It has been a very long time since my last update. 5 months into the year, this is my first one of 2018...

In January, after a really strong fall & winter period of training, I had a disaster of a regatta at the Sailing World Cup in Miami. A week after that, (not related) my coach who I had been working with for the previous 10 months, and who I had come to rely on, quit. I went from having the ultimate program to having to do things completely on my own. Those were two tough blows to take, aggravated by the fact that exactly one year prior, in January of 2017, I both screwed up at the Miami World cup and I split ways with my (then) coach. 

I couldn’t bring myself to write the exact same frustrated and disappointed update that I had written a year before; which is why my first update of 2018 is coming out in June…

When my coach quit, my immediate focus was to find a new coach – a task that I approached with a sense of urgency. My mentality had always been that the role of the coach is to develop the program and make the decisions. The role of the athlete is to commit to the program and work really hard at what he is told to do. With this mentality, the situation that I found myself in was desperate, and finding a new coach was therefore the top priority.

In past blogs, I have touched on how, very often, major setbacks have created the circumstances from which key breakthroughs have emerged.  This was one of those situations.

The search for a coach bore no fruits. The existing international training groups either weren’t open to taking on new sailors at this stage in the Olympic cycle, were too expensive, or weren’t the right match. Hiring a coach on my own remained well out of my reach financially. After the Princess Sofia regatta at the end of March, I realized that I had been spending a lot of mental energy on this search that I could have been focusing on my training. For this reason, I decided to suspend actively looking for a coach until after the World Championships in August, and take on running my program on my own.  

As I took on this challenge, instead of plateauing as you might expect, I made a number of breakthroughs in areas that have always been weaknesses such as downwinds and boat handling. Historically, I have always relied very heavily on the coach. The pressure of being on my own forced me to use my own brain and my own knowledge to figure things out. I was surprised to see that I already possessed the answers to many of the problems I faced, I just never trusted myself enough to use my own knowledge.

I should mention briefly to avoid confusion that I am not downplaying the role of the coach. There is no doubt that coaches bring value, and I still hope to have a coach in my program in the future. The lesson that I have learned is the distinction between consulting and learning from a coach and totally relying on one.

As a lot of these mental blocks started to fall down, my technical skills improved a lot, and for the first time, there aren’t any gaping holes in my sailing skills package. There are definitely areas for improvement, but this is a big step forwards. While my technical skills have developed substantially, the improvement in my results, although visible, hasn’t been proportionate. I still feel that I am significantly underperforming my capabilities at regattas. There remains work to be done on the mental side to close this gap, which is a top priority as we continue the lead up into the World Championships in August.


Thanks for reading,



Results since my last update:


Lauderdale OCR – 16th / 44


SWC Miami – 65th / 70


Princess Sofia Regatta – 78th / 183


Sailing World Cup Miami – 65th / 68


Medemblik Regatta – 9th / 43



Fillah KarimComment