Behind the Scenes, October 2020
Published on October 8th, 2020
Who’s ready for 2020 to be over?! Me, me, me! This has been such a challenging year, making it all the more exciting to announce: the 2021 Ultimate Sailing Calendar is hot-off-the-press and ready for shipment mid-October! I cannot wait to turn the page on 2020, and look forward to a brighter new year!
But for now we turn the page to October’s image in the 2020 Ultimate Sailing Calendar! This photo always makes me smile: the colorful 49erFXs clustered unfathomably tight as they round the mark, the sailors like lissome sprites darting across the hulls with complete confidence and poise.
This is one of the most thrilling newer Olympic classes: described as a ‘skiff-type high-performance sailing dinghy’ (that’s a mouthful). It’s a take-off on the 49er; adapted for a lighter weight, double-handed female crew: without losing any of its muscle!
Designed for a maximum combined crew weight of 264-lbs, it is superbly balanced and sailplanned to be just as thrilling and competitive in 10 knots, as 25. And with a strict one design rule, the focal point is purely on the skill, athleticism and daring of the crew.
The 49erFX Class premiered in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio where Brazil’s Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze set the standard. My heart broke for the sailors pictured here, during the Hempel World Cup Series, who were campaigning for the 2020 Olympics which were canceled. It’s my hopes they can carry on their momentum and discipline until next summer’s Games in Enoshima, Japan.
The intensity and determination of these sailors inspired me and I wanted to illustrate the exhilaration of the sport, and how ballsy they are! But conditions were not very inspirational that week in Miami. Storm clouds threatened, rain cells rolled through, and winds remained fickle.
As exciting as it must be to sail in a hearty 25-knot breeze, I think it’s more challenging to sail when the air is light, packed in tight formation, deftly flinging from side to side as they tack and jibe, practically airborne as they traverse the nine-foot wide craft: only to lunge out on the wire again, hiking hard, their sturdy bodies paralleling the seas.
The 49erFX demands them to be part acrobat, part technician, and tenacious and I struggled to figure out how, in these conditions, to capture the true essence of the sport and athletes involved.
Kat Mehler, a member of Coral Reef Yacht Club and terrific photo boat driver, was patient as we perused and tried different approaches and angles around the course throughout the day. An interminable haze clung in the sky as cumulonimbus built in the background. The water was choppy and steely gray, reflecting the absence of blue in the sky.
But eventually the glow of the shy afternoon sun dramatically silhouetted the sailors against their vivid spinnakers. It was magical, the lighting was just right, and I fired away with my Canon 1Dx and 100-400mm. I looked at my camera display and realized: I’d gotten my shot. Sometimes you just have to wait for the light.