6 October '07 - Time to Pedal a New Bike
You know when you pedal a bike really hard and then stop pedalling and let it run - well that's a bit like how it's felt for me for the past 6 weeks since China. My Olympic campaign has just been coasting along, gradually slower, while we've waited for the nomination panel to met and select. Their decision would determine whether I start pedalling again, or if I stop and get off and find another bike to ride.
Well I'm already on the other bike, working hard on my other website, www.sportsmindskills.com and we're adding some new products this week, including a tool to help athletes recover from injury - the Injury Recovery Pack.
I'm looking forward to some Farr 40 sailing in the coming weeks and months. And speaking of bikes, this time without being so cryptic, I got my L-plates for a motor bike the other week!
Thanks to all who have helped me along the way on that first bike, if you know what I mean.
30 August '07 Good Pre-Olympics for Australia
Two golds, a silver and bronze was the final medal tally for Australia at the Pre-Olympic regatta in Qingdao, China this month. Coincidently, that was the same score card at the Sydney Games and the two gold and the silver were in the same classes (470 M&W and Tornado) that won medals in Sydney. The bronze was earned by Jessica Crisp in the sailboards.
In the Lasers, Australia's representative Tommy Slingsby, did well to catch up at the end of the regatta to finish 4th, a reasonable result. Like the 2000 regatta, Australia also had sub-par results in the single-handed women, male board, Star and Finn.
As a team, Australia has to ignore any good results in China this year because they'll be irrelevant when the Olympic regatta starts next year. The poor results at the Athens games should still be a strong reminder that there is much work to do over the next year.
This is especially the case as many countries were using the strong-wind Cascais Worlds as a target regatta this year and had not yet specialised in the light winds of Qingdao. Only the British seemed to be truly on top of the shift to light winds with a calorie-controlled diet between worlds and pre-Olympics seeing crews wither away and hit target body weights a week before the regatta started.
I didn't have this problem as I'd been at my target weight - a puny 72kg - for most of the year! I decided to be this light (rather than a normal 80-81kg) since all bets were on light wind performance. Of course, sitting at home following the results of the regatta online was no fun knowing I was beating the guys leading the regatta during training the week before.
Ideally, Yachting Australia would be able to send both Tommy and I to the Games next year. But that is a tough ask!
For now I'm continuing to enjoy some time off - last week I had a trip to Hamilton Island to help Audi with their promotion of Hamilton Island Race Week.
Soft winds and strong tides make for tough mark roundings in Qingdao.
'07 Michael's Olympic Update 8 - 1 year to go
I've been training in Qingdao for the last week and as expected conditions have been mostly light and sometimes lumpy. Things have been going well for me. These are the conditions I've been focusing on this year and it has shown on the water.
As you may have read below, performance at this pre-event camp will be taken into consideration during Olympic Nomination Panel deliberations. Although, I'm not quite sure how the Panel would do this as none of them were watching us on the water during the camp! Anyway, lets just say that if someone were keeping score I would be a long way in front.
We got some surprise news yesterday that those not in the pre-Olympic team are banned from going on the water from the 9th August. So with no seats available on flights home I'm here until the 14th with no sailing. That's no real problem as I'm starting to like the place - the people bend over backwards to be helpful, shopping is cheap, food is acceptable and the weather is interesting.
After this, I get a proper break from sailing for a few weeks. The next official thing on the calendar is a camp at the AIS in early October. The Olympic sailing team is announced mid October.
'07 Michael's Olympic Update 7 - Pre-Olympic regatta
Today Australian Sailing Team management announced their team for the Pre-Olympic regatta ('Test event') in Qingdao, China next month. Tom Slingsby was selected in the Laser.
Naturally I'm very disappointed not to have the chance to prove again what I can do in those conditions. Taking nothing away from Tom (and if it were possible for both of us to go we may well finish 1-2 at the Olympics), I was hoping my better head to head results relevant to Qingdao would make the difference. Here are some figures.
Whether this is a blow for my Olympic selection remains to be seen. The announcement statement says that "...selection in the team for the Test Event is not necessarily a precursor for Olympic Nomination and the Test Event is not a Nomination Event. However, performance of the team at the Test Event and of all AST athletes at the pre-event camp will be taken into account during the Nomination Panel deliberations".
So I still travel to China on the 31st July for a training camp (and am looking forward to escaping winter again), but return before the regatta, August 13. More from China.
Michael's Olympic Update 6 -
ISAF Worlds, Cascais, Portugal
21st is not a good result at a World Championship for me but it's something that had to happen.
Back in October last year, when Yachting Australia (YA) decided to emphasise light wind performance in it's Olympic nomination process, I decided to drop body weight and specialise in light winds. I knew this strategy would eventually catch up with me and I'd get some ugly results, compared to what I might otherwise have achieved.
Fortunately, most of the big regattas this year have been held in at least partly light winds, but not so the worlds just completed here in Cascais. In the mostly moderate - fresh to frightening northerly winds, I simply didn't have the speed to consistently match it with the bigger guys. If the title had to go to anyone, I'm glad it went Aussie again - A big congratulations to Tom Slingsby, world champion! Also scoring personal bests were Andrew Murdoch (NZL) in second and Deniss 'giant' Karpak (EST), third.
Each year YA choose a 'target' regatta which is used to judge performance and set funding for the following year. Normally that regatta is the Worlds, but this year it's the pre-Olympic regatta in China next month, and so, for me, the focus this year has been on that regatta. I'm really looking forward to it and getting one back on those 'fat buggers'!
I return home tomorrow for a short break before heading to Qingdao July 31.
Croatian Mate Arapov (4th) reaches out in Cascais.
Michael's Olympic Update 5 -
I'm writing this from the somewhat luxurious position of knowing I've won the regatta before the last race. I'll still go out for the medal race later today though - I'm liking them more and more (mainly when I do well in them).
There's some thunderstorms and lightning predicted for this afternoon so I thought I better write this before the not-so-fun damp pack up after racing.
I had a terrible start in the first race of the regatta but managed to catch up to finish 3rd. From there on I had my best run ever - six firsts in a row. After one of the three races yesterday in about 4 knots of wind a friendly competitor came up and suggested I might like to take up another sport - I respectfully declined.
I better wrap this up to get ready for the medal race. Tomorrow I fly down to Cascais, Portugal for the Worlds which runs July 4-10.
The torch in Kiel lit during the 1972 Olympic sailing competition.
27 April '07 Michael's Olympic
Update 4 - French Olympic Week, Hyeres
Wow! A win at a Grade One regatta in Europe has been a long time coming for me and is extra special here in Hyeres as it is the first such regatta I did back in 1995. That year was it was bloody cold and I finished in the 70s!
This year the weather has been exceptional - fine and sunny every day, and aside from the last three races, the regatta was a light wind affair. I hit the lead after the second day and managed to hold it through to the end including an exciting medal race today.
Going into the medal race I was 8 points ahead of second (SWE) so had to be no more than 4 places behind him (given the double points format). I decided to attack him in the pre-start and we both ended up starting relatively poorly and he split left for a while and I was forced right. When we came together half way up the beat we were bow on bow and I forced him to tack, slowing him some more, to be 9 and 10 at the top mark. I passed him on the run and gained a few more guys who were penalised for pumping to finish the race 6th. You beauty!
For now though, I look forward to heading home tomorrow for a week off, followed by more training through to the end of the month when I return to Hyeres for the Laser Europeans.
17 April '07 Launch of Sports Mind Skills website.
sportsmindskills.com announces the launch of Sailing Mind Skills Vol 1 - revealing the mental skills used by Michael Blackburn during his 2006 Laser World Championship win.
Michael said “These tracks will help sailors who feel their performance has reached a plateau to achieve even better results”. Sailing Mind Skills Vol 1 is a collection of audio tools designed to enhance sailors’ mental preparation and help them focus on winning. It includes sailing-specific tracks on many vital performance-enhancing topics.
Sailing Mind Skills Vol 1 features guided imagery on start preparation, mark rounding, perspective putting, sailing strategy, controlling arousal, relaxation, distraction control and focusing techniques.
Michael, who has a PhD in sports psychology/physiology initially developed and voiced the 60 minute CD, Sailing Mind Skills, for his own use in preparation for the 1996 Olympics.
Michael said “Back then I used the tracks to focus on the factors important to sailing well. Despite the excitement of sailing in my first Olympics, I was particularly happy when, the night before the first race, I fell asleep within 30 seconds of hitting the pillow!”
“Sailing Mind Skills has since undergone a number of major renovations to make it suitable for a wide range of sailors and includes specially selected backing music to increase the benefit of the tracks.”
“I used the latest version before racing and at night during the 2006 Laser Worlds, and as usual, it helped me to focus.”
Sailing Mind Skills Vol 1 is available for digital download in MP3 format at www.sportsmindskills.com. Sailors can also listen to samples of each track at the same website.
For further information:firstname.lastname@example.org
|7 Apr '07 Michael's Olympic Update 3 - Princesa Sofia
If you told me two days ago, when I was lying 23rd or so, that I would end up 3rd in the Palma regatta I would have said no way. But with 1, 2, 1 scores in the last three races it happened! Needless to say, I'm very happy to have recovered as much. After an average start in some crazy winds on the first two days, then getting absolutely hammered during three windy races on one day it took some focusing to stay on track. I guess, luckily, the wind stayed lighter for the last three races and my lighter weight turned advantage.
Tonight there is a regal presentation at the 'Palace' and tomorrow I catch the ferry to Valencia. I was meant to be going to Barcelona to get my boat from the container, but it won't be available until Tuesday, so we've got a compulsory break checking out the America's Cups scene. Once I do get my boat, it's straight to Hyeres in France for three weeks - training and then the regatta there which starts April 22. More then.
Good sailing, Michael.
22 Mar '07 Michael's Olympic Update 2 - Heading to
Today I head to Europe for two regattas - the Princess Sofia in Palma and then a few weeks later, the French Olympic week in Hyeres. Both are important in the Olympic selection process and I'm looking forward to getting back amongst the highest level competition we have in the Laser.
As I write, it's a beautiful day in Sydney, some 30 degrees and a million people are at the beach. Tomorrow midday I'll land in Munich which should reach about 7 degrees - oouch! Quickly though, I'll pick up a new Audi A6 (with heated seats!) and start driving towards Barcelona to meet the Ferry to Palma. I'll be back on the water by Monday, a lot colder but focused on the job of becoming a light wind expert. Links to the regatta websites are on my Program page.
|28 Jan '07 Michael's Olympic Update 1 - Miami Olympic
I've just finished the Miami OCR - the first big event of the year and one of about six regattas this year that selectors will use to help decide who is going to the Olympics for Australia. The new medal race format was in action - a final race for the top 10 overall, double points no drop and quick - about 25 minutes long. It's a last-ditch dash for cash. They put the course up under some land 'for the spectators' making it light and shifty. This was good for me and I won the race, finishing the regatta 3rd overall. First overall was Gustavo Lima (POR), closely followed by Tom Slingsby.
Because conditions in China will be light, my focus has changed to performing in light winds. I've dropped my body weight six kilograms to 75kg and was anticipating having some good races in the often light winds of Miami. In reality, we had a variety of conditions, with two light days, a couple of moderate days and a windy one. Because of my weight, I'm going a little slower in the windy stuff. However, I was really encouraged at this regatta by my performance in the two light wind days. After the first day in moderate winds, I was coming 6th. The next day was light and I hit the lead, then extended a little the following day which was light as well. Some bad results in the following windy days kept me back from the lead.
Thinking back, I've actually never sailed as well in light winds as I am now. So I'm looking forward to more of the same in a couple of months time in Europe. Next up, I head home for the Sydney 38 Nationals and Farr 40 nationals and a team camp at Hamilton Island at the end of February.
Good sailing, Michael.
The start of the Medal Race, Miami Olympic Classes Regatta.
6 Jan '07 Australian Laser Championships
Michael Blackburn (AUS) added to his World Championship gold with victory at the ISAF Grade 1 Laser Australian Championships in Hobart, Australia, again beating his younger Australian rival Tom Slingsby (AUS) into second place.
Sydney sailor Blackburn continued his terrific run since returning to the Laser fleet in the first half of last year, following a break after the Athens Olympic Games. Today, on Hobart’s River Derwent, he added a sixth Australian National Championship to his 2006 World title and an outstanding record in the world’s most popular single-handed dinghy.
Among his exploits in the 12 foot Laser was to sail one across Bass Strait in 2005 from Stanley to Wilson’s Promontory, 13 hours of sailing the 115 nautical miles.
Battle To The Finish
Blackburn, at the age of 36 qualifying for the Laser Masters (if he chose to do so) won the Australian Championship by a mere two points from 22 year old Slingsby, with the title being decided in the last of 11 races.
On a day when the northerly breeze failed to get much above 6 knots, the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania managed to get one race sailed, but had to abandon race 12 because of lack of breeze within the time limit.
'The lighter breeze today favoured me today against Tom, who sails well in heavy winds,' Blackburn said after placing second in the final race, with Slingsby back in seventh place.
Blackburn, from Middle Harbour Amateur Sailing Club in Sydney, and Slingsby, a member of Gosford Sailing Club on the NSW Central Coast, both sailed consistently through the series.
Eight qualifying races were sailed, followed by three of four scheduled races in the gold fleet finals. Slingsby finished top scoring competitor in the qualifying races, winning six races. In the finals he placed 7,2,7 in the 45 boat gold fleet.
Gold Fleet Races Decisive
Blackburn was second after the qualifiers, with four wins and in the final three races placed 4,3,2, with his discards from the entire series being a second and a fourth.
'It has been an excellent series with Australian and international competition, with a mix of light winds and more pressure but sailing in flat water, which is unusual down here at this time of the year,' Blackburn said after his overall win was confirmed.
'Tom is a good competitor and we compliment each other’s skills in championship racing, but today the lighter breeze favoured me,' Blackburn added. 'We are both in the Australian Sailing Team training for the Beijing Olympics, heading overseas early in the New Year.'
Blackburn has represented Australia at the Olympic Games three times, placing fourth overall at Atlanta in 1996, winning a bronze medal at Sydney in 2000 and ninth at Athens in 2004.
He won the Laser Radial World Championship in 2004 and the Laser World Championship in South Korea in 2006, in which Slingsby finished runner-up.
Blackburn has also become involved in one-design keelboat and ocean yacht racing, competing in three Rolex Sydney Hobart Races and sailing as a tactician for Sydney yachtsman Martin Hill (AUS) in winning the 2006 Australian Sydney 38 Championship. He will have the same role on Hill’s Farr 40, Estate Master, in the Australian title in February.
Blackburn finished with a score of 15 points after two discards (one from the qualifying series and one from the gold fleet) with Slingsby on 17 points.
Third place overall went to Canadian sailor Mike Leigh with World Masters Champion Brett Beyer (AUS) from Sydney fourth.
by Peter Campbell
|8 Sep '06 Sydney 38 State Titles
Martin Hill’s Estate Master, the 2006 Australian
National Champions, won the NSW Sydney 38 One Design titles sailed at Port
Stephens over the weekend. With 2006 Laser World Champion Michael Blackburn
calling the shots, Estate Master dominated the fleet on the first day; however
Steve Kulmar’s Shining Sea closed the gap on Day two.
Sunday's single race was started just seconds before the 2pm cut off time in a light westerly. By the bottom mark, the westerly was replaced with a north easterly and by the next lap a strong southly gave the fleet a fast 2-sail reach to the finish.
20 Sep '06 Laser World Champion!
I cant quite believe it. I kind of got used to finishing big regattas anywhere other than 1st. But now, after some 16 years sailing a Laser and 12 years competing internationally, I've finally won the Worlds. Wow!
Looking forward to returning home... More later...
|7 Sep ' 06 Pre-Laser Worlds, Korea
I'm now on the island of Jeju, off the South Coast of Korea. It's a volcanic island, with one central peak some 2km high (which I walked up today!) and a number of mini-peaks dotted throughout. Mt Sangbang is one such mini mountain (at 200m) which also happens to overlook Hwasun Beach, a dark sandy beach where some 140 Lasers are sitting for the Worlds next week.
About 30 sailors have arrived so far and we've had a few sessions on the water. Conditions have been mixed, with some along-shore and some off-shore winds of all strengths. We're still getting a handle on what the wind does here, but unlike Qingdao, it knows how to blow!
Results will come through www.laserinternational.org once the regatta starts, 13th September.
27 Aug '06 What's Qingdao like?
Today was the last of ten regulation races in the Qingdao test event for the Laser class. The medal race remains for those in the top ten (not me!).
The on-shore facilities are excellent and the city is looking good, when you can see it through the smog and fog. There are an extraordinary number of signs and banners around the city mentioning the regatta and urging residents to 'be a good host to undertake the 2006 Qingdao International Regatta'. In fact some $US410 million is being spent on the venue.
However, the sailing here is poor and it's a shame the Olympic sailing will be relatively boring.
For instance, today, the fog/smog came in so thick that most classes couldn't complete a second race since the race committees couldn't lay a top mark far enough away to make for a race long enough. Lucky Lasers are slower and the marks didn't have to be so far apart. Nonetheless, races were only 26 and 41 minutes long, well down on the 60 min target. Other days, every class have had delays, held up by very light winds.
Eight knots is a windy day. It was quite funny to see a headline in the paper 'Strong winds blow local stars back on track'. That day (25/8/06) the wind observations near our course showed the wind blew 6-9 knots during racing. Whoo-hoo!
The tide can get quite strong too. A few days ago, they started a Laser Radial race in about 4 knots. The wind then died a little and the current increased. Six minutes later there were still a handfull of boats behind the start line and the race was abandoned.
When they hold surfing events, they choose places that have surf. When they hold skiing events they choose places that have snow. Of course, sailing events need wind and unfortunately Qingdao doesn't have enough.
The Qingdao boat park.
|17 Aug '06 China!
Today I jet to Qingdao in China for a look at the Olympic venue for 2008 and to sail in their test event. Curiously, a read of the sailing instructions says they only require 1 race to constitute a series. There may be light winds indeed!? I'll try to get some photos up here.
Following that (1 September), I fly across to the South Korean island of Jeju for the Laser Worlds. This is the key regatta of the year and looks like a good venue with wind and waves.
6 May '06
Bass Strait DVD trailer - go to this page.
6 May '06 Fortnightly Report
It was pleasing to see my training partner Tom Slingsby take out the Hyeres regatta last weekend in France. I had been doing alright in training against him before he left so suspect I won’t completely embarrass myself when I get to Europe in 6 weeks time. I’m still training at home in Sydney right now, capably joined by some of the local Masters sailors as well as some promising younger guys.
23 April '06 Fortnightly Report
I’m still at home getting used to the Laser again. It’s been 5 weeks back in the boat now and after a few weeks of sometimes sloppy sailing, things feel a lot better now. Not a great deal to report; the exciting things last week and next will be watching the results from the early European regattas to see who is on form and trying to guess how I would go.
26 Mar '06 Top Jocks Regatta
We are over the
moon…a fantastic result…second last year and today we are the winners…the Top
Jocks!’ an elated Martin Hill said this afternoon after his Estate Master team
won the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Mt Gay Rum Top Jocks Regatta on
14 Mar '06 Michael chooses Laser for 2008
"I can't let my performance at the Athens Olympics lie. I can do better."
|13 Mar '06 Sydney 38 Nationals
It was a sensational Sydney summer day especially
for the crew onboard ‘Estate Master’ who won the Sydney 38OD Australian
Championship. Martin Hill, his wife Lisa and the entire crew arrived back on the
dock overjoyed with their win. ‘It was high pressure all day, ‘Transfusion’ was
always just behind us and we are stoked to have won the Championship’ explained
Martin Hill. ‘I just steer the boat, the team onboard is great and we worked
hard to achieve this result.’
The first race was postponed for a short while
and started in light, fluky conditions. ‘Outlaw’ owned by Alan and Tom Quick
sailed well to win the race. ‘Estate Master’ finished second and increased their
lead by another two points ahead of ‘Transfusion’. The boys on ‘Acuity’ owned by
Tony Walls, finished the Championship on a high winning the last race of the
day, but ‘Estate Master’ finished the race in fifth position ahead of
‘Transfusion’ and the Championship was decided.
Les Galbraith from Deckhardware Marine Solutions, a long time supporter of the
Sydney 38OD Class, presented the overall trophies to the winners. Geoff Bonus,
Guido Belgiorno-Nettis and Martin Hill paid tribute to their crews and each
other, which is indicative of the strong camaraderie within the Sydney 38OD
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