Harken Derm

Getting settled into a very foreign place

Published on July 26th, 2019

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Most sports teams have better records in their home stadium than when on the road. They maintain their routine, they know the venue, they sleep in their own bed. Being comfortable contributes to better performance.

Prior to the Rio 2016 Olympics, getting comfortable was a frequent comment for the sailors preparing to compete. There was concern about water quality, and how best to adapt. There was also acclimating to the culture, to the enthusiasm of the locals. Plus crime was a problem.

Getting comfortable amid discomfort goes beyond sailing skill, and when you include the high stakes environment of the Olympics, the climb to the podium becomes mighty steep.

The process of adapting to the 2020 Olympic venue has already begun, as there are few regions more foreign to westerners than Asia. Very different language, very different food, very different culture.

While athletes may not yet be selected to represent their nations, preparing can’t wait for that to occur. Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea hope they will there for the USA, and share this report from their recent 49erFX training camp at the Olympic sailing venue in Enoshima, Japan:


We spent the first block of the training focusing on speed. We were lucky enough to have Dave Ullman join us to provide some fresh insight and ideas for our speed and sail set up.

July is the rainy season in Japan. A low front parks over the country for several weeks, which brought mostly an offshore breeze and light rain ALL day. Over our entire two and a half weeks there, we only had two days of sunshine. Luckily, the offshore breeze provided the perfect opportunity to work on our transitions and adjustments with controls, sail trim, and moding.

Since Enoshima is on the southern coast, it has thousands of miles of open ocean to the south. This creates a constant ground swell. On one of our training days, we were greeted with really big onshore swell from an overnight storm with an 8 to 16 knot offshore breeze, which made for very unique conditions.

The apparent wind was all over the place, and boat balance upwind and downwind was incredibly challenging. We were really proud of how we improved throughout the day in conditions we rarely see!

We spent the last four days racing a coach’s regatta with 18 teams. The racing was awesome, with three out of four days spent in offshore breeze and (of course) rain. We focused on executing what we learned about our speed and moding in the previous training days in a racing environment, and are really happy with our progress.

Our starts are truly a weapon for us with our average score being a four out of five. This means we can start wherever we want in order to execute our game plan. Dave also provided some great input on our approach to racing and how to make more confident game plans. Everything we learned in this training regatta gives us a lot of confidence going into all of the racing in August.

Our upcoming schedule is a bit crazy with the Pan-Am Games in Peru (July 28-August 11) followed immediately by the Olympic Test Event (August 15-22) and a World Cup Event in Japan (August 25-31).

We were really happy to get this time in Japan. Not only did we learn more about the venue, on and off the water, but we were able to set up everything. When we come back in a few weeks, everything will be plug and play.

The August events also start our Olympic Trials, so we made our final selection for equipment after looking at two different masts (racing & spare) and checking out our racing sails. We were really grateful to have Dave there to be a part of this process with us!

This trip was a big reminder for us about the importance of our team and how this journey is impossible without the right people by our sides. We had a fun, productive, and open environment with Dave and Giulia Conti, who are absolutely amazing coaches!

The logistics of this trip also would not have been possible without the help and hospitality from Kyomi Coward and Scott Weiler who live in the area and have become our Japan parents. They went above and beyond to house us, coordinate airport trips, and make sure we were settled into such a foreign place.

Finally, we cannot do this without our title sponsor Kilroy Realty and all of the support from the US Sailing Team, Lake Beulah Yacht Club, Chicago YC, Inland Lake Yachting Association, Chicago Match Race Center and all of our donors. This is a really exciting time in our campaign and we are so proud to represent all of you. We hope you will join us and follow along for this exciting month ahead!

For more information: https://www.roblesheasailing.com/

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