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Peter Spaulding—The View From the Coach Boat

Sidelined by a broken mast, Olympic hopefuls Peter Spaulding and Tim Wadlow learn by watching.

October 31, 2001
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WEYMOUTH, England–During the past four days we were scheduled to sail a long session every day, but we’ve been tormented by more adverse weather and gear failure. It has been a little disappointing, but we have managed to be productive with our limited time on the water.

On Monday the wind was gusting to 50 knots from the west and rarely fell below 30 knots for the whole day. After watching this for a while we tied the boat down real well and headed back to town.

Tuesday brought fair weather and good wind. Tim and I were excited to finally sail, as were the rest of the teams who had traveled here for the week. The French brought three boats and the Belgians brought one to add to the five English teams. We spent most of the day racing and finished with some boat handling drills while U.S. coach Luther Carpenter ran the video camera. Each race had four short legs and lasted about 15 minutes. Tim and I thought the races were great for skill building because they emphasized tacking, jibing, and mark rounding. In our post-race debrief we used Luther’s video to analyze our tacks, jibes, and overall technique. Tim and I found it very helpful for seeing what we could improve and where our strengths were.

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Remembering what we learned from the video, Tim and I were excited to hit on the water on Wednesday. About 20 minutes into our session, Tim and I were sailing upwind on starboard tack approaching the weather mark when one of the spreaders broke. Once the mast lost its rig tension it became improperly loaded and broke about two feet below the first spreader. It happened so unexpectedly that Tim and I dropped off our trapeze wires and the boat capsized. At first, I wasn’t sure what happened. I was completely surprised that it broke and wasn’t quite sure what to do. We righted the boat, dropped the sails and then Luther towed us to the beach.

Since our new mast wasn’t scheduled to arrive until the afternoon on Thursday, Tim and I split time in Andy and Adam’s boat for the day. We watched them for a few races, and then we jumped in for a few races. Luther gave us good advice while we were watching and when we jumped in we applied the skills we just learned. It really helped Tim and I to see what other teams were doing from the coach’s perspective. It shed light on our little mistakes and allowed us to improve our technique.

Overall, our tacking and jibing technique improved, Tim and I felt more confident about our boat handling and we had learned a new way to improve our sailing. Watching other teams combined with watching ourselves on video was a great learning combination. It helped us understand how we were handling our boat and allowed us to compare our technique with other teams.

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We spent Thursday afternoon rigging our new mast and preparing for Friday’s racing. We had a few minor setbacks with the new mast, but there were no major problems. Tim and I are looking forward to this weekend’s regatta and hopefully we can put it all together to have a top result!

For more on their campaign, log on to www.teamwadlowspaulding.org

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