Ups and Downs of an Olympic Campaign

Published on April 10th, 2019

Aspiring Canadian Olympian Sarah Douglas, top ranked in the Laser Radial, stumbled hard this month while competing at the massive Trofeo Princesa Sofia Regatta in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. In this report she details her preparation, what it was like to have her worst result in years, and how she intends to forge forward in her lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Games

Regatta Pre-Training
Before any competition, it is important to spend at least a couple of days training in the conditions and preparing for the specific aspects of racing. We balance both technique work and execution of races. I worked with my coach on specific downwind techniques, mark roundings, and joined groups to do practice races.

In the pre-training, Palma brought offshore conditions and I felt good going into competition. I had gained a good routine and finally felt good in my new nutrition plan. So I prepared my boat, washed it and made sure all of my equipment was set before Day 0.

Due to my 10th place ranking in the World Sailing Rankings, I was required to go through an additional equipment inspection the day before the regatta which was a bit of added stress. After, I headed out for a quick one hour sail with my coach at 3pm to do some very specific technique work the day before competition.

Trofeo Princesa Sofia Regatta
Like many of our competitions, when the first day of racing comes around, the conditions that we were training in the week before had changed. We started the first race in an unstable offshore breeze, the wind died, did a 180 degree turn and sea breeze came into the bay. A yellow flag in the second race set me back in the standings but it was only day 1 and I knew I could come back.

I am proud to say that even though my results didn’t show it, I kept fighting all the way until the end. I showed a lot of grit and urgency which were part of my goals for the event. My grit was ultimately tested on the final day of racing.

After a short postponement on shore, we headed out for the final two races. I was sailing my boat out to coach for the tow out. I usually keep my gloves in my cockpit until after launching. I was rocking my boat out and had my gloves in my hands, I was almost at the coach boat and decided to put them on, when I realized I only had one glove. My left hand glove had been lost in the short 100m journey from the beach.

As the prepared sailor I am, I thought “no problem, I keep an extra set in my dry bag”. I reached in, to find I only had two right hands, and now I had a total of three right hands. I tried to keep the panic to a low and thought my teammates might have extras or I could flip one of the right hands inside out and all would be fine. I tried it, but it was too slippery, so I thought, you know what, I am tough and I can sail without them and I will become a stronger person because of it.

It picked up to 13-16 knots and I was there trying to get my coach to put electrical tape on some parts of my hands to reduce the damage being done. Finished race 1, had some blood on my hands and I thought I can do this again. You’ve got this Sarah. I fought through and although my hands were in pieces, I was so happy to have pushed through the pain.

I had been wearing gloves for three years but I made it through and now I will always double check my gloves and keep minimum two pairs in by bag from now on.

So after a couple of top 10 results in the last couple of World Cups, I finished a shocking 48th overall in Palma. Even though it doesn’t count towards Olympic qualification, how does one move forward, how do I keep confidence in my program? Every regatta is a learning opportunity and this one shed a good light on what needs to be fine-tuned as I prepare for the 2019 World Championships and ultimately for the 2020 Olympic Games.

After a long debrief and planning session with my coach, we established what needs to be done. There’s less than 500 days to the Olympics, 2 World Championships, 3 World Cups, and 7 other world class regattas. We plan on using every day to make steps toward the Olympic podium and I have a lot of confidence in our plan, my program, and my coach. I am looking forward to this next phase of the program and chasing excellence.

Beach Clean Up
A great initiative led by sailors at our sailing venues! The Canadian contingent gathered with other countries to clean up our beaches and surrounding areas. It was quite shocking to see the amount of garbage when most sailors thought we were clean. The little bits of electrical tape in the sand, plastic bottles and many other objects scattered throughout the boat park.

This is something that the Canadian team will be part of moving forward and ensuring we keep our venues clean, along with taking various steps to being more environmentally friendly. Personally, I have switched to use reusable bottles, pick up garbage I may see in the ocean and have more careful consideration about other environmental impacts.

What’s next?
Japan Training Camp (April 26 – May 6)

For the food lovers…
I mentioned I have a new nutrition plan, I have now eliminated my Greek yogurt breakfast and replaced it with breakfast bakes and omelets. This breakfast bake is super easy to make and sets you up for an easy, delicious and nutritious breakfast. This is what I have been eating for the last couple weeks and made it this morning!

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