Starting Strong with Robert Scheidt and Road to Gold

Over the past few months, I’ve seen the same wry comment attributed to three different pro sailors; “He couldn’t start a lawn mower.” They were all talking about different situations. And except for the pronoun, they could all be referring to my most recent Snipe regatta.

Starting sailboat races has always been my weakest skill. It’s the last thing to come back when I haven’t been sailing enough, and the first thing to leave when I’m stressed or out of sorts. It’s also the primary reason so many Olympic coaches have told me, “You should’ve steered in college.” All that repetition would’ve accumulated muscle memory that undoubtedly would still be serving me well, more than three decades later. 

Well, here’s to woulda-coulda-shoulda. Nothing I can do about that now.

I’d been wondering what I could do to improve before my next regatta when the weekly Road to Gold email caught my eye: “Nail Your Start w/ Robert Scheidt, 5x Olympic medallist.” The time slot for this Live Coaching Call was Tuesday evening in the UK, so smackdab in the middle of an already over-scheduled work afternoon; nonetheless, I immediately added the webinar to my calendar. What’s the point of setting your own schedule if you can’t make time to improve on a personal weakness? 

I last attended a Road to Gold webinar about a year ago, and since then hosts Andy Rice and Hamish Willcox have definitely polished their Zoom skills—while still keeping it as friendly and casual as the best after-racing conversations. Without letting unexpected technical challenges derail the process, they made sure to include live audience questions; that brought new faces onto the screen, breaking up any possible “talking heads” monotony. 

Robert Scheidt is, of course, a sailing legend. He’s won five Olympic medals and twelve Worlds in the Laser and Star classes. When the Star was dropped from the Rio 2016 Games, he stepped back into the very physical Laser and, at age 43, finished fourth—the leather medal. In 2021, he finished eighth. He claims that his Olympic career is finally over, but who knows how many more medals he could win if the Star ever comes back?

The Road to Gold format allowed Robert’s expertise to shine through without intimidating anyone else. Thanks to Andy and Hamish’s insightful questions and follow-up remarks, I felt like we were all just chatting over a beer after sailing—though our two hosts were definitely following the step-by-step method that is the backbone of Road to Gold. They’ve found the missing link between sailing’s finest and the rest of us; a chance to learn, as well as a reminder of how lucky we are to enjoy such great accessibility.

I’ve only fit in one Road to Gold session so far this year, but they’re happening every week—with equally impressive names sharing their particular approaches to our chosen sport. Andy is in the UK and Hamish is in New Zealand, so time slots vary. But each one-hour session is recorded, and subscribers can tune in whenever it’s convenient. Their weekly newsletter provides a free alert to the next Live Coaching Call. 

Thanks to Road to Gold, I’m going to try out some of Robert’s favorite tricks at my next Snipe regatta. Stay tuned to find out how it goes—though I doubt anything I learned will ever be much help when trying to start a lawn mower.