Saturday, June 25, 2011

Putting In The Hours

Early Friday morning, I watched in amazement as seventeen pencils scribbled furiously on seventeen notepads, and wondered if the assembled kids had spent the past nine months attacking their normal academic classes with the same ferocity. 
Remembering myself at age sixteen, I had my doubts. But this was no ordinary class. This was a racing clinic run by former and current Olympic Laser campaigners Andrew Scrivan and Rob Crane. 
Their word was law, their credibility beyond question. 
As a result, a fairly large group of teenagers sat in rapt attention (to what was essentially an academic lecture) for over 45 minutes. And yes, you read that correctly. 

These kids, students at the JSA Advanced Racing Clinic hosted by Stamford Yacht Club, enjoyed a rare opportunity to pick the brains of world class athletes during two days of mental and physical training.  
Call it dinghy boot camp.
Each day began with conditioning exercises, followed by chalk talks, and was capped by a full session of on-the-water drills. This sequence essentially mirrors the daily training routine of many US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Olympic hopefuls. I’m willing to bet that everyone slept pretty well after each day. 

The 420 program was led by the energetic Steve Keen of New Zealand, and Boston College All-New England crew Katie Nastro. After learning how to set a spinnaker pole so well that they could do it literally blindfolded, the double-handed fleet went charging out of Stamford Harbor. Previously tentative crews were out on their trapeze wires right away, and went so far upwind that they were nearly out of sight for much of the breezy, misty afternoon. 

Despite several hours of physically grueling hiking and trapping, there were smiles all around by the time we got back to shore. There's a special kind of satisfaction that comes from knowing you are faster at the end of the day than you were at the beginning, and these kids definitely tasted it. 

The price of speed? Nothing but hard work. And it seems that the junior sailors of Long Island Sound are willing to go the distance.


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