point that if I won gold in Rio, I’d be the most successful Olympic windsurfer ever. That definitely made the thought of doing a campaign more appealing.
When it comes to age, I just look at athletes across all sports to know that there is nothing wrong with the body at 35. Ben Ainslie was 35 when he won his fourth Olympic sailing gold medal this summer. The Greek windsurfer Nikos Kaklamanakis was 36 when he won silver at Athens 2004 and look at the Ethiopian long distance runner, Haile Gebrselassie.
What I do know is at 35, and having done four previous Olympics, you’ve got a bloody wise head on your shoulders and you are very experienced. You know how to do it.
I also spent a lot of time training in Brazil before the London Games. I love Brazil, I know the waters and the fact it is a light wind venue means certain parts of your training can be a lot more controllable than they were for Weymouth. In Weymouth you had to be prepared for anything and everything, Rio will be more like Beijing in a lot of ways.
I’d tried to keep it low key but for the past two months I’ve been out kiteboarding pretty much every day in Weymouth.
I’d never done the sport before but everything everyone had said about windsurfing skills being easily transferable to kiteboarding was right. I got the hang of it pretty easily and towards the end felt I was close to starting to race. More importantly I absolutely loved it. I was ripping it and was really excited about the potential that was there.
During the ISAF Conference there was the suggestion that they were going to try to go for mixed kiteboarding and mixed windsurfing events as a compromise. There was a good chance that was going to happen and although I didn’t really think mixed racing was the best way forward I was okay with the idea because it meant both sports would be in.
My dad is President of the RS:X class and he has been working really hard on trying to get the class re-instated for 2016. So when I was saying to him, “I’m really enjoying this kiteboarding," it was quite difficult!
When I heard, like most people do nowadays via Facebook, I had a bit of a mixed reaction.....Head to Nick's Volvo Sailing page for the full blog post.
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