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Sailors in lockdown - reflections of an Olympic medalist and Coach

by Luca Devoti 5 Apr 2020 06:23 PDT 6 April 2020
Squall hits fleet in Race 10 - 2018 Hempel Sailing World Championships Aarhus © Robert Deaves

There is little doubt that the coronavirus will have a lasting effect on the sailing community - positive and negative.

Italian born Luca Devoti, now resident in Valencia, the larger than life Finn Olympic medalist, America's Cup sailor, coach, boat builder and writer shares his thoughts on the Lockdown and how it has affected him and the people in his bubbles.

The Coronavirus is a difficult beast to manage for all of us, forced into idleness and isolation while “under attack” by this virus. For few, however, the ban on active live outdoors is so hard felt as for athletes and sailors. We live by the water and by the wind. Staying inside is almost a punishment. Before this, olympic sailors and professional athletes where living in a world apart, fully focused on training and competing. In this sense, the Coronavirus and all the measures to stop it have changed our lives dramatically.

As a coach and educator, it has been difficult to get athletes to understand that they had to change completely their perspective and mental set up, and to make the best out of stormy waters. My first advice has been for all to fully obey the laws and measures imposed to contain the virus: this is no time to argue or to rebel. So: no clandestine sailing early morning or at night, in the hope of not getting caught. I was pretty brutal in pounding in that respecting the rules was a priority. My second message was that this is a “first-time” situation for all of us, and that adaptation would be the only way forward. Once this hard to swallow change had been mentally metabolized, all of them had to rely and focus on their own stationary bikes, rowing machines, weight gear, and elastics bands as the only foreseeable training tools. The open sea and the well-equipped gym are now swapped for a corner in the bedroom or the balcony.

Once those two messages got through, my coach role changed completely. My current role is basically one of time manager and psychological advisor. I try to make the best of the situation, maintaining discipline and an active routine as a way to get the best of this mess. Regular and focused training helps the days go by, gets the sailors fitter and stronger, and helps keeping the sleeping pattern and eating rhythm. It is a way to make sure that once we will be allowed to go back sailing we will get the best of our magic sport.

Adaptation and positive thinking the only way through. And in this sense, we cannot forget any (small) positive aspect of all this. The Finn will stay Olympic one more year, we can enjoy our magic class some more. We will have more time to prepare for the next olympic (whenever that will be). Even my personal rowing times are getting better. I keep in touch with my athletes as much as I can, supervising, but also sharing with the usual dose of loud talk, bad jokes, and loughs. This reduces the negative input from social media and media in general. We all know this is bad, nothing we can do to change what goes on around us. But losing our positiveness will only make it worse.

We are all bombarded with statistics about the virus and with the reality of disease and death. That is nothing new: death is something all of us will be confronted in life. Keeping the perspective helps not to lose your mind: about 8 million people die each month around the globe, the virus is just another way to end our journey. Heart diseases, cancer of all kinds, tropical and poor-country-diseases, among many others take high tolls every day. Accepting the very nature of life, accepting that the turn of our wheel has a start and one end is not easy, though once accepted we can enjoy every minute of what we do.

Tonight, my daughter Viola decided to cook dinner for the whole family, and I made the dessert with the help of my four-year-old son Federico. We all ate out on the terrace, thanks to the warming weather. A couple of days ago it was my wife’s birthday, and we celebrated it with a very simple, yet very warm, family party. It is a hard time, but it is also a time of refocusing on basic values and real affections.

Sometimes I find myself thinking about all the hyperactive happenings of the recent past. It all seems distant now, while in this forced “stay-at-home” bubble. For now, Devoti Luca is back, writing about our sport and the mind, about sailing and sailors! I have not written in a long time. I was so pissed off with the ones running our sport that I preferred to silence myself rather that entering a blind feud. But all this is less relevant now, given the current times and the current challenges.

Dream of sailing and stay safe!

Your writer, Luca Devoti

Website/Blog devotiluca.com

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