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