Alex & Molly | WINNERS UPDATE
Christie Parkin on 24/11/2017
2017 aimes sport winners alex & molly
Time flies....two weeks ago we returned from our first training camp in Japan. There was a feeling of anticipation prior to leaving for this first trip to Enoshima, Japan. This new Olympic venue holds special significance as this is where the Kiwi’s will challenge Gold for their country. This is also the place where we will be spending a fair amount of time in the lead up to the 2020 Olympics. It is the place that we will know as our second home and where it’s all about!
The NZ FX team which includes Nathan, our coach, Molly and I, and fellow Kiwis, Erica Dawson and Kate Stewart arrived in Tokyo late at night. The place was hustling and bustling as we navigated our way on multiple trains to our destination, Enoshima.
This is the seaside town which will become known to us over the next three years.
In the morning, we were up and about excited to see our new surroundings. Heading out for a morning jog, it was amazing to see how many people were out enjoying the surf. It became apparent over our two weeks in Enoshima that no matter the surf conditions, the locals loved getting out on the water!! The amount of people out there was like nothing we’ve ever seen before! Seeing them riding their bikes through town, surf boards alongside on a handy bike rack, already donned in their wet suits was a very common site…no matter the time of day, or weather. The beach, surf town culture made us feel a little more at home instantly.
We headed down to the sailing center later that morning, eager to see where we would be spending the majority of our time. The Enoshima Yacht Club is located on a small island, connected to the main land by a small causeway. Either side are long surf beaches, so it is useful to have the facility on the leeward side for ease of launching when the swell gets up! We were instantly impressed how well set up the venue already is. With a small clear out of the local boats, they could host the Olympics tomorrow. This was quite a difference to Rio where they rebuilt the entire facility in preparation for hosting the games.
We unloaded the gear, rigged up, settled in and were ready for a week of training with a German FX team, Vicky and Anika. We’ve known these girls since they came down in 2013 during the first year of the Rio cycle to sail with us in Auckland waters. With their bubbly personalities and work ethic, we knew we were in for a few laughs and some solid training! We had decided early on in our planning that we would skip the World Cup that was being held further down the coast in Gamagori, instead opting to train at the Olympic venue the entire trip. We heard many complaints from our fellow NZL Sailing team members competing there that there was too much waiting around with no wind and constant rain. Instead in Enoshima we had constant rain and lots of wind!! Plenty of sailing to be done!
The majority of time we were there we had an off shore breeze and overcast days. Often it wasn’t just a slight drizzle but a heavy downpour, which at times made it difficult to see very far in front of you when sailing.
Over our 14-day trip we had three days of sunshine. The odds were not great!
We got used to layering up, wearing two jackets, and had an awareness that not only were the locals telling us this was unusual weather, but we were also there very late in the season. We kept this in mind when testing the venue, realizing that this could also be more about getting used to the culture and surroundings rather then learning too much course specific knowledge.
Amongst the hectic weather we also got to experience 1 (and a bit) Typhoons. Mid way through our trip, Typhoon Lan hit Japan, luckily downgrading from a category 5 to 4 as it made its way towards us. In preparation for the heavy rain and gale force winds predicted, we packed our boats away into the containers sitting in the car park by the harbor. We assumed a container would be a pretty safe bet to withstand the weather and we felt happy leaving the boat park for a welcomed two days off. It had been pretty windy in the first training block and heavily drill focused so there were a few tired crews!
Kiwis can’t be stopped by the rain so pre- typhoon we went to explore for the first time out of the immediate vicinity. We ended up at a town, Kamakura further up the coast that is home to some impressive temples and one massive Buddha! Learning more about their culture and the history of the place is definitely on the list! Going for a hike in the torrential rain, with wet weather gear and umbrellas was pretty comical!
Shuttering up the house, we then bunkered in for the night, watching the start of the Volvo Ocean race safe inside while the rain escalated to a whole new level- bucket loads. With the Typhoon scheduled to hit at one am and waking up in the early hours to the house rattling in the wind was quite the experience. Besides the few hours of sleep lost, we had got through the night unscathed, waking up in the morning to the sun shining!
To hear we needed to get down to the club immediately was a small shock- we thought we were in the safe zone! To see the containers had gone for quite the slide in the middle of the night was quite the surprise. The waves were impressively still large but they must have built to a huge height to break over the entire breakwater and move the containers quite a distance away. Without securing anything inside the container with tie downs, we were apprehensive opening the doors of the containers, even taking pictures in case insurance was needed. We could breath a sigh of relief when we saw our boats stayed in the exact position, our foils balancing precariously on top of a boat unmoved. Luckily although the containers had gone for a midnight swim, nothing was damaged. A good lesson learnt. Up to 22 typhoons can be experienced in Japan a year, and with global warming the July/ August period is increasing yearly (4 in just July last year!)…. This could be a factor to consider!
Post Typhoon, we were then joined by the rest of the Kiwi contingent prior to the Enoshima Olympic race week event. It was three days of pretty good racing (occasionally the odd very short 12 minute race, with the skiff fleets colliding on the race course), and it allowed us to get a sense of one of the potential racecourses. The offshore direction we had for the majority of our stay is supposedly less common in summer months but can occur. Who knows if we will experience this too many times in our preparation so it could be surprisingly useful to have gained so many days sailing in it already!!
We had a small 13-boat fleet of FX’s competing, and were happy to come away with our first win at the venue. It was great to see the other Kiwis in 3rd and the Germans who we had trained with in 2nd! After competing the final day in pouring rain, the Kiwis then remained in their wet suits to load the container in another small Typhoon. It seemed quite fitting to end the trip this way.
Reflecting back on our trip, the one memory that sticks out in particular was the first time we saw Mount Fuji. Being the tallest mountain in Japan, this giant is quite spectacular. This was hidden from us in thick and ominous clouds during our first week of training. It wasn’t until the clouds and rain lifted that we could admire the true beauty of where in 2020 sailors will have the chance to challenge Gold.
Between sleeping on the floor in a prayer room, eating Soba noodles in a local gem, visiting a massive Buddha and the energy of a big Typhoon, it is fair to say we felt we experienced some of Japan! It was a small glimpse of the next few years, and fuelled the bucket list of thing we want to do both on and off the water!
Beginning this cycle, it has become clear we are climbing a new mountain (hopefully not only figuratively…inspired to get up Mt Fuji!) and it is a fresh campaign. No Christ redeemer keeping a watchful eye over our racing, but Mt Fuji occasionally checking us out when the rain clears instead!!! We are excited to take with us some key learning’s from our first Olympics, but further develop as a team and adapt to a new venue!
From here we are going to enjoy our Southern Hemisphere summer and we will update you on the shenanigans that take place down under soon.
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