WE ARE BACK!!!!!
Be the Change you want to see.
Don’t let others tell you it’s ever impossible. Sometimes you might just change history. I know I did.
I will never forget this year for the rest of my life. Thank you all for your support and courage. We did it together.
So I spent the 6 months between May and November, reading regulations, articles of the constitution, consulting lawyers, and the world population to find a way to get a fair vote for windsurfing. I felt like I had a course on corporate law. On what structures were right for making good decisions, and how I was not going to let ISAF say everything was fine with the May decision to remove windsurfing from the Olympic program of events.
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I’m a founding member of a task force that’s part of the USOC Athletes Council and I’ve spearheaded an investigation of the USOC resources allocation practices. My investigation was going after a board policy from the USOC that only funds those that are current and likely to potentially medal. If you aren’t already proven to have top ten results internationally you won’t get the funding. Actually you get nothing. No wonder so many athlete are going bankrupt and having such financial difficulties.
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Check out the “A Tempting World” Program!
Selected as the only US Olympian to rotate between four companies and share the excitement and capability of Olympic athletes in the workplace. The rotations were blogged and video documented for marketing and PR use by Adecco, a world sponsor of the Olympic Games. Companies included: Four Roses Bourbon, Ketchum PR, Security Point Media, and Laser Spine Institute.
Now this may sound kind of grand, but I believe if you truly believe in something strong enough, you can change the world. But this time my world was changed. Windsurfing is no longer part of the Olympics.
In May this year, at the board meeting I was a member at in Stresa, Italy, I lost my sport. I sat there and watched countries (like my own) and their Board representatives, vote and speak about what was in their best interest to win medals- not what was best for the sport as a whole. I was appalled. I was disgusted. I secretly took a list of those members that I know were not practicing their fiduciary duty, including many of the leaders of ISAF. It is time to take a stand- who else would? I am an elected official and I have a duty to act.
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Since finishing second place in the US Olympic Trials, I have to admit it’s been a tough swallow. I don’t lose very well, I don’t like to complain either. But one of the big challenges I always faced was raising hundreds of thousands a year while competing full-time. It was and will probably always be the hardest thing I have ever done. I’ve been fortunate to make it as far as I have come: US #1 for 7 years, 2008 Olympic Team and 2X alternate. All things have never been equal, winning budgets internationally for winning medals are 500K plus per year, and through long and hard work I’ve typically outperformed those with 3-4 times my annual budget. So I will spend a good portion of my time this year focusing on redeveloping the US Olympic funding system as well as continuing to pioneer athletes rights internationally. I know most athletes don’t want to talk about how much they have had to suffer to make their dreams come true, but I will start to share with you and the world what makes a US Olympian do truly remarkable feats to make it and what I hope to change to best support the next rising stars.
Those change goals this year include:
1) how the United States Olympic program funds it’s Olympians and Olympic Hopefuls
2) find a new career for myself while continuing to support my nutrition business (with a focus on global fortune 500 companies)
3) increase athletes rights in Sailing around the world
I’ve spent the last 5 years or so getting elected to leadership positions, I chair the Athletes Commission of the International Sailing Federation and have secured the first ever Board of Directors position for athletes, representing 10K plus athletes around the world. I’m also on the USOC Athletes Advisory Council which I’ve co-founded the resource allocation task force to address USA specific funding concerns and direction. This year I will use those positions to the best of my capacity to make lasting change to the Olympic movement.
Racing home in Perth
It was over before it began.
I’m second place.
I felt robbed.
But I’m still smiling.
Because I do this for fun.
And there is always more to come.
Thank you for all your support I couldn’t have done it without you.
Time for some new challenges!
The clock has ticked. The time has come. Today is the start of my final chance to win the US Olympic Trials at the World Championships, here in Perth, Australia.
I won’t let up, I won’t accept defeat, I will fight as a honed, prepared and fearless competitor with no mercy. This is it, as real as it gets. And no place I’d rather be.
But the mind can only take an athlete so far. The preparation and technical needs this campaign now requires has made me eat a lot of humble pie this year. I’ve had to work extra hard for things that most of my competitors already have, to just get here.
But at the starting line today at 12:30 we are all the same. Our worth determined in the next 12 races. I should be set for a splendid show. This is my first time since the 2008 Olympics to prepare for an international event with a similar protocol. Everything goes into this event. If I get past this I make the US Olympic Team. I’ve got a lot of explaining to do, and it will all be on the scoreboard today. Visit www.perth2011.com for live scoring.
One more lesson learned that I must share:
Help those less fortunate than yourself.
For all those people that have helped me get here because you dreamed with me in my dream, and helped me become better. Thank you. I surely will live on that ethos and ask those reading this to think of ways to help those less fortunate than yourself. Whether it be a friend, loved one, co-worker or stranger. It feels good to be empowered and serve others. Competition is a fierce game, winners are forgotten at their last finish. Champions build more than themselves, they create something for future generations.
In case you missed it, all the details of my comeback the last 8 months and where I spent $70,000 can be found online at my website: www.benbarger.com
The Olympic Venue
In May this year, I had what I needed to make a very short 3 week comeback to win the first section of the Olympic Trials in Weymouth, England. I was ready to buy lots of new gear to test it all out. But, uh oh, the manufacturer was out of stock, and there is only one manufacturer. But at least they had new fins, so, I bought 4 and started doing my scientific method. By the time I got them it was a week before the trials started. While testing my gear in Weymouth, my fast mast snapped which was also the mast I used to win the last trials. Testing between my “Old Glory” and the newer sail that I suffered with in Miami showed that “Old Glory”, was the speedier one so I thought. But, I wasn’t so sure which mast was faster. Now, if I know my 10 regatta old sail is faster than a 10 day old sail, I should have put it in the rubbish bin! But, no, I raced the first Olympic trials on “Old Glory” because that’s all I had and was probably feeling sentimental with it. And, yes, it was pathetic to say the least. I couldn’t hold my line. I was slow and I pushed so hard on the starts that I got 2 OCS’s (premature starts) in qualifying sealing the deal for me to have an all time worst regatta in Weymouth. I was fuming at the time. Should I just quit or figure out this game again? Nope, things were turning around, and starting up a nutrition business was supporting some of the “day to day” expenses. Plus, I still hadtime and money left from the first fundraiser to figure out exactly what went wrong.
So I spent the next 2 months in Weymouth, England testing equipment for the second Olympic trials to take place in Australia. I did not buy any new sails but, I was able to test the daylights out of my new fins.. My newer Miami sail was clearly faster, but with a different mast! My Weymouth trials fin was second slowest out of 6 I had. But one fin was impressively fast, so I put that one away. I still wasn’t pointing very well. But my board was fast. I tested it against others and it was a quick one. I was getting it figured out finally, and feeling like I really had a viable chance of still winning the trials.
Tuning forks please!
After leaving Weymouth, I went to Bermuda for more training and to work on starting up the new business. Later,I went back to Italy for more training i. It was good to finally be somewhere warm again! In Italy my preparation was for the European championships in Bulgaria where I was ready for light wind. Little did anyone know that it is actually a windy venue. The forecaster and 4 friends that had raced there advised me
Racing at the European Championships
it was super light. So, I had left my best gear in Italy, because airlines are known to destroy our precious windsurfing gear with careless bag handlers that like to surf it down the ramp onto the tarmac . Needless to say, it blew 15-18 everyday. I was screwed. I was going as slow as dog poo and the only shipment of gear was taking ages to arrive. . I finally got a new sail. Wow, is what I said when I rigged it. This looks fast. It had a very fat leading edge. I put it on my only mast that I had brought and on the water it went way faster than my other sail. I was competitive. But my fin was still slow so I bought a new one of those. I finally had world class speed on port. Remember, in sailing you have to go on both starboard and port tacks to get to the first mark. So, I tried twisting the fin in the fin box but still couldn’t get it to balance out. Still on this set up, I tied my personal best at the European championships, some 33 positions ahead of my final score in the Weymouth World Cup and Olympic trials. I’ve never focused on European races, nor am I a European, I don’t peak at every event I attend. I don’t have that kind of time, money or team. But I can peak for key events well which are the Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games.
Right after the conclusion of the European Championships, I came back to Italy for the Italian Championships. Air Italia had lost our gear again and it was going to show up..half way through the regatta. So I borrowed gear once again, but had with me my fastest fin. I won the
Winning the Italian Championships
opening 5 races with that fin, and that borrowed sail was a quick one too; but, I had to give that back. How frustrating! Next day my new Bulgaria sail arrived and I put it together with my fastest mast. Wow, two more wins with even more speed. Ok, that’s a fast sail. It was my benchmark Olympic trials sail now. A few more weeks of training went by in Italy and then I headed back to England for more cold, windy and wet weather. And boy did it blow. Most days 20+. I bought another sail and started testing that one. It clearly was slower and much more shallow, but these sails need some breaking in time as well. My Bulgarian sail, aka “Big Bulge” was at the 10 days of use mark and if I used it for the trials I didn’t want any more than 15 days on it. It affects pointing and speed that much as I learned from driving “Old Glory” into the ground. I found a new combination with a new mast, and added another nice twist to the sail, I measured it all out as well and tested it on the water. I made great headway. Arguably, the world’s best wasn’t putting any distance on me anymore.
Perth, Australia might as well be the furthest place away from America. Friendly people, big outdoors, roo’s, boomerangs and toilets that spin the other way. Ok, so imagine coming to the airport to leave for Australia with huge flying saucers and saying yeah we’re going to need to check this in. Yes, I had tons of gear and all my fastest equipment to bring to Australia. Usually, airport personnel panic, calling supervisors and otherwise asking weird questions like, “What’s in there, Gadafi?” . The price fluctuates from free to my highest of $450, not bad considering doing this for 10 years. So, they weighed my gear this time which isn’t normal at all. Then they quoted me a price of $6000 USD for me to bring it with me one way. A first class ticket for a fat person weighing double my gear weight is less than the price for my gear to fly to Australia.
I then asked for his supervisor and he “was” the supervisor. An awfully awkward moment occurred which was me sorting out in 20 minutes how I was going to get my gear to Australia to win the Olympic trials and not miss my flight and lose the thousands of dollars ticket to rebook. And, yes, I read the baggage carriage policy. He said that it says right (somewhere he pointed which was 7 pages ahead of where it says they take windsurfing gear) there. I gave him the best emotional plea for help I’ve dished out for years. Still he definitely didn’t care. So, I went to a
shipping service for excess baggage and they assured me they could deliver it for much less, only $700, to ship it down there! But that would take a week, I couldn’t be without training for a week this soon before my Olympic trials. I took out my running shoes, and checked into the airline where they would give me 23 kilos of free space for any bag. I checked in my 1st to 3rd fastest gear until I was at the 23 kilo limit. All I had to wait on while in Australia was my board, but no problem, I had a back up board already shipped down there! I literally showed up in Australia with the shirt on my back and my windsurfing sails and masts.
So 7 days transpire and I finally get my board in the mail. On arrival and inspection the front half is limp. The board had been forklifted in half. Split in two pieces, my fastest board was a goner . My dreams of winning these trials were also looking grim. As I learned in the past regattas, my gear was my main limitations in the breeze and now my best board was destroyed by incompetent shippers. I got on the horn and indeed a shipment of 20 boards was on the way the next day to Perth, Australia. What great timing right! Well, if they were all for sale..they were all pre sold! Ugh, how frustrating…as I was having a restless night figuring out how much and how long it would take to air freight a board from Thailand. Someone decided not to purchase a board from the
Putting Humpty Dumpty back together
distributor here, glory halleluiah! I promptly picked up my new board the next day and can’t be happier with it’s performance. Fast all a rounder. I got lucky. The past two weeks I’ve been sporadically testing my fastest kit, but ensuring it doesn’t see too much sunlight till trials day. It’s fast and speed won’t be my limitations here, nor will it be the reason why I would lose these trials. No, I plan on winning these trials because I can race better. It’s almost go time. It’s been the most ridiculous and awesome journey. I’ll take some good luck any day. But also know I can take on the bad luck with the best of them. A regatta or any of them are the same. No matter how important the outcome, our ability to overcome the obstacles is a necessity. I’m ready and this is how I’ve done it. Oh, did I mention that the Olympic Games is supplied equipment? That means all the competitors get a random allocation of new gear. I hope I get lucky there too.
Going the right direction but slow - Miami 2011
So here is my true story about “Old Glory.” You see, “old glory” wasn’t just a name of a famous battleship, it was my coined name for the sail that got me a top ten in the 2009 World Cup in Weymouth England. Well, it wasn’t always so glorious. The week before the 2009 worlds, I was as slow as the double decker bus. The phenomenal speed difference was (you guessed it) attributed to a mast and a fin. Now mid year 2009 I started taking a break. I bought no new equipment for the next 18 months. I knew ”old glory” and the right combination would come through for all the key events. Four months later, with zero time on the water, I strolled up to the North Americans and won decisively, I was still flying.
A week later during the Miami World Cup, I was still going strong, although, I was starting to slow down in the breeze…and I wasn’t sure why. I tossed it off as random occurrence. Then I went to the next 6 events with the same exact set up and kept on getting slower and slower. I wasn’t training as much either, so I attributed it to not training as hard as I should have been for the event. So I spent 3 months building my time on the water for the 2011 World Cup in Miami in January. Most of the training was on my own. But, it came down to technique and racing at the end of the day. Little did I know it was the beginning of my nightmare. Obviously, “old glory” was getting old with 9 regattas already on it. So,I got a new sail. And wow did it feel different! By this time my fastest fin had broken in half, so, I used another fin that I thought was good as well.
This Miami World Cup event is typically a light air venue, and I usually do very well in my home environment. It was light everyday in Miami, except the first four days of racing. Actually everyday of that regatta was planning, and I had zero time tuning up in the breeze. Bam, I was out the back pumping harder than all my competitors and still slower. Wow, this was an shocking surprise. I now look back at that event and laugh. I know exactly what went wrong and I’ll tell you in a minute. At the time, I blamed it on a gasket breaking, forcing me to retire from a race. I also blamed it on the board, or mast.
This large “slap in my face” started to gel. I knew that I was pretty close in size to all the fastest sailors and I couldn’t imagine my technique being that far off. I finally understood that I needed new equipment. But, I needed to find a way to buy more equipment quickly, and that equipment costs a lot of money, tens of thousands of dollars. I hadn’t started up the fundraising machine in over 2 years and was seriously getting tired of asking people to help me win. I can’t just family bankroll my Olympic campaign like many of my American competitors.
Four years ago I was bobbing around in the pacific hoping there would be just a breath of wind to fill my windsurfing sail before I passed out from the sweltering heat. The current was intense. China smelled funny or at least their supermarkets did. All the fast Olympic competitors were lean, light and mean. Added on top of the typically light wind, we had unlimited pumping, or fanning of the sail which was permitted in the Olympic windsurfing discipline. This made for an extremely tiring and aerobic fight against my competitors. Fast forward 4 years later and the new Olympic Venue is Weymouth, England. You think of England and you likely know it’s damp, you also know it’s quite blustery and things can change very quickly. That’s not all that has changed.
This coming 2012 Olympics changed my entire games preparation just as fast as the weather changed to “jumper” weather. I’ve had a few technical difficulties to say the least. Now I’ll share with you the meat of this Olympic game. It might get technical. I’ll try to keep it simple because this game isn’t that complicated.
I’m a Florida boy. I grew up with white sand and board shorts except when the occasional cold front came through and I needed a shorty wetsuit. This worked quite well for the past 10 years. I was always too heavy for the Olympic equipment so dieting and keeping my weight in check was essential.. The light winds and warm temperatures kept me nice and thin. Then welcome to England; fish and chips please! Make that 2 portions of them. I’m ten pounds heavier than I was in China. I’ve trained the last 6 months in windy, wet and cold locations, so my tan is struggling except here in Australia where it’s bright sunny warm and windy!
My size and strength isn’t the only thing to increase. I now own 8 fins, 6 masts, 5 boards, and 3 booms, much of that acquired over the past 6 months. Breeze sailing or anything over 12 knots means board speed of 15-30 mph, which makes for some exhilarating racing. But even in a one design controlled class such as mine, at these speeds the difference between a bad fin and a good fin or an old sail and a new one means the difference between racing at the front side of the fleet or spitting out the back. So all those pieces of quiver I’ve purchased have their own personality. And they’ve all been individually nicknamed. Now how many possible permutations does all my gear have? 720, and I’m not talking about doing a penalty turn. Each piece has to work in synergy with the rest of my gear. Sure there are certain visual cues that help you distinguish the differences but in the end the good old scientific method has to be diligently applied.