Willie McBride and Dane Wilson were born to the sea; two quintessential California watermen with a long, long sailing future ahead of them. Will that future begin in Rio? Only time will tell, but we love the fact that these young studs are already pushing the limits with their training and their organization. More from Willie below, and have a look at their good-looking website and donate to their cause here.
For those of you not currently following the daily tweets and posts of your favorite Olympic hopefuls or don’t live in Long Beach, CA, the traveling circus that is currently masquerading as the US Sailing Team arrived nearly unannounced in May at Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, and immediately began setting up camp to take advantage of the clockwork-like sea breeze and messy seas west of the LA Harbor breakwater.
For Dane and me, this was the first chance to train shoulder to shoulder with the other 49er teams vying for a spot on the 2016 Olympic Team. We’re relatively new to the fray, having only been sailing the 49er for the past 10 months, but opportunity knocked, so we packed up our gear and abandoned our daily training grind in Santa Barbara to see where we fit in the fleet.
Day one was a bit jittery for us, as the other teams hoisted their sails plastered with sponsor logos, Olympic rings, and gigantic US flags. We were sporting an old set of Canadian sails. No matter – never judge a book by its cover – off we went. The agenda for the day was to speed test upwind until we ran out of runway, then turn around and send it downwind, best man wins. Somewhat to our surprise we hung in with the “senior class,” so much so that by the end of the session Luther and Fuzz awarded us the title of “greatest rookie team of all time.” We weren’t entirely sure if they were encouraging us or hazing us. Either way, day one was under our belt and all was well.
The highlight of the month was the private coaching bestowed upon us by the famed McKee brothers – legends to any high-speed sailor on the West Coast. We’d been staying on the water after the group sessions each afternoon to solidify the day’s lessons, and one afternoon Charlie and Jonathan stayed out to chase us around in a coach boat, with Charlie analyzing our crew work and Jonathan critiquing driving techniques. We made several changes that smoothed out a lot of the boat handling and helped with the rudderless aspects of our maneuvers. We were stoked to get the attention and hopefully to put it all to good use. Part of that process was sharing debriefs each night with longtime supporter and mentor Howie Hamlin. Howie was gracious enough (as always) to provide a roof over our heads while we were staying in Long Beach, and served up heaping bowls of ice cream each evening as we mused over the daily sessions, discussing tuning techniques unique to skiffs, boat handling nuances, and even the means by which we can collaborate more effectively in order to leap frog the US skiff talent in general, as he has always encouraged us to do in the 29er fleet. If that weren’t enough, he even volunteered to ferry around our buddy, and epic young gun photographer John Kelsey in his ridiculously cool helicopter to shoot some aerial stills and video. The footage in this video is just a snippet from our time in Long Beach. Expect to see a lot more from John in the near future as we’re collaborating on a movie about our collective love of the ocean.
In the end, it was an intense month of learning. We’ve now been training for nearly a year in the 49er and by far our biggest challenge has been getting good, consistent information and data to help us progress. It would be incredibly helpful if there were easily accessible institutional knowledge available for young teams here in the US, but unfortunately that knowledge base doesn’t exist yet. In our own program we’ve been compiling, tracking and archiving all of our training sessions, lessons learned, testing procedures and Ah Ha! moments throughout our campaign. It’s a bit of a mish mash of data at this point, but in time we hope to establish a baseline of open information that will be available to new teams getting started on the Olympic skiff path. Anyone willing, able, or interested in helping out can peruse our extended mission at www.FromWhenceWeCame.org.
Big thanks to Trevor Moore for letting us use the American flag sail for the video and to all who made it a great month of training: Leandro, Luther, the McKees, Oakcliff, ABYC, and of course Sailing Anarchy for always highlighting young teams like ours.