Yacht: Sailing off to London but keeping even keel Just as the phone signal went out — a phone signal that was reaching across a continent, across an ocean, through several time zones, all the way to where it’s already tomorrow, to Sydney, Australia.
Photo Courtesy: www.sail-world.com/Mick Anderson-SAILINGPIX.DK_. - 470 Class - Men. (USA). Stuart MCNAY / Graham BIEHL - ISAF Sailing World Championships Perth 2011
Just as the phone signal went out — a phone signal that was reaching across a continent, across an ocean, through several time zones, all the way to where it’s already tomorrow, to Sydney, Australia — Graham Biehl was telling a story. He was talking about what he was learning from his girlfriend. How she was opening his eyes, and showing him how to sail for fun, how to sail with pure joy.
He’d already known this, of course. He’d been sailing since before he could walk, and so he’d always known it. But when you are traversing the globe, sailing competitively, full time — the way he and his Men’s 470 partner, Stu McNay, are — in pursuit of a medal at the upcoming London 2012 Olympic Games, the fun of sailing can be easy to forget.
The phone signal might have gone out, but not his spirit.
And so, maybe this newfound, yet old, knowledge just might be the spark needed to spur Biehl and McNay to the medal podium in London. The two — a team since 2005, and Olympians in 2008 — were among several sailors who recently qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team via their results at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Perth, Australia, which wrapped up Dec. 18.
US Sailing’s Olympic Sailing Committee officially will nominate them to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, pending approval from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Also qualifying for London are: Paige Railey and her brother, Zach, and Farrah Hall, who earned a nomination in the women’s windsurfer.
They are looking at peaking for London, but, Biehl said, “We’ve definitely still got a little bit of work to go.”
Biehl has been immersed in sailing almost since birth. He is a member of the San Diego Yacht Club. And growing up, he was surrounded by Olympians and America’s Cuppers. It was just part of the culture. It was just something he breathed in the sea air. The kids he grew up with, the kids he was a kid with, together they were the best youth sailors in the country for a stretch of three or four years.
“All of us really pushed each other all of the time,” he said.
And so he’s been traveling the world on the competitive circuit for about eight years now, he said. Most of competitive sailing is Eurocentric, so he’s always away from home. He knows every venue. The majority of his life these days is spent overseas. He’s like the stereotypical sailors of those old sea yarns, in port for a week or two or three at a time, then gone (though he puts his boat in a container, and gets there by plane).
Each stop, he said, is “like a temporary home.”
And so it could be easy to get caught up in the grind.