Fifteen Days of Education

Published on September 26th, 2018

Excelling in competition requires being comfortable at the venue. This is infinitely harder when traveling abroad where knowing the language, currency, transport, and customs add to the equation. And for the westerner, it doesn’t get much more foreign than Asia.

For aspiring Olympians, the Tokyo 2020 Games will require additional investment in time to become acquainted with the region. Canadian Sarah Douglas, a rising star in the Laser Radial, reports on her trip earlier in September to the Olympic sailing venue to compete at the World Cup Series Enoshima:

This was my first time heading over to Japan and it was quite the experience. It all started with a 12 hour direct flight (Thank you Air Canada) and a 13 hour time change. Whilst the Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo, the sailing will be in Enoshima, Japan. This is about an hour train ride south of Tokyo.

So there I was; tired from my flight, 2 heavy bags, backpack and my tiller and extension in hand trying to take the train in Japanese rush hour. After a lot of Google translate, asking people and using Google maps I made it to my hotel in Fujisawa (25min bus away from the yacht club). It was very hard to find an Airbnb accommodation close to the venue, so our best bet was a hotel in the city.

Hotel living meant another challenge of eating out for most meals and being creative with just a kettle and mini fridge. Huge thank you to my nutritionist Christine St. Clair at the Canadian Sport Institute of Ontario for providing me with helpful information on eating in Japan and how to make do in a hotel with various appliances. Let’s just say I was secretly hoping for an iron so I could make quesadillas or a grilled cheese.

I avoided the hotel breakfast and was able to find Greek yogurt to keep with my usual breakfast routine. Lunch was usually salad or a sandwich and snacks that I was able to pick up from a store next to the bus stop.

Dinner was the fun part, our meals during training was more on the adventurous side, sometimes just putting in Google translate: ‘Please recommend dishes for us’ and eating whatever our waiter brought. Our meals during racing were all ones that we were familiar with to avoid the risk of getting sick.

After getting organized at the hotel and grocery store, it was time to head to the 2020 Olympic Venue. Every day we took a bus to the yacht club for 250 Yen (about 2.20 USD) that was every 30mins. All boats were stored in the same area whilst all the various countries containers were across the street. I went to pick up my charter boat and get sorted.

When we arrived we learnt about a Typhoon hitting Japan the next day. Typhoon Jebi was the biggest typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years. All coach boats were taken out of the water, many countries put their boats back in their anchored containers whilst I tied my laser down.

Typhoon Jebi directly hit Osaka whilst in Enoshima we only experienced 60knot winds and rain. Typhoon Jebi created havoc on Osaka, killing several people and many infrastructures damaged. The storm forced us to miss our first 2 days of training.

The typhoon passed and it was time to hit the water. Typhoon Jebi left huge waves and southerly 20-25knots for the next 3 days and it was conditions that I had rarely sailed in but I can only describe as EPIC.

The Competition
Registered, stickered up and it was time to hit the water for racing. Drastically different conditions were scheduled for racing. The breeze switched to a northerly offshore breeze and it called for shifty winds. I had two solid days of racing putting me in 4th placed, tied for 3rd and very close points within the top group.

The next two days we were unable to get racing due to the lack of wind. The last day of fleet racing was incredibly tricky and I really struggled. I scored my worst races of the regatta and moved down to 6th overall. Disappointed with my final day, I looked forward to the medal race.

This was only my second medal race and my coach and I were eager to learn from another experience. We once again looked at the points and saw that 2nd and 3rd place overall were incredibly challenging to get to due to the many factors that had to go well in order for me to podium. My best bet was 4th or more likely 5th.

We showed up to the venue and the breeze was not looking good. After a long wait onshore, they first sent out the Men’s Laser fleet and we followed shortly after. Big swell and very light winds made it to be a very tricky medal race.

I was feeling very nervous on the water before the race and my coach could instantly tell. Although I made a mistake of hitting the pin and one other tactical error, I finished the race in 5th place. It was very up and down in the race but I managed to remain in the same position overall. Click here for results.


Editor’s Note: The Japanese archipelago is strongly affected by the Pacific Typhoon Season from May to October each year. August and September are the peak of the typhoon season in Japan. On average, the Pacific experiences 25 tropical cyclones with 11 of these approaching Japan and 3 directly hitting the country. The 2020 Games will be held July 24 to August 9.

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