Erik Storck – Five factors for a successful campaign
Published on January 21st, 2013
It all starts again. The Olympic quad. The four year cycle that leads – for a select few – to the Olympic Games. Symbolic of the beginning for North American sailors will be the six-day ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami (Jan 28-Feb 2) – the second of four events on the 2012-13 ISAF Sailing World Cup season. The season began in Melbourne, Australia (Dec 2-8) and will move next to Palma Spain (Mar 30-Apr 6) and then Hyeres, France (Apr 20-27).
At the 2012 Games, Erik Storck and Trevor Moore represented the U.S. in the 49er skiff event, finishing in 15th position. Erik has no plans to train for the 2016 Games, whereas Trevor will continue as a helm for his next campaign. Here Erik comments on five factors for a successful campaign: Funding, Performance, Organization, Team, and Conditioning.
Trevor and I worked nearly full-time for two years out of college to be able to jumpstart our own campaign. By saving up almost all of our income from coaching (I was able to live virtually rent-free on a 35′ power boat), we bought the first 49er we owned as a team. That boat qualified us for the national team. From there, it’s a lot easier to both retain team funding and to fundraise. We developed our brand; we were a hard-working, dedicated, and talented young team. By presenting that brand to our donors and by performing when it counted, we were able to increase our funding year over year. In 2012, after qualifying for the Games, we had just about wrapped up all of our fundraising by February, which allowed us to focus on sailing. While we spent more time fundraising than our international competitors, I do not consider that to have been a significant downfall of our campaign.
Performance / Improvement / Technical Abilities
I’ve already mentioned the importance of regatta performance in funding. It is important to see consistent results, but more important is to see consistent improvement. Our first trip to Europe, while successful by some standards, left room for marked improvement. We like to look at our three World Championship results over three years; 39th, 24th, and 9th consecutively. Young campaigners need to see that the Olympic quad is a long road. It can seem daunting to overcome the many setbacks they are sure to face. This is where you have to rely on your technical abilities, which need to always be improving. There was questioning of the team’s technical expertise in some of the classes after the Games. Of course, there is always room for improvement in these areas, most notably in today’s ultra-professional game. We were constantly improving. We were the best in the world at some of the skill sets and technical abilities. We could have been slightly more well-rounded, but we worked hard at making ourselves Olympic-caliber 49er sailors.
Planning / Scheduling
To pick up on the point of technical abilities, we did a good job of planning and scheduling around our weaknesses. With the guidance of the coaching staff, we constantly assessed our performances and approached our calendar with the goal of improving particular aspects of our game. This led us to San Francisco Bay and Santa Cruz in the early fall to work on heavy air boat-handling. That led us to be one of the fastest boats in the world in those conditions, which we put on display in the medal race at the Perth Worlds. The difficult thing with planning, and something that I think the team on a whole has learned from, is that the long European racing season leaves little time for a detailed approach to skills improvements. With the funding system that was in place last quad, a young team could ill afford to miss a single World Cup regatta. Forced competition and rigid competition schedules sometimes lead to higher stress and slower improvements. Sometimes the best course of action is to go home and delve into the details, and then come back at another regatta down the line with your new skill set.
Teamwork / Complimenting Styles
Multi-handed sailing is, for me, far more rewarding and more fun than single-handed. At the same time, it is a constant challenge to be able to work together with your teammate. Trevor and I are both strong-minded individuals with our own styles of doing just about everything. We each had our own strengths, some of which overlapped, but more of which did not. I think this made us a team with a lot of upside. However, it took us a long time to figure out how to get those opposing styles and strengths to mesh and form something greater. I also think we were never able to put our best performance together for an entire regatta. At the end of the day, we both knew that the other person wanted the same thing we did, as badly as we did, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that in the heat of the moment.
The US Sailing Team made strength and conditioning a priority in the last quad. The team as a whole made huge strides forward. I can confidently say I was in the best shape of my life on day one of the Olympics. Conditioning has many positive influences on performance. There are the obvious, especially that you can work the boat as hard on the final race of the last day as the first race of the first. Less obvious are that it gives you confidence and teaches you how to see incremental gains in all areas of your sailing. At the end, we had an injury in our team that came as a result of over-conditioning. The injury hindered our ability to train in the final months leading up to the Olympics. This is the potential downside to conditioning, and shows the importance of taking extreme caution both when on and off the water. At the end of the day, Trevor and I knew we left nothing on the table. Of course we wish the Games had gone differently. I have every confidence that the U.S. will be back on the podium very soon. I also know and respect how much work is involved. If it was easy, everyone would do it!