One week from today, hundreds of athletes across the country will assemble in Houston en-route to the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Sailing World is providing me with this forum to share my experience of being part of the U.S. Team as we compete in the J/24 Class in Puerto Vallarta.
It seems like ages ago that we won the U.S. Pan Am Games Trials at Davis Island YC last February. Our team for that regatta on Tampa Bay consisted of John Mollicone on the tiller, Tim Healy on tactics, Geoff Becker trimming, and me on the bow. The Pan Am format for the J/24 is unique: the crew weight limit is trimmed from 882 pounds to 705 pounds, and the genoa is eliminated. The boat is still its painful self, but it does feel remarkably better with the extra space on deck. As far as sailing with only a blade, the boat has plenty of power as soon as the breeze gets up to 8 knots or so. The Trials was a battle between a group of class veterans including Robby Brown, Charlie Enright, Will Welles, and Flip Wehrheim. We were very fortunate to come out on top.
The imminence of the Games hit me one evening in mid-September when I found two representatives of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency standing on my porch. We’ve been subject to random drug testing since April 1, and sure enough, they finally paid each of us a visit in the span of a week. To the athletes who have to go through this ordeal on a regular basis, I salute you.
I’ve wanted to do the Pan Am Games for quite some time now. Geoff coached the U.S. Team at the Pan Am Games in both 2003 and 2007. He came back from each of those events with a lot of great stories. I got the sense that it was a particularly unique experience. I remember the first world championship I did in Europe, where it meant something to see USA on your sails, but I know that won’t compare to this event, where we will be the only J/24 with those letters.
I expect our regatta to be incredibly challenging. Some of the competitors include past North American champion Rossi Milev and his team from Canada, and three-time world champion Mauricio Santa Cruz and his crew from Brazil. On our part, we’re mixing things up a bit by substituting swingman Paul Abdullah for Tim Healy. Paul is a world-class sailor, but I’m not sure how the dynamic of his general good-natured disposition in place of Tim’s dry sense of humor will play out. Stay tuned.
I’m also looking forward to my first regatta coach in 13 years. As the assistant coach at Brown University, I know our Pan Am Games coach Greg Wilkinson, of Boston College, quite well. I’ve been trying to get Greg to practice making me a sandwich the last few weekends at college events, but he just won’t engage.
Look for an update from me when we get to Mexico, probably towards the end of next week. I’ll also try to provide some updates on the rest of the U.S. sailors. Thanks for following along.