2012 World Champion!

 

What a year! It’s been packed with great racing all over the world, and culminated last week with the World Championships in Cagliari, Italy. With over 150 men and 40 women, this was the biggest course racing event ever held. Huge props to the race management and event organizers for running 48 great races in 4 days!

For the first two days the men’s fleet was split into three groups of 52. These standing would be used to determine Gold, Silver, and Bronze fleets. The first day was 7-13kts so I rode my 17m Edge. I’m a San Francisco boy so light air has always been a bit intimidating for me, especially against all the European sailors.  I also had Adam Koch in my fleet, he won a very light European Championships the prior week and definitely was the guy to beat in those conditions. My goal was just to get clear starts, stay conservative, and sail my own race. It worked—I got three bullets and a pretty solid confidence boost that I could hold it together in the light stuff. That’s no to say it would be easy, but possible.

Day 2 was solid 13m conditions, and a similar story. I had to battle another of my American training partners, Bryan Lake. Two of the four races were really close, in the last one we swapped the lead at least once per leg. After a tactical mistake at the leeward mark, I was in catch-up mode and was able to just barely squeak into the lead on the last run. So I managed to keep my picket fence going, and ended the qualifiers with seven straight bullets—1st place at this point! Equally exciting is that my sister Erika had won all the women’s races as well, and she was already racing against the entire women’s fleet. Killing it!!

Day three – Gold Fleet. All the top guys on the same line, finally! This was where we really got to see how everyone would stack up, and where points really started to matter. We carried in a single race score determined by qualification round standings. My game was working so I tried not to change a thing. I started away from the fleet, sailed fast, and didn’t put myself positions to make any major mistakes. I generally got to the weather mark in second or third (to those who had risked port-tacking the fleet on a slightly pin-favored line), but worked my way up to the top in every race. I have to say if there’s one day of sailing I’m very proud of this year, this was it. I finished the day with straight bullets and a 10pt lead, in the Gold fleet at the Worlds. It doesn’t get much better than that!

But then on to the really stressful stuff. We tried a new format—a winner take all medal race series on the last day for the top 10. Once again, current standings were carried in as a single race score. What does that mean? 2/3 of the regatta is the last two races of the event, and my 10 pt lead was compressed down to a 1pt lead. This was pretty hard to stomach in my position, because at that point I had won 11 races (of 11) and would normally be going into the last day with the goal of sailing conservatively and consistently. Instead I was in a position to lose everything with one mistake, or worse, someone else’s mistake. And this almost happened; in the first medal race I had a solid start and was in a position to round the top gate in first, but was blatantly fouled and briefly tangled. Luckily I got free and caught back up to second, right behind Adam who got free and sailed a flawless race to claim the bullet. So going into the last race I was 1 pt ahead of Adam, which meant I had to beat him or else we would tie and I’d lose the tie breaker based on last race scores. Talk about stressful! Well…all or nothing, so I chose all. Great start, got to the weather mark in second to Bernie, passed him downwind and sailed away from there. What a relief! I feel like I had to win this one three times to finally get the title.

But now the coolest part. Erika had almost an identical battle in the Women’s medal series. Stef Bridge had a killer first race and tied it up, so the last race was winner take all between them. I swear I was more stressed out watching her second race but she sailed flawlessly to beat Stef and claim the women’s World Championship Title. It’s not often you get to share the podium at a World Championship with your sister. I’ll remember this one forever…

Thanks to all my sponsors, my family, teammates, and the SF fleet for supporting me throughout this journey. It’s been incredible…and I don’t think it’s ending anytime soon.

Johnny