Mid-Summer Update

I'm writing to you now on a sunny 'rest day' in Aarhus (my view pictured), the second largest city in Denmark and venue for the 2018 ISAF Worlds. I have been training here for little over a week and it has certainly been a new and rewarding experience. But before I dive into the details, here is a rapid-fire update of the first half of my summer.

Busting out of the exam room, I tossed almost all I own into a storage room, zipped up my bags and bolted for the airport for Kiel. The venue known less for summer sunshine, and more for a guaranteed wet gloomy underworld where you go to appreciate where you just came from. I couldn't care less, I wanted to be in my Finn and get the good times rolling. Thankfully the first half was sunny and warm, "This is nothing like Kiel" is what the locals were saying or "Yea, it rarely gets this nice". As I praised the rain-clouds for their impromptu vacation, Luther and I refined my speed in a few weak spots, ate some bratwursts, and prepared for the regatta. Coinciding with the America's Cup and labeling Kiel a training regatta, our mentality was to continue to learn throughout the event. Winning the first race made for a quick smile but as always there were critiques to be made, notes to take, lessons to apply next race. This regatta I learned of my potential in breeze (high wind speeds) and my complete lack of experience in 'survival' conditions. I flipped three times in one race that was 21-23knts. To say the least, we saw quintessential "Kiel Conditions". After the trainwreck of a third day, I managed to get it together in similar conditions the next day.  I put together a few decent races to finish 9th overall and attend my second medal race of the year. But the event was more than that. Luther and I were both consumed in the learning process and made big leaps in the seven days we had together. It was a great start to the summer ticking off boxes we brought to the event and finding new ones to work on in the next camp. [Quick snapshot: The housing I had with some Laser sailors was awesome; an apartment that was a wing of a guardhouse for this massive mansion. Utterly beautiful and great to watch Hans Peter and Roman commentate the AC in their distinct Austrian accents.]

Next was Greece. After spending a night in the Hamburg airport (thank you dear inventor of the sleeping pod) I was in the beautiful, clear skied, and hot as hell, sometimes reaching 104 degrees, island of Corfu. As a part of a vision to teach the next generation of American big boat sailors, our Maxi 72 Evniki (the old Shockwave) crew consisted of half young dinghy sailors and half pros. The goal was to expose the young guns to the knowledge and work ethic of some top professional sailors with the eventual goal of taking their places in the future. Surrounded by Volvo Ocean Racers and America's Cup sailors, I learned more than I could have imagined. I was also impressed by some of my fellow dinghy sailors, and what they managed to learn and apply in a matter of days. More than just learning the idiosyncrasies of the 72, it was great to ask the pros about their favorite races or their sketchiest moments at sea or what it's like to have a family while sailing so much. It was my opportunity to see if it is all that it is cut out to be. There were moments on the trip when I'd realize the passion and experience in our group. We watched the AC final together, with some of those who had won the Cup themselves. The look on their faces as one of them said, "they don't know what they've done, this is bigger than they can imagine" was something I'll never forget. On the boat, I was grind and pit assist which allowed me to touch some rope and turn some handles. It felt good to use my head, queueing in to the timing of maneuvers with the halyards then switching to the pedestals using my body to rip in the new kite sheet on an outside gybe. Every down moment was spent diving in to help someone with their job that was not yet finished or asking a question about something I didn't understand. The thing that I learned most was the idea that everyone has their own jobs but all the jobs are the boat's jobs. It was cool to have the driver, navigator, or trimmer downstairs packing kites or repairing sails between races. Not taking a sip of water until everything was done before the next race. I'll never forget patching a sail with Grant "Fuzz" Spanake and Thomas Allin, all sweating our nuts off, to get it done before the next warning. Teamwork is impeccable when everyone looks for work and is willing to do every job. It was an amazing experience, and something I'd definitely say 'yes' to in the future.

With the event coming to a close, a few of us spent a night in Athens, saw the sights and went our separate ways. I got a short week at home goofin' off with my little brother and getting in the ocean every day. It was good to be in a place with no schedule and no agenda other than my natural desire to keep chipping away in the gym. And in a flash I am right where I sit now, just outside a beautiful Danish street with the white window panes and red brick walls.

With just one other training partner and no coach I have been able to try and answer questions that have always rested in the back of my mind and go at my own pace. Using data from GPS gadgets and the other boat as a control, it's been great to answer questions from feel and data rather than the coach's eye or experience. Now I'm not saying I don't appreciate what coaches do in training sessions, I will be the first to say they are invaluable, but some time away has been refreshing. It's also been new to live in an apartment by myself. I've learned many new recipes and appreciate how much time it takes to make some meals as well as the ease of others. The city streets have been great to bike through and the people here are very friendly, but above all it's good to be in the thick of the process, inquisitive and eager for progress on the water and in the gym, to have routine, and to be content before bed knowing I'm making progress towards my goals and enjoying it all along the way.

Thanks for reading and all the best,

Luke Muller - USA 91

Summer Sixteen

Wow, what a crazy end to the summer! Watching Caleb win the Bronze, sailing M32s with 13FIFTY Racing, TP52 race with Spookie, and delivering a 46' foiling catamaran all added up to being one my most enjoyable yet goal forwarding summers to date. My second and final training camp in Rio ended in July and I flew right into Newport to join 13FIFTY Racing. 13FIFTY is an all-American, co-ed sailing team campaigning to win the 2017 Red Bull Youth America's Cup. I'm so grateful to be a part of a team filled with sailors I learn from every day. We have multiple ISAF Youth World Medalists, a ICSA Sailor-of the-year, and World Champions on our team. Guys like Mac Agnese, Nevin Snow, James Moody, Erika Reineke, Riley Gibbs, Sam Hallowell and Ravi Parent combine to form the most kick-ass group to sail and hang out with.

We started off the summer with a M32 Catamaran Mid-west tour: sailing in Harbor Springs-MI, Wayzata-MN, and Chicago. Each place taught me a new lesson and came with its own surprises. Michigan was all about learning the idiosyncrasies of the M32. I was a part of rigging up and breaking down 6 boats and was in charge of looking out for our team's M32 during the event. I spent every evening either treading under the hull with a bottle of soap and a sponge, tightening the tramp, re-rigging lines or squaring up the rig. It felt good coming in from a hard day of sailing; finished working on the skills I already had and practicing the boatwork skills I had learned days prior. The place was beautiful too. I would have never expected there to be sunsets and water as pastel and clear as they are in the VI in upstate Michigan. We then drove through the Upper Peninsula and through the cornfields to Minnesota.

Our second destination, Wayzata, sat on the eastern shore of Lake Minnetonka. We were there in support of a possible World Match Race Tour stop put on by hometown hero Sam Rogers. Two boats, two teams, and a whole production to increase awareness of the extreme side of sailing and what it can offer a community. We followed the well versed routine of drive the trailer, roll-em-out and rig-em-up. But it was a bit different. No one in Wayzata had ever seen a 32' Catamaran. All they ever saw were keelboats and A-scows ripping around. Every person who came by had a question or just simply stopped, jaw dropped and stunted, waiting for us to speak. Between a few champagne days of sailing, we were surrounded by event sponsors, fans, and reporters demanding answers, opinions, critiques. "What is your team's goal and plan" "What is it like traveling the world and doing this every day" "What is it like on the boat, how does it feel" In Wayzata I learned how to talk the talk and walk the walk. It was a dress rehearsal for big time pro sailing. A small town in awe of the few sailors walking their streets. I learned to be professional, knowing the flags I was flying, remembering my pitches without being robotic, and relating to people of different beliefs and perceptions in order to promote higher performance sailing in a place where the A-scow rules all. 

Our third and final stop was the windy city of Chicago. Getting back to fleet racing was what we were patiently waiting for. After going through the drill we went out in epic conditions of 18-22knts gusting to 32. Halfway through the day we had a spill that sent Nevin straight into one of the rudder-heads putting him idsn the ER for stitches. The next day he was good as new and locked into the driver's seat. Rain prevented us from the second day of practice and we went straight into racing that Saturday. We won a majority of the day's starts and we led almost all the final upwinds but routinely screwed up our final layline. That night we talked over our weaknesses and clarified our roles. We dialed it in to finish just behind Convexity, one of the dominant teams in the M32 fleet. We couldn't celebrate second place but we were able to recognize the lessons both learned and applied over the long three weeks.  Below is a little video I made for our team. 

I flew back to our team base in Jamestown and spent the next few days surfing, paddle boarding, and screwing around on a foiling Nacra in the Rhode Island's perfect summer weather. That Saturday was the Ida Lewis Distance Race and my first offshore test. Through a few Finn and big boat connections I was lucky enough to sail with Steve Benjamin and Spookie. It was amazing. Being used to boats under 30' I was keen to do every job I could and found myself smiling the whole time. That Thursday I helped move too many sails and begged the boat captain for more. On Friday we went for a practice sail and Benji put me on main for a bit and then the tiller. He asked me to grab the driving stick and I heard him whisper, "put him on the edge", to the trimmers. In what felt like a cruel initiation ritual they put me on a harshly tight reach with too much sail up. There was more helm than I ever could imagine, 30-40lbs worth. I could feel the rudder barely gripping as I turned down to keep us upright. A smzall lull allowed me to steer up just a touch when a huge blast came ripping into the boat and I totally lost it. The stern whipped out from under us and the flogging sails jerked the entire rig like a circus ride. When we got back in control and I relinquished the tiller I just sat on the rail wide eyed and amazed. Then came the race. Long hours on the rail, short bursts on the pedestal, the sunset and the violently violet moonrise were all seared into my mind as one of the most serene nights of my life. We were gifted with Line Honors and the corrected win after spending the night under the full moon. We got to the dock at 2:30am and I didn't wake up until 2 the next afternoon.

After recovering from the great overnight trip, I did a quick trip to Chicago for some community sailing at the Chicago Match Race Center and flew straight to Baltimore with Mac to meet the F4 and the delivery team. We went straight to work, from the plane to the dock, throwing our bags in the 60' offshore fishing boat commissioned for tow and headed to the container ship. The boat was unloaded and Cy Thompsion, Tommy Loughbrough, Mac and I hopped on the Cat leaving Shannon Falcone and a few of his guys to run the powerboat. The sun was setting so we tied up and headed for newport. The plan was to go up the Chesapeake to Back Creek, then down and out the Delaware Bay to Newport RI. The F4 was built to foil so we planned to tow it that way. We got through the creek and reached Cape May by first light. I took the O-dark-hundred shift and was blessed with a breathtaking sunrise. From that point on it was my job to get the thing flying. We tweaked the foils here, changed the rake there, all the while asking for Shannon and Tommy's approval. We ended up foiling for 250 straight miles. Shannon told us that it might even be a record. Regardless, it was surely the smoothest delivery for 6 foot ocean rollers. We simply floated the rough water to the sweet siren ring of the foils. Once we arrived we spent the next few days in the Newport shipyard garage working away on the boat, scrubbing and washing and prepping for the steps ahead. I would have loved to stay longer and see the project through but school came along and my summer ended just like that. 

I am certainly more skilled in the disciplines of the sport that I knew least about than at the beginning of the summer. Now that I'm back in the bay area it's time to get back in my Finn and do some Match Racing and Laser sailing for Stanford. It's also time for me to raise money in order to follow the program that Charlie and Luther set out for me on the Olympic side of things. The beginning and end of the Olympic quad are the times most dependent on raising money. In the beginning you must buy the best equipment, masts and sails that will ensure you're fast. At the end is to perfect your routine at the Olympic venue, preparing for the trials and ultimately peaking at the Games. For the last two years I've been learning the boat, renting and finding the best equipment for my style. It's now time to lock down that equipment and focus on sailing against the best sailors to push me to be the best I can be. If you'd like to support my Campaign now is the time. Click on the Donate tab for more information.

All the Best and Sail Fast,

Luke - USA91

Rio Training Camps

After two solid training blocks as Caleb’s training partner for the Olympics, I have many notes to study, friendships to foster, and an understanding of pre-Olympic life to take with me to large events to come. I was extremely lucky to be a part of the training and I definitely left with more knowledge and skills than I brought down.

The first camp I spent every moment with Caleb. We sailed, went to the gym, and shared an apartment together. When I got there he had already been in Rio for about a month and had the place pretty figured out. For example, he had the traffic dialed and we'd stop for Acai after dinner with nothing to do but drink our delicious Amazonian treats in the car. The lady at the Acai place knew are orders by the end of the week. 

Being around Caleb, I noticed how much of a perfectionist he really was. Before then I was always under the impression that he ran a laid back program, but his boat work and nutrition proved otherwise. He instilled in me the six-P philosophy: that “proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.” His boat was modified to perfection, adding things that appeared frivolous to me but made everything work seamlessly. I got to hop in his boat a few times and it just looked and felt right. It immediately gave me the feeling that I was in a racing machine and my only job was to perform. Longing for that feeling in my own boat I incorporated this mindset into a few modifications of my own. Another first for this trip was getting to know my new boat, “The Cat’s Pajama’s”. I bought her from Zach after he went into retirement. She’s a pure beauty. Built custom for Zach she was made in 2015 and had only sailed one regatta before I bout her with the help of a generous supporter and friend. The Fantastica (type of new boat) went through the water really well and once I got used to the boat, I definitely had wheels. Buying a boat is one thing, making it your own is another. It takes expensive line, blocks, and tools. And those cost money and are things I am currently fundraising for.

The US Sailing Team had a great base set up in Niteroi, the city across from Rio. We had a house rented for the team and would use it for everything from morning briefings after breakfast to working out, rowing or boxing, before dinner. The host family made us all feel right at home and it allowed us to do our jobs, learning the idiosyncrasies of Rio.

Caleb on the big day.

Caleb on the big day.

The first camp had relatively strong winds, full of hiking and free pumping. The first day I arrived at 8am, after traveling for two straight days, to the biggest waves I have ever sailed in. The SW breeze had been blowing for a few days, creating swells of up to 20 feet from crest to trough. They were so big that in the crest I would be dropping traveler and fully hiking but sitting fully in the boat in the lulls.

In addition to Caleb, I was surrounded by some Finn powerhouses like European Champion PJ Postma and 2012 silver medalist Jonas Hough-Christensen, it was nice holding my bow even in speed tests and asking specific questions when something didn’t seem right. One thing that I will say about the best Finn guys is that they  are not shy to share what they know, like in some other classes. Josh Junior was specifically very helpful and always kind to answer my questions on the water.

My camp was filled with highs and lows; sometimes winning short course practice races while other times being the last across the finish. It showed I have potential but just not enough hours in the boat. High volume training is definitely in the plan for the future!

During the second camp, which happened over the last two weeks, I saw a different side of Rio on and off the water. I stayed in a five story house overlooking Niteroi with some of my fellow US training partners: Judge Ryan and Hans Henken in the 49er, and Sarah Newberry and Trevor Burd in the Nacra. It was great sharing our stories of the day and hanging out in the rooftop pool overlooking the city as the sun went down. Catamaran legend and two time medalist Randy Smyth was also with us a few nights and it was great to hear his stories from a couple movies he was in as well as his crazy stories in the Tornado, like when he took someone’s rudder off as they tried to cross him on port at the pin during a big event. As for the water, the wind was much different. Because of the warm air and strong northerly gradient, it was hard for the sea breeze to come in and we actually only saw one day of proper sea breeze during my visit. The conditions created fun mental problems to try and solve: 1) why they existed and 2) to predict what characteristics they held for my strategy. It was also much lighter than the last camp and within those two weeks I identified light air downwind speed as a weakness of mind and, by the end of the camp, I learned the proper technique eventually achieving matched speed as the Olympic boys. In general my races were much better than the first camp, after getting used to the mast and sail that Caleb had me on as well as the venue. I could make tactical decisions without worrying about my speed; my next goal with my own boat. Deck it out so that I can focus on my training and racing rather than having my head stuck inside the boat fiddling. I also learned over the course of the two camps how to set up my sail perfectly to the conditions. One of Luther’s (our coach) areas of expertise was drilled into me over hours of leech profile debriefs and mid line-up commands. I could feel the difference through the boat as I changed with the breeze or sea-state, where before I would set and forget it. He demanded perfection in that regard and I thank him for that. 

One of the biggest takeaways of the camps was creating a plan with Luther and Charlie for my next few years. We highlighted my peak events to perform at as well as the associated training blocks along the way. As of now I am going to sail OCR and a European regatta in the spring before going full time during the summer with one or two domestic events before then. The training and equipment plan that Luther and I have created is solid and will ensure that I continue to develop my skills and never digress. Of course another huge takeaway from my time in Rio was the friendships I made in Caleb, the guys I lived with, and all the Team USA members at the house. I won’t ever forget my experience in Brazil and I thank everyone who was there that made it so special!!

The team is ready and Rio is anyone’s game! I look forward to yelling at the live stream supporting my brothers and sisters fighting for Gold! I hope all of you at home will be doing nothing different. I'm proud of what I did in Rio and it was great to be a part of a singular goal, to be the undoubtable best in the world. Something I continue to strive for myself. 

All the best,

Luke Muller - USA 91

Finn Europeans, National Team Selection, and The Road Ahead

My most recent event was the Finn European Championships in Barcelona, Spain. It was also the final portion of the 2016 US Olympic Trials, deciding who was to go to Rio. To me it was my first Senior European event and the most challenging yet in my Finn Class experience. 

Just a few days before flying out I received a call from Josh Adams telling me that I was one of three teams discretionarily selected to the US Sailing Team Sperry. I was surprised and extremely stoked. It’s been a huge goal of mine to be a part of the team and I look forward to putting everything I have into representing the US on such a level. I'm even more excited about the opportunities to learn from the senior staff and their support should create a clear path for me to execute. Hard work without a plan is meaningless. This way I will allow myself to work smart, not just hard. 

Due to the fact that the regatta was held the week before finals, I arrived the day before the event. I decided to spend most of the day setting up my boat. Unfortunately I discovered that there was a large problem with the mast step that prevented me from tuning my boat the way I like it. I jimmy-rigged it to allow me to have the proper leech tension but my center of effort was much farther forward than where I prefer. It wasn't a good start to say the least. 

The warm-up to the first race was my first time sailing the venue. We got my boat dialed-in but speed doesn’t matter if you don’t get off the line. For the first three days of the event I struggled to get off the line, which in a 90 boat fleet is devastating. Trying different techniques and approaches I found myself again and again with a poor start and just behind the front line with no possibility of catching back up. In large deep fleets the front row immediately separates and spreads across the entire course, leaving only speed downwind and decisions at the corners to make gains on the boats ahead. Our races were close to 90minutes full of lost of straight line upwinds and speed driven downwind sailing. My score line came out 64, 51, 43, 68 from those three days. 

On the 4th day with a vow to not start off the mark I experimented with a mid line start but punched from the group. It was a characteristic of the fleet that on a black flag there was tons of line-sag which allowed those who knew, to have their bow punched in comparison to their surrounding boats but still behind the line. Unfortunately when I chose this strategy there was someone sailing straight down the line encouraging the fleet to come closer than normal. I should have noticed this and bailed on my strategy but I did not and received a BFD as a result.

The last two days finally came with clear lanes. I had two good starts from either end of the line rounding the top in 15 on the 5th day and 5th on the final day of racing. Being in the front of the group felt like a breath of fresh air but it was shortly lived. I missed a shift on both second upwinds and my downwind tactics were just off especially in the dying breeze of the final race. My final scores ended up 32, 31 ending on a comparative high to the rest of the scores but still hungry for more after such good roundings. 

A true competitor hates these words but I did learn lessons invaluable for the road ahead. I will no longer be so irresponsible with my kit and it is my plan to begin to invest in equipment of my own to be responsible for and ensure that I am sailing the best equipment I can. I am being supported by those who agree with this plan and I hope that those reading this will consider donation as well. This upgrade takes a group effort and it is necessary to the goals that I have set for the future. In addition to the necessity of good equipment, I was reminded how different large international fleets sail in comparison to the small collegiate fleets that I spar against at home in venues much different from those on the Olympic circuit. Next time it is up to me to remember what I have learned and execute on those lessons. For now it’s time to get heavier and get ready for a summer of great training in Rio. I look forward to learning what it is like to train before an Olympics at the Olympic venue and I’ll be sure to put my best efforts towards supporting Caleb in any way I can. 

Till then,   Luke

Spain Training

After experiencing the level of training at the Dinghy Academy those original ten days turned into a solid month of working on the Med. With a group of top notch training partners, stellar breeze, and great equipment nothing could have been more helpful to my development.

The style of training consisted of short and intense races every day, giving the reins to the sailors as to where they would like to improve personally. Rolling out of the Jr World Championships and right into training gave me the unique ability to make direct improvements on the things that held me back in the regatta, and then some. I made gains on my on and off the wind tactics, boat handling, speed, and technique. In addition, hitting the gym and free-pumping everyday improved my fitness substantially. 

I made a lot of friends in Valencia and it was interesting to live without family or someone I had know before living there. I felt like I grew a lot and learned to slow down and relax even when I was working everyday to get better, a lesson I use every day now. 

I can't wait till I'm back training in Valencia with the boys but for now domestic training and events are going to be my focus. 

till next time

2015 Silver Cup - Top 10 Finish

This past Sunday we finished up the 2015 Silver Cup here in Valencia. With 30 of the worlds top Under23 Finn sailors, the regatta brought tight racing. Due to the heat wave that swept across all of western Europe we did not see the typical Valencia seabreeze. Instead we had consistent easterly gradients from 4-15knts but mostly in the 7-9knt range. 

Going into the event I really had no expectations, apart from sailing hard and with focus, as it was only my second regatta in the Finn. I believe I succeeded in that goal. A few poor starts and being flagged by a very active jury team held me back but I felt my speed on and off the wind helped me overcome these setbacks. 

Coming off the event I've taken away lots to learn from. With a list of skills that I should use to my advantage as well as a long list of weaknesses to tend to in the up coming weeks. For the next ten days I am training in Valencia at the Dinghy Academy and I'm looking forward to making leaps in my sailing. 

The stay here has been great at "The Dinghy." With a solid crew of about 15, training on the water is top notch and off the water we have loads of fun. A perfect way to spend a summer. Gym, train, chill, repeat. Making leaps.

'Till next time -LM

Pre-Silver Cup Update

To those who have not heard, one of our past US Sailing Team members Trevor Moore has gone missing in Biscayne Bay, Miami and a huge search has been involved: please go to http://www.gofundme.com/findtrevor  to help assist the search effort. He will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. 

Today and for the last four days I have been training in Valencia gearing up for the Finn Silver Cup, which starts in three days time. I've been going well against the group that has been here and I am excited to see what I will be able to do against the entire field. 

The Dinghy Academy has been a great place to stay and after being invited to train with the group here, including Murdoch and Josh Junior following the event, I have planned to continue to sail after the regatta to get the best training I can. I've met some great guys and am pretty amped on the community here. Shaping up to be a great trip. 

For now I will take tomorrow off, see the city a bit then get everything locked and loaded on Monday before the regatta. Follow the results at: http://www.cyberaltura.com/manager/modelo00/index/index.php?cl=108&ms=00&ln=uk

First Post!

I'm stoked to announce the launch of my newest blog. I've always been stuck in between having a website or not, or deciding how big the website should be, mostly because I'm not campaigning full-time until after University. But I want to keep those who support me up to date and I would like to start to create a foundation of supporters or at least attract the attention of prospective supporters so that when the time comes the transition into full time sailing will be much more fluid. That being said, a Finn purchase is on the horizon and that is a hell of a purchase, so please don't be too weary to help out!! Every penny counts :)

I want to first thank those who have recently supported me.

As always, thanks to my family for all your support. I always know you're right behind me in everything I do. I want to also thank Forrest Gay for giving me a sweet deal to rent his boat while I train in the Bay Area, he'll always be the one who got me in my first boat. Thank you Saint Francis Sailing Foundation for your generosity and support towards the upcoming Finn Silver Cup. I hope to create a strong relationship with you, founded upon commitment and directed effort. I want to thank Russ Silvestri for hooking me up with all the locals and getting me some boat rides at the St. Francis. Shout out to John Vandemoer for giving me the freedom to sail my Finn while at school. I hope we can continue to make big things happen while at school. I also want to thank US Sailing for their guidance and continued belief in my future. I can't wait for what is to come!!

Currently I am in Vancouver training every day with Canadian national Kyle Martin. Man is it gorgeous out here! We've had two days of beautiful westerly seabreeze and one day of shifty southeasterly winds. Been working a lot on short course maneuvering and boat handling to gear up for the upcoming Silver Cup in Valencia. Quick hands and high heart rates have been the name of the game during this camp. Couple more days to go and trying to squeeze in a hike and a little camping later this week, have to take it all in while we're here right?

'Till next time,

Luke