It’s disappointing – obviously, but ultimately I’m not disheartened. In actuality, a shift has begun in the way that I mentally approach sailing, and I am very excited for the direction things are going in
I have just finished competing in the 2018 Sailing World Championships. This regatta was the first opportunity to qualify Canada for a spot at the Olympics. This would have required a top 22 finish, and, in that context, I failed pretty epically, finishing in 75th in the 165-boat fleet. It’s better than last years 97th, but far from what I know I am capable of. The consolation is that there will be other opportunities to qualify Canada for the Olympics in the coming year, and, despite not achieving my goal at this regatta, this poor performance hasn’t closed any doors for me.
Last year, the 2017 World Championship was an absolute disaster. I completely fell apart mentally under the pressure that I had put on myself to achieve a specific outcome. In the post regatta analysis, it was very clear that the mental side was my biggest limiting factor and something that I had to work on.
It’s an oversimplification, but when I really badly want to achieve a result, it skews my decision making process on the race course. For example, if I am not doing well in a race, I may take risks that I would normally see as irrational to try and make a comeback. On the flip side, if I am doing well in a race, I may sail overly conservative to try and lock that result away. In both cases, the pressure to achieve an outcome hinders my ability to focus on the task at hand and just sail simple and free, based on the opportunities available for the position I am in.
This is not a new realization, what is shifting is the way I am approaching it. Historically, in a high-pressure situation, I would just try and tell myself to sail how I would if there wasn’t pressure. That effort is futile. It’s similar to trying to act normal when you go through airport customs to leave a country and are unsure if you have overstayed your visa. (This analogy is purely hypothetical and not at all from personal experience) Because acting normal is more important (pressure) you try harder to achieve that outcome. But, you forget what acting normal looks, and feels, like and you second-guess everything that you do. Ultimately, the focus on acting normal (achieving the outcome) hinders your ability to do so. This is why a superficial solution such as simply trying to “sail how I would if there wasn’t pressure” has been ineffective.
The solution is deeper, at the core of why I am sailing in the first place. (We are getting towards the exciting part I mentioned at the beginning…) If my overarching motivation is only about achieving results, then this external pressure will be (as it has been) an overpowering influence on me. If, instead, I focus on an even stronger internal motivation, then while the external pressure still exists, it exists on the periphery.
This is where the bulk of the mental work that I have been doing since the World Championship in 2017 has been targeted. What I have realized is that I have a genuine, internally driven passion for innovating, learning, experimenting, and figuring out new ways to how to make the boat go faster. I also love the sensation of flow and connection with the boat when I am sailing really well. Approaching sailing focused on these things is a total game changer for me, and it’s way more fun! This is why I am so excited for what is coming.
At this stage, this is all new to me, and I have really only scratched the surface of what is possible. Right now, the external, results driven mentality is still dominant, and that is why the World Championships was not a success. However, there were 3 moments in the regatta, which are incredibly distinct in my memory where I was able to sail from this new mindset. Not only did I achieve great things in those moments, but, the experience of being truly in the zone was amazing. 3 moments, totalling maybe 25 minutes out of 10 hours of racing (4.2% of the regatta) may sound insignificant, but for me, it’s revolutionary.
Next up for me is some time off from sailing to spend with my family until the end of the month. This is also an opportunity to gain perspective on the year that has just ended, and to plan for the year that is starting. This is important to ensure that when I do resume training, I am focused on the right things to make my training as productive as possible.
As always, thanks for reading and for your support,
Results since last update:
World Championship - 75th of 165
Kiel Week - 22nd of 118