Koci Reports on Masters Experience

Rob Koci, who was this year’s winner of the Mid Ontario Radial class, spent two years preparing for the World Masters Championships held in Halifax this past September.  Rob had set himself a goal of winning the Grand Master Radial Championship – to be the best in the World and recognized as such in Halifax.  He threw himself into training and drove all over North America to compete.  There was rarely a regatta that our team attended, from Ottawa to Sarnia to Florida,  where Rob was not also there and rarely a regatta for which we were absent where his name did not pop up in the result sheet .  He trained and he sailed and he posted regular diary entries on the Laser District 3 website of the ups and downs, hopes and aspirations of having set a goal and worked towards achieving it. 

He didn’t win in Halifax.  Despite some fabulous races and a number of victories, he ended up 7th because of inconsistency: an OCS, a 17th and a 22nd.  Although he may well have been the fastest sailor in the world fleet, his inconsistency was his downfall.

In his latest blog, he reports on his experience, the disappointment and what he has learned.  Here are some excerts.  For the complete diary, go to the District website ( http://www.d3laser.com/ ): 

“As I prepare for the Albacore Canadian Championships taking place in Hamilton, Ontario, I have had a chance to reflect on what I have learned from my two years of preparation and then competition at the Masters Laser Worlds. As much as I was excited about racing at the World level, I was curious to see how an effort like that would affect me as a person…

I have always been a firm believer in sports competition. It provides an excellent opportunity to see what you are made of without risking dire consequences. It is, after all, just a sport, but it also by its nature demands that you make it more than a sport. In the middle of competition, indeed, it sometimes feels like the consequences are significant.

[What I have learned]:

1.  Competition helps…  When it was clear to me that physical fitness was a critical component to success sailing a laser, I improved my diet. I also made a habit of gym time and made sure I got the rest I needed to recover. I became interested in all things healthy, and am now much healthier for it.

2.  I think I understand better what it means to be a bit strange, and be comfortable in it. I remember so well racing in Brockville, where I left the dock before the rest of the competition and felt the mockery that attends being such a ‘keener.’ I cringed, but at the same time, I knew what I was about, and realized that day, that I actually liked sailing not only for the competition, but for the pure experience of it.

3.  Competition allowed me to experience the affection of others. When I made it clear that winning the Worlds was important to me, my friends, loved ones and-most importantly-those who would pay a price for the commitment, had a chance to say, “how can I help?” Some proactively found ways to make emotional room for my effort. It was a revelation to me that I could be allowed to pursue something so selfish and that there were people who would unquestioningly support me for the sole reason that it was important to me.

4.  Competition provides focus. It demands that goals be set, and as soon as you set a goal, you become accountable to the goal, and you begin to see the world around you differently. There is tremendous power in goal setting that way, but your goal has to be chosen with care. In hindsight, I realize the goal I set was very strong for my preparation, but weak during the actual competition. It got me to the Worlds in top shape and prepared to win, but it didn’t help me win the actual competition. (The goal was to be able to say with conviction, on the last day of the Worlds, that I had done everything possible to win.) …

 5.  …[T]here is something satisfying in being able to say that you are pretty good at something. When you compete, you get a chance to say that, eventually. Before that, you have as many-probably more-opportunities to say the exact opposite. In fact, I expect there will still be times when I will look pretty pathetic to myself and think I can’t sail worth a damn. ..I want to feel “better” than the other guy and I don’t really care what the “better” is…  It’s a pretty good feeling. When I win, the feeling is actually pretty fantastic…I cried like a baby when I had to phone my girlfriend and tell her that, with my 22, I had lost all hope of winning. .. My head swam with delight when I won the Ontario Radial Championship [the Mid Ontarios] without having to sail the last race. Not a huge achievement, but it was MY achievement and meant a lot. ..

6.  The Worlds will not be my last worlds, because one of the keenest and most painful lessons of the worlds was this:  You can’t teach experience. Experience can only be gained by experience, with time, being there. This was my first Worlds. What hurt me most was my lack of experience in worlds competition. I now have it-fully, deeply, tragically experienced. I will not let this experience go to waste.”

Next year we at Sturgeon should set goals:  Individual goals…Perhaps modest goals…Not necessarily to be world champions, but to improve, to perform at a higher level, to place in the top half of the fleet, to learn to sail a spinaker it 15 knot winds, to overcome fears.  There is something to setting the goal, whether it is achieved or not, and, in the words of a would be world champion, “it provides an excellent opportunity to see what you are made of without risking dire consequences”.

Have a great off season…next summer is only 8 months off!

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