The Valley

The World Championship was definitely not the peak performance that it was supposed to be. The opposite of a peak is a valley, so, it seems fitting for that to be the name of this update!  

At the beginning of the year, I set the goal of making the gold fleet at the world championships (top 50); a goal that I felt was ambitious, but achievable. All year, this goal was on my mind, and a source of motivation to push harder in training. In the end, I didn’t even come close to my target, finishing second last in silver fleet: overall, 98th out of the 148 competitors.

Obviously, I am disappointed in the result. Coming into the regatta, I really did feel like I was capable of achieving my goal, but, in complete honesty, I never really considered that I could finish this far off the mark.  Despite that, having now had a couple of days to reflect and analyze what went wrong, I do still feel positive about the future and even where I am at currently.

So, what went wrong? To me, the fault was spread over the different elements of sailing like this: 50% physical, 40% mental, 10% technical/ tactical. Effectively, it was a failure in peaking (which is the skill of achieving your best performance at the intended time). The reason that I say this is that 1 month ago, I competed at the Aarhus test event and in my opinion my performance there was at or close to the level that I needed to perform at the worlds to achieve my goal.

The physical side is perhaps the most obvious. When it was windy, I had no ability to sail the boat competitively, and I got absolutely destroyed. On day 3 of the regatta, it was blowing 20+knots of breeze and we did three races. I got rolled off the start line in all three and just never had good boatspeed. Physically, I was super tired before that day even started, and it only got worse. To be honest, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised about how bad my fitness level was. Looking back at the period of time leading up to the worlds, it is really quite easy to explain how it got there. In July we did a long training block, in Split. At this time, I had probably the highest fitness level of the last 6 months. At the end of the training block, I got sick, and the fitness suffered. From there, I went to the U21 worlds and the Test Event in Aarhus back to back. The fitness level always drops when you do regattas so I am assuming it was even lower. After that I flew home for 1 week and then flew back out to Europe. So you can add in some jet lag and some more travel, all of which kills the fitness level. I don’t currently have a good system of testing in place to monitor my fitness level (something that I need to work on when I go home), but, to me, it’s clear how this happened, and also clear what has to be done differently for next time.

The mental part is perhaps the most interesting. I learned a really important lesson about myself and it’s a lesson that I could only have learned at a regatta like this where the result was so important to me. On day 2 of the regatta we only sailed one race. In this race, I had a fantastic start, and great boatspeed off the start line. Half way up the first upwind leg, I was easily in the top 10. At the end of the race, I was in the bottom 10.  So, where did it fall apart? My conclusion was that it came down to trying ‘too’ hard. I was so focused on outcomes and results, that I was overcomplicating the racing and trying to solve problems that weren’t there. I had put so much pressure on myself to achieve an outcome that that was distracting me from the racing. This was the total opposite from the Test event in Aarhus where the result wasn’t even on my mind. There the racing felt much easier as I was fully in the moment, relaxed and patient.

The technical/ tactical side wasn’t really the main problem. I give it 10% blame as I still lack a depth and consistency to my technique. This means that when things were not going well, the technique also faltered.

The good part about all of this is that my result at this World Championship doesn’t actually matter in the big picture. The purpose of this regatta was to practice performing under pressure, when it mattered. I didn’t achieve that goal, but I feel confident that I know why, and this means that I can fix it for next year. From this point forwards, everything is centered around the ISAF World Championship in Aarhus next August. This regatta will matter as it is the first opportunity to qualify Canada for an Olympic spot and I have no doubt that the lessons I have learned here will prove to be extremely valuable.

Now, we begin the offseason! I love this part of the year, because this is the period where you get to make the most improvements. Because you don’t have to worry about performing or moving around, you get to have some of the highest quality training of the year. I trust my coach 100% and feel really confident about the training plan that he is putting together. I am looking forward to putting my head down and getting to work!!!

Now home for a month to recover and put in the hours in the gym to get the fitness level back. Then, out to Valencia, Spain to begin the fall/ winter sailing period.


Thanks for reading,





Fillah KarimComment