With heavy hearts we have ended our Gulari Scutt Tokyo 2020 Olympic campaign.
For various reasons we couldn’t be at the top of our game on all fronts. Our results were improving, but not at the rate we wanted them to, and we were not enjoying the process enough to continue this fight to gold in Tokyo 2020 together.
We are proud of our resilience and continuing recoveries from our serious injuries early on. However, carrying on the pursuit of gold together with anything less than our full energy, time investment, and focus is not an option.
Neither one of us is ready to announce next plans, as stepping away from this venture is not something we take lightly.
We are extremely grateful to our sponsors and supporters for their help through thick and thin. It’s hard to comprehend the community effort necessary to support a winning campaign unless you’ve done one, because there are so many aspects to success in racing a double-handed, highly technical boat. We had an incredible team around us.
To our title sponsor, Futuramic, and to All-Ways, Harken, New England Ropes, Zhik, McLube, PROtect Tapes, Ripple, Avasol, and the US Sailing Team and Helly Hansen - thank you. To St Francis Sailing Foundation, Bayview Yacht Club, Seattle Yacht Club Foundation, the Sailing Foundation of New York, and Windmark Sailing Foundation - thank you. To our coaches, the US Sailing Team staff, and the USOC - thank you. To our friends and families - you’re the best.
It is an immense honor and a privilege to have had your support. We are overwhelmed with gratitude, humility and appreciation as we each look to the next chapter.
Helena & Bora
Our peak event of 2018 was the World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, from Aug 5 - 12.
The Hempel Aarhus 2018 World Championships was not only the largest sailing event (regatta) ever held in Denmark, it was the largest sporting event ever held in the country, too! Every four years, World Sailing organizes the World Championships for all 10 Olympic sailing classes in the same place at the same time, so it is a massive event.
Before the Worlds started, we had two weeks of training in Aarhus to get familiar with the sailing venue. I had driven across Poland with the van, trailer, and boat, taken a ferry to Sweden, and then drove across the bridge into Denmark. One more ferry took me from Copenhagen to Aarhus, which is the second-largest city in Denmark.
We had light winds during the entire training period, and of course wind and waves at the upper limit of race-able on the first day of the regatta! That is one of the aspects of our sport that makes it extra-challenging and always-interesting... we cannot control or even predict the conditions, and so being adaptable is key.
We are excited that there are now 3 other full-time USA Nacra 17 teams training with us: Riley & Louisa, Ravi & Caroline, and Sarah & David, all with Nacra 17 squad coach Mike Ingham. This was valuable during our event lead-up, and we look forward to continuing to work together this fall and winter.
A simplistic recap:
Day 1 – 3 races in strong wind and waves, ended the day 35th overall.
Day 2 – Light & unstable wind, no races.
Day 3 – 4 races in light wind, just enough to foil downwind, 2 good and 2 bad races but only moved up 2 places to 33rd.
Day 4 – Day off. Unusual for us, but a chance to recharge!
Day 5 – 3 races in Gold fleet, light wind but building to double trapezing conditions. Moved up 10 places to 23rd after two top ten finishes.
Day 6 – 3 races in Gold fleet, very windy and shifty on Stadium course, next to shore and the grandstands, moved up one more place overall.
After starting the event in 33rd after the qualifying series, we moved up 11 places during Gold fleet racing. We finished 22nd overall, 14th country, and top USA team. Results here.
To say we are hungry to do so much better is a huge understatement. We can point to specific incidents where we left points on the table, and have learned from those, and we can also pinpoint aspects of boatspeed and boathandling that we will continue to work on in order to close the gap. We feel that we have much to learn about sailing this boat and racing with each other, but also that we did not perform to our abilities at Worlds. The latter is a harder pill to swallow. So, we will focus on both learning more and racing to our fullest potential. We are not interested in excuses, only in how we can prepare better next time in order to execute what we set out to do.
We are disappointed to not have met our results goal of qualifying the USA for a berth at the 2020 Olympics in the Nacra 17 class by finishing in the top 8 countries. This was the first but not the only chance to qualify the country, the next chance is in Nov 2019.
We'd like to thank the staff of the US Sailing Team and the US Olympic Committee for the resources provided to enhance our performance. It takes a team - meteorologists, sport psychologists, physiotherapists, logistics gurus... the list goes on.
A huge thank you to the Aarhus 2018 event organizers and volunteers – the event was outstanding, organized, and set a high bar. It was great to see the sustainability initiatives such as extensive recycling, water bottle refill stations, and a city very accessible for cyclists.
We have been analyzing our performance and being sure to recharge after an intense few months of training and European racing.
Next up is competing at the 2020 Olympic venue – Enoshima, Japan!
We will spend all but the last 5 days of September there. We have a week of training, then the Sailing World Cup Enoshima, then a couple of days off and a couple of days of training before the Enoshima Olympic Week. It will be energizing to be at the site for sailing in 2020, and connecting with the place and feeling comfortable there is an important part of peak performance. There is a lot of work to do to understand the venue and learn about the fascinating culture.
Thanks to the US Sailing Team, Futuramic, Bayview Yacht Club, the St Francis Sailing Foundation, Sailing Foundation of New York, All-Ways, Harken, NE Ropes, Avasol, and Ripple. Thank you to the individual donors as well. Their support from the beginning of this Olympic campaign has allowed us to train as effectively as possible and represent the USA at this World Championship.
If you would like to support us, donations can be made by PayPal using the link on our home page, or click the Support tab in the top right to learn how to make a tax-deductible donation. Thank you for supporting our journey to Tokyo 2020!
May - Long Beach training
In the middle of May, we spent two weeks training in Long Beach, CA with our training partners Riley and Louisa, and coach Mike Ingham. Long Beach is one of the best places in the world for two-boat tuning. We had everything from 3-20 knots, flat water, chop, and swell. It was a great opportunity to work on speed with long tuning runs and do boathandling laps. As the full-foiling Nacra 17 is a design that’s less than 2 years old, there is still much experimentation with foil and rudder rake settings in addition to all of the classic boatspeed variables. This training block also marked progress as I was able to graduate to sailing without my hand brace (I broke a metacarpal in my right hand in February) and continued to rebuild my grip strength. It was a relief to shake off some of the inevitable compensations and compromises that develop when one is not full strength.
Thank you to ABYC for the use of their facilities as our training base for this time. We’d like to thank the Hamlins, Pethicks, Melvins, and Tolands for their generosity housing us, feeding us, and providing a vehicle for us. After the camp, we packed up the boats to be sent to Enoshima, Japan for the events there in September.
In the middle of our Long Beach training, we had a two-day trip to San Francisco for a US Sailing Team tech-focused camp. We were happy to attend the launch of FAST USA: Facility for Advanced Sailing and Technology. Thanks to the St Francis Sailing Foundation (which also supports our campaign with grants), Treasure Island Sailing Center, and US Sailing for this exciting initiative.
We decided to skip the World Cup Final in Marseille, France as we felt that since both of our injuries (Bora’s in late August 2017, mine in late February 2018) we needed more time training before heading back to Europe for racing. Time in Europe can absolutely be productive, however it can also be an expensive way to spend a lot of time traveling, settling in, waiting for racing to happen (during training, you can sail whenever you want, but during racing, you can only go sailing when the race committee says it’s time to race). So instead, we chose to train out of Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit, where Bora lives.
June - Detroit training
The confined nature of the Detroit River forces boathandling practice and practicing transitions in puffy and shifty wind. Usually sailing alone leads to boredom after a few days, but it was impressive that even after weeks of being the only Nacra 17 there, we could still enthusiastically immerse ourselves in nailing foiling gybes, swifter tacks, and smoother transitions between puffs. We enjoyed hearing the junior sailors and summer campers excited reactions as we would foil towards the clubhouse and gybe away.
Just before a scheduled week off in our training, I unfortunately found myself sick with food poisoning, which resulted in a trip to the ER. Tests showed campylobacter, which is basically salmonella... I don't recommend it! It was over twelve days until I felt like myself again, and I am happy to be fully recovered now.
From Detroit it was off to Gdynia, Poland, via Hamburg, Germany, to collect our van, trailer, and boat.
July - European Championship in Gdynia, Poland
Gdynia, Poland gave us mostly light wind conditions, but with lumpy chop and some waves to keep in challenging! During this event we made big improvements in upwind boatspeed and continued to work on our racing communication. Bora fought through a cold all week, a reminder of the toll that all of the travel and stress can take.
We were disappointed after our first day of racing, but bounced back with two 8th places, and unfortunately one false start, the next day. During the final series, we got two 1sts and a 2nd, and had a breakage in another race and hit two plastic bags in another. To be able to mentally rebound from these frustrations is part of the game!
We finished 3rd in Silver fleet, which was 30th overall. Results here.
Of course we are eager to get results. We are competitive, to say the least. But we are also not going to let results from our third-ever event together (and first event when we haven’t been significantly compromised by a recent injury) let us lose any faith in our process. We are encouraged by the gains in boatspeed (especially in light air) that we were able to make overnight. Racing in Poland was exactly the check-in with the international competition that we needed to keep progressing.
Here's a 1-min clip of one of our mark roundings during the qualifying series at Europeans:
Now we are excited to continue that work during training and practice racing in Aarhus, Denmark during our two-week lead-up to the World Championships.
Thanks to the US Sailing Team, Futuramic, Bayview Yacht Club, the St Francis Sailing Foundation, Sailing Foundation of New York, All-Ways, Harken, NE Ropes, Avasol, and Ripple. Without you, we could not do what do!
Patience & Resilience Through Another Injury
Unfortunately our training in Buenos Aires in February was cut short by injury. On the fifth day of training since the Miami World Cup, I broke my middle metacarpal in my right hand while sailing. I flew from Buenos Aires to Colorado Springs, CO for surgery to insert a permanent titanium plate.
The USOC and their National Medical Network provided outstanding care, including a week at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs after surgery, where I started physical therapy and used technology to bring the swelling down as fast as possible. I have to say, the whole process was too familiar, having had carpal tunnel release surgery on both hands by the same surgeon there and also staying at the OTC for a week in August 2015. Working out in the gym there is always inspiring and motivating!
use the buttons in the top right to scroll through the slideshows
I focused on putting the frustration and disappointment of a second Gulari/Scutt team injury aside, instead channeling my energy into getting back on the water safely as soon as possible. During the time at home I focused on: physical therapy, rest, nutrition to heal the bone, workouts, extra exercises to avoid imbalances after injury, sport psychology, and fundraising and logistics so that upcoming time in Europe could be focused on training and racing.
I also enjoyed three days volunteer-coaching a clinic for 12 Nacra 15s in Long Beach. The kids’ energy and excitement was contagious, and they said they learned as much in those 3 days as they had in a year of sailing the boat! Bora had a fun time speaking to elementary school kids in Detroit about the Olympics and acting on big dreams.
Less than 7 weeks after surgery we were able to get back on the water, this time in Barcelona. Although I had to wear a custom hand brace and make some compensations for the lack of grip strength in that hand, it was a huge relief - we were able to train! By being smart about the type and amount of training, we had no issues returning to training. We made big progress in speed in waves and downwind speed in our 7 days there. Then for a six hour drive to Hyeres, France...
Sailing World Cup Hyeres
During this regatta in the last week of April, we finished 22nd out of 30, which was not the result that we hoped to earn. We came away with a long list of things to work on, and we're excited to get to it. It was mostly a light-wind event, which we found tough, so we'll spend more time in those transitional conditions. On the last day we had medium breeze and really solid upwind speed. This was our second regatta as a team so we are still learning a lot about communication with each other. Most of all, we are happy to have been able to race after the injury, and it was exactly what we needed to diagnose weaknesses relative to other teams so we can work on them before the World Championships. This was our first regatta working with coach Mike Ingham, who is now the Nacra 17 squad coach for the US Sailing Team. His perceptiveness, knowledge, and dedication will serve us well!
Starting tomorrow we have two weeks of training in Long Beach, CA. Looking forward to logging hours on the water!
Our next regatta is the World Cup Final, June 3-10 in Marseille, France. All of our focus is on building up to the Aarhus World Championships that start Aug 5.
Thanks to the US Sailing Team, Futuramic, Bayview Yacht Club, the St Francis Sailing Foundation, All-Ways, Harken, and NE Ropes.
Sailing World Cup Miami 2018
Finally, we raced our first regatta together!
This year's Sailing World Cup Miami dealt us a variety of conditions from 4-7 knots on the first day to 20-25 knots during the medal race.
We were happy to have met our goal of finishing in the top 10 and qualifying for the medal race (results here) because of our limited practice time due to Bora's injury, however we are not satisfied because the ultimate goal is to win, of course.
In early January we had a full US Sailing Team camp with daily talks on weather, nutrition, Miami conditions, rules, and more. We also had to pack and ship a container to Argentina for our February training there. In the middle of the month we were able to race the Midwinter regatta as a warmup before the World Cup and also work in-person with our strength and conditioning coach Mike Kuschner of SPT. We enjoyed working with all 3 other US teams and Argentineans Santi Lange & Cecilia Carranza (Rio 2016 Gold medallists) during this period. Thanks to Jonathan McKee and Randy Smyth for coaching us during the regatta and the full month.
As our first event, we practiced racing communication and working out the kinks in that. Our starts were solid. We look forward to improving on our settings, downwind boatspeed, and boathandling especially.
New Sponsor: Ripple!
We're excited to announce our new sponsor, Ripple. It's pea milk (milk alternative made from yellow peas) and has the same amount of protein as milk. Very cool that Adam Lowry, a 49er sailor, Moth sailor, Detroiter, Stanford Sailing alumnus, and 505 World Champion is a co-founder!
Training in Buenos Aires
After a massive packup operation ("This pile is fly with to Argentina, this pile is ship to Europe in the container, this pile is drive with to Detroit...") and after a bit of Moth training, it was time to head south. A week and a half after the Sailing World Cup Miami wrapped up, Riley, Louisa, Bora and I were on a plane from Miami to Buenos Aires, Argentina. After a busy month of January in Miami, we were ready for a new venue, and of course with that came a new culture too. The Rio 2016 gold medallists in the Nacra 17, Santi Lange and Cecilia Carranza, invited us to train with them at Santi's yacht club in Buenos Aires, Argentina, called Club Nautico San Isidro (CNSI). The yacht club is a beautiful and enormous institution with 13,000 members. There are canals everywhere full of sailboats on boat sides. In fact, we commuted by coachboat from our rental house!
The best part is how many sail boats were out cruising every day (there are virtually no motorboats), enjoying the Rio de la Plata. El Rio looks like chocolate milk, it's brown from the sediment carried thousands of miles from Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. It's the widest river in the world and only 2m deep!
Conditions changed gradually each day, allowing us to get distinct morning and evening sessions. Since the river is so shallow and can have strong current in either direction (it can be very wind driven), the chop can really stack up close together. This makes for challenging downwind foiling in the Nacra 17. Performance depends on dynamic weight movement fore and aft, in and out, and of course precise spinnaker and mainsheet trim. Every movement and change must be anticipated, otherwise you're already late. Foiling gybes are becoming more consistent for us, and through lots of short-course practice racing we are forced to make fast decisions in a fast boat even faster.
The main lesson to us, aside from our technique and sail/foil setup improvements, is from Santi and Ceci's energy towards sailing. Every time they step onto their Nacra, from pushing off the ramp to returning into the basin, they are sailing with an intensity like their life depends on it. An Olympic campaign can be a long road with lots of travel, long days, and seemingly tedious details. But as gold medallists (and three-time medalist, in Santi's case), they know that purposeful practice is all that matters at the end of the day. We are grateful to have them as role models, friends, training partners, and competitors.
After training one evening we enjoyed a traditional Argentinean barbecue (asado) and another evening we went to a local soccer match where the fans didn't stop jumping and singing for the whole game. Besides that, we were training so much that we didn't have the chance to explore the area much at all, but we hope to return for longer in the future.
The container with our boats will go from Buenos Aires to..... San Francisco! We look forward to using these boats on the Bay in May before they head to the 2020 Olympic venue in Japan for two events in September.
Next on the calendar is kicking off the European season. We start with training in Barcelona in early April and then Sailing World Cup Hyeres in Hyeres, France in late April.
Thanks to the US Sailing Team, Bayview Yacht Club, the St Francis Sailing Foundation, Futuramic, All-Ways, Harken, and NE Ropes.