Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire

An off day gives the U.S. sailors a chance to spend some time in the one place hotter than a J/24 deck on a light downwind run.
Sailing World


It looks like champagne sailing, but it’s mighty hot on the water at the Pan Am Games. And the pressure in only increasing as the medal race approaches. Leandro Spina/US SAILING

We were rewarded with a day off on Thursday because the regatta is on schedule with six races completed. Wednesday was the lightest breeze of the regatta. The puffs were very narrow, making for some challenging racing. With the breeze so light, the heat felt even more extreme. Puerto Vallarta travel tip: no need to bring sailing gear here. If I wore a spray top, I would be unconscious by the leeward gate. We pulled a horizon job the first race and managed a 3rd in the next race. After beating the Brazilians both races, we are leading by 1 point with a throw out. Our Lightning team had another solid day and has a narrow lead over Chile. The Snipe team is battling for the lead, and we’ve still got a chance for podium finishes in pretty much all of the classes.

For our day off, we managed to find the only place hotter than a J/24 deck downwind: the beach volleyball court. The U.S. men’s and women’s teams had matches, so most of the sailors went down to cheer them on. During the men’s match, a group of 30 Mexican elementary school students were cheering “Los Estados Unidos”, so I’m thinking that NAFTA thing has worked out pretty well. The women faced off against Mexico, though, and the stadium was going crazy after every Mexican point. Unfortunately, both U.S. teams lost. I saw the women’s team at dinner and they were in good spirits. I’m glad we were on hand to be part of their small group of supporters in the stands.

We have four more races scheduled over the next two days, and then a medal race on Sunday for the top five boats. In the medal race, the points are double whatever the finish position is, and it cannot be discarded. It’s starting to look like it could come down to us and Brazil as there’s a bit of a gap to 3rd place, so there should be some interesting tactical situations and exciting face offs. A seven-boat regatta has a very different dynamic than the typical big-fleet racing events I sail. For instance, if you’re sailing a 40 boat event, you could round the leeward gate in 18th, and grind back to a top 10 over the next 2 legs. Here, if you round the gate in third, it’s incredibly difficult to pass even one boat. So while every point matters in a typical event, every point is absolutely precious here. If you lose them, it’s really hard to get them back.


I’ll post a final report and wrap-up on Monday. Thanks for following along.

Fun fact: I speak a little bit of broken Spanish but Jay Lutz speaks a little bit of fluent Spanish, mostly related to ordering food.