John Seepe – Letter from Warnermunde

John just completed the Para World Championship in Warnermunde Germany. Here are his notes and some pictures
Well, here are some thoughts and reflection on the 2.4mR Para World Championships in Germany. I am going to reflect on what it was like attending my first event of this caliber. Hope it isn’t too long but there is much to go through and share.
To start off with, travel today is something else with vaccinations and tests etc. I don’t know how professional sailors do it as I found it exhausting. The funniest thing was having to remove my artificial leg and watch as it sit for an hour in the X-Ray machine in the Frankfort Airport while they tried to figure it out! IT’S a LEG!!!
The first day was spent getting all the boats checked, sails measured and stamped, and into the water. It was good to be able to meet Keith Gordon and asked a few questions which he was more than happy to educate me on. Really something good to do so I could be a better 2.4 sailor focusing on the One-Design side of things. One of the differences is that when the Europeans order sails they come with a sailmakers certification stamp on them showing they have been checked against the class requirements. Something that I thought we should be pushing for in the US from whatever sail loft we purchase from.
The second day had lighter winds that were shifty and current, particularly the first race which I easily came in last, seemed like there was 10 minutes between me and the next boat. Not a great feeling but hey, only can improve right? I struggled the next race beating our 1 other boat and in the 3rd race beat out 2 boats. Hmm, not great but at least heading in the right direction I guess.
This really caused me to question my being qualified and ready for being out there on the water with all the others. Had some humbling thoughts and moments but nothing like day 2.
Race number 4 was better and the conditions were much more to my liking being heavier winds but not crazy or anything. Finished better and was going through things in my head downwind of the line between races when Bang, I hit a starboard tacking boat, neither of us seeing the other but thinking we were looking out! Luckily it was at an acute angle or things would have been much much worse. Both boats stopped and we separated ourselves both of us thinking we were okay. This was not the case. Torsten Fildebrandt found out during race 5 that he suffered a mast compression at the spreaders which you will see in the pictures. I am still speechless as to his composure and sportsmanship attitude during the whole ordeal. If only I could handle life as he did. My respect for him is huge. He is new to 2.4 sailing and was doing great in his 4th regatta but declined using a loaner mast which was available. This only made me feel worse about the carnage I had caused, … an experience I will be carrying with me and hope to never relive. My damage ended up being a shredded jib which was brand new but now not worthy of racing if repaired. I had to retire for the day as the area was so far out that there was not time to return with another jib. Funny thing is, I was sailing with USA 187 he was sailing GER 187! What are the chances of that?
The next 2 days I fought to learn and develop while enjoying being among others which I never felt worthy of sailing with. They were all very good, both on the water and off. It was intimidating to be competing with so many who don’t speak English but in the end, found it not such a hurdle. Many things helped me through the races, the first being a text from a Russian sailor I still don’t know but after the first day he sent me a picture of me sailing that first day. This really made my evening and brought up my spirits.
For those who know me, I don’t get down that much, but I found myself twisted inside and changing as a person and a sailor. The results were still there but I wanted to learn and become the type of person and sailor that helps the sport as much as anything else. It wasn’t hard to get somewhat overwhelmed when you see the various teams with their support boats and coaches. But hey, I was there and was going to learn darn it!
The best part was getting to meet and know the other sailors. Niko Salomaa was wonderful and get to know as a sailor and friend. It was his boat that I used in the event. Thank you Niko. Also have to thank Rikard for setting up the boat and your inputs. Heiko Kröger can’t be recognized enough for pulling this event together after Norway canceled and then to win it I’m sure just a bit more special. Finally met Megan Pascoe and her dad which Michelle enjoyed spending time with as they spoke English. Megan, please let your dad know just how much it helped Michelle enjoy herself as we were out on the water mixing it up. Antonio Squizzato is something unusual, like me he is missing most of his one leg but he moves around so well without cane etc so maybe I need my follow-up surgery more than I think. Most of all, Antonio is always smiling, not a small or insincere small but a big ol’ stupid (in a good way) grin from ear to ear. The Swedish team was mostly female and dressed like they were going hiking or skiing but look out on the water cause they were there to sail. Always happy and willing to exchange words, I enjoyed them as did my wife. I could go on but for now will leave it here. The people were fantastic and the water wasn’t too cold for those who were worried about such things.
So on top of all I have rambled on about here are some take aways for me. I think if we are seriously wanting to see the 2.4 class become a Paralympic boat that we need to support the events. This is not to make something special about my participating but if I had not gone this would have been a European Championship not a Worlds. My final thoughts are that I will be planning if at all possible to sail in this annual event as long as I can and others will allow. Our sailmakers should be stepping up and stamping their sails. Our boats need to be certified first as International 2.4 then as One Design Class if this is the direction a sailor is pursuing. Right now, we might have a couple in the states but not sure. This will mean that we have to take the time to perform the measurements and turn in the documentation to the International Class (sorry Tony Pocklington – I know this is a ton of work). Let’s see how to best do this.
Being stuck in airports for long layovers and long flights has allowed me too much time to read through tune-up guides for the rig, sails, balance, rules, etc. More time for me going through these things. The marking of my lines will be better then it currently is on my boat when I get back to it. Brian Todd’s words are ringing in my ears about basic drills and skills. To say that I have more than enough to work on is an understatement but the joy I will have doing it will be greater. The Worlds was an event that I intend to use to inspire myself and others, such as you all, to be all we can as individuals, sailors, and future folks in this wonderful sport. Thanks for reading my thoughts and hope they help you know what I experienced and maybe next year we will see you on the starting line in Tampa! Many of these fine sailors will be there for you to meet and get your butts kicked by if that where you are at like I was. Best to each of you determining your course as we get ready for Pre-World and the Winter CanAm Series!