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Summer 2012

Dear Newport Harbor Sailing Foundation,

The last few months of my sailing campaign have been the most grueling of my career, but also the most successful to date. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, a journey that demanded many sacrifices to accomplish some of my biggest goals and dreams. I can say now that it was all worth it and proud of who I am and what I have accomplished.

The journey began with the conclusion of my junior year at Georgetown University leading up to the College Nationals taking place in Austin, Texas on Lake Travis. Our team capped off the year by winning Coed Fleet Racing Nationals in fairly dominating fashion despite the challenging conditions. Overall it was a great Nationals for Newport Harbor Yacht Club. All three Championship teams over the week of racing contained NHYC Junior Sailing graduates (Women's Fleet Racing - Boston College, Team Racing - College of Charleston, Coed Fleet Racing - Georgetown University). Additionally, Newport Harbor Yacht Club had six All-Americans, a recognition based on stellar performance over the course of the entire season. The honorees were Mac and Sally Mace, Sydney Bolger, Heather May, Perry Emsiek, and myself. Additionally, Sydney Bolger and I were both recognized as the Women's and Coed Collegiate Sailors of the Year. I was extremely humbled to win the award, something that I have dreamed about winning for several years. Winning the award along with the National Championships was a day I will never forget.

Only a few days after a exhausting few weeks of extremely hard training and racing, it was time to refocus and head off to Europe to pay my dues on the international Laser circuit. My first stop was Kiel, Germany for the Kiel Week, an ISAF Grade 1 event on the World Cup circuit starting on June 17th. Kiel is located on the northern coast of Germany on the cold waters of the Baltic Sea. I had not touched a laser since the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta back in January, so going into the event, I knew I would be rusty and looked to stretch out the legs and shake out the cobwebs. The air and water was a chilly 50 degrees along with a flurry of windy and rainy cold fronts. Although I had my high moments, the racing was extremely frustrating with the strong, shifty winds. My boat speed and boat handling were off the pace in the heavy winds that reached up to 35 knots at times. It was upsetting, but I knew I had to pay my dues in order to succeed in the long run on the international circuit. I was able to squeak into gold fleet and finish 37th overall.

After a short hop across the North Sea, I made my way to Weymouth, England to train with the best in the world at the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Venue. I trained with fellow NHYC member Charlie Buckingham and the US Laser representative Rob Crane and coached by Leandro Spina. It was a great four days of hard work at the Olympic Venue, a productive experience I will carry forward.

Afterwards, I met up with a couple Canadian sailors to begin a road trip south to Hourtin, France for the Laser European Championships. After a full day of travelling via ferries and automobiles on June 28th, we finally made it to the warmer climate on the southwest coast of France. Hourtin is a small surf town that is known for its summer camping and warm temperatures. Although we were located right next to the ocean, the racing took place on a small lake just inland. The racing was very different from any other international laser course because it was so shifty and unpredictable. However, I felt very comfortable going into the event because it reminded me so much of college racing. Yet, it was not easy in any sense of the word. Fleets were inverted within minutes, a few boat lengths of leverage could mean hundred of yards of difference, and everybody was fast. The winds ranged anywhere from drifting up to 20 knots. After three days of qualification racing I stood in 7th place moving into Gold Fleet Racing. I had a rough couple days in the stronger breeze dropping down the rankings. However, I ended the regatta with a 2nd place finish in the final race of Gold Fleet to finish 21st overall. I was stoked to finish the event on a high note and a very respectable finish to end my European tour for the summer. Finally after some planes, trains, and automobiles, I made my way back home for some much-needed rest.

After a week of down time, it was time to start my road trip up north for the Laser North American Championships at Cascade Locks, Oregon. I drove with my Grandpa Don Stoughton, a great partner to share old family stories and listen to the entire history of Classic Rock. After 17 hours of bolting up Interstate 5 Freeway, through the Grapevine, the middle of nowhere California, and Mt. Shasta, we finally arrived at the Gorge. The Gorge is located on the Columbia River, the border between Oregon and Washington. The venue is known for the strong outflowing current and brisk westerly winds.

The first event I competed in is known as the "Blowout," which is a 18 mile downwind up river from Cascade Locks to Hood River. This legendary race is known for the high winds and strong upwind current that creates large waves, a formula for epic downwind laser sailing. The winds started out at 15 knots and quickly picked up to 25 as we fought through the 3 knot current and weaved our way through the dozens of windsurfers and kite boarders ripping across the river. It was tactical battle to play the breeze and current variances, but extremely physically demanding. I fought hard to win the race with a time of 2 hours 48 minutes and 24 seconds. To say I was exhausted would be an understatement.

After a day of resting the mind and body, I collected myself to prepare for the North Americans, my peak regatta of the summer. The venue is extremely strategically and tactically tricky with strong, but very shifty and puffy winds along with strong upwind current that varies across the course. These variables along with the physicality and speed of the laser fleet were going to make a very tough event. With the upwind current, I knew that the races were going to be won on the downwind legs. Keeping this in mind, I was very conservative with my strategy and tactics on the upwind legs in order to keep myself in the race around the first windward mark. As I turned downwind, I changed my mode, becoming extremely aggressive to catch all the puffs and push the limits of my speed. This strategy paid off large dividends as my success on the downwind showed in my final race scores. Over the four days of racing and 14 races, I finished in the top 2 in 11 of those races with breeze ranging from 10-25 knots. I became the North American Champion in a dominating fashion with a race to spare. I surprised myself a little bit on how successful I was in the deep fleet and extremely proud of my hard work and commitment. The long days in the gym and long weeks over in Europe certainly paid off.

As mentioned before, it has been a rollercoaster the past few months and have so many people to thank. My recent successes would not be possible without huge amounts of support from so many friends and family. However I would like to acknowledge a few individuals in particular. First off, the continued support of the Newport Harbor Sailing Foundation led by Warren Person. The foundation has supported my sailing since the beginning of my career and look forward to developing the relationship. Additionally, CISA is another great supporter of my sailing and look forward to helping them continue the California sailing tradition. Furthermore, my coaches Mike Callahan, Michael Campbell, Jay Kehoe, Leandro Spina, and Mike Kalin shared great knowledge for me and always believed in my abilities. I also would like to reach out to a long time mentor Robbie Haines, an incredible man that has always been there for advice and guided me in the right direction. Finally, my parents Scott and Cindy, as well as my sister Beth, have provided everything for me and been supportive every step of the way. I couldn't ask for better fans and love them dearly. I look forward to seeing everyone and appreciate all support. Cheers

Thank you,
Chris Barnard