Like so many Canadians, sailor Sarah Douglas had big plans for 2020 – most notably, her Olympic debut – disrupted by COVID-19.
And just when it seemed her training for the Games postponed to 2021 would also be impacted by the pandemic, Team Canada partner Rock-it Cargo came to her rescue. Here is her story:
“I have never spent a whole summer in Canada until this year.”
Douglas’ spring and summers are usually spent competing on waters around the world. But in 2020, she stayed at home on Lake Ontario, splitting her time between Toronto and Kingston while the weather was warm.
In October, after an unusually long eight-month break, she was finally back racing with the international Laser Radial fleet at the European Championships in Gdansk, Poland where she finished sixth.
“It took a minute to get back into the swing of racing, but it was great to see that all of the hours spent training this summer paid off. Having a competition in October identified what to work on next and moving forward to Tokyo.”
For a sailor aiming to become the best in the world, it shouldn’t be surprising that cold temperatures and frozen lakes do not make for an ideal training environment. That’s why Douglas usually spends her winters in places such as Florida or Mexico or even Australia so she can focus on training her speed and technique ahead of the spring competition season in Europe.
After arriving home from Poland and while doing her mandatory 14-day quarantine, Douglas prepared once again to become a snowbird.
“After a lot of pro-con lists and evaluating travel restrictions, I chose to train with Team USA for the winter and head to Florida. The land border only being open to essential travel was the biggest challenge. I needed my equipment to come with me. I have my own boat that is 14 feet long that I rooftop and all the sails, masts and equipment to go along with it.
I was advised that if I had letters from my NSO (Sail Canada) and U.S. Sailing, I could probably get through the border saying that I needed to travel for work and drive south with my equipment. On day 15, I packed my car full: I had my boat equipment, two bikes, gym equipment and all the other items needed to be comfortable down south for the next four months.”
Just 16 days after her return from Europe, she was en route to the Peace Bridge feeling confident.
Arriving there at 8:00 a.m., she explained to agents why she was driving instead of flying. But her training was deemed not essential.
“My little Olympic bubble was quickly burst, and I realized that there is this big world that doesn’t view the Olympics like I do.”
Escorted to the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge, she drove the two hours back to Toronto to figure out Plan B.
“My boyfriend was in charge of getting my friends to meet me to help unload my boat, unload the car and re-pack for a morning flight. My parents were looking into flights and rental cars whilst my high-performance director was looking into alternatives to get my boat and equipment to Florida.”
And that’s when Rock-it Cargo’s Director of Key Accounts, Josh Gordon, provided a solution.
“He needed various documents from me for U.S. customs and he made the whole process easy for me. He told me to download an app where I could easily scan and upload the paperwork he needed for shipping. It was a hectic day of packing and getting organized. I had to fill out paperwork, book a flight to Florida and re-pack my bags to fly at 9:00 a.m. the next day.
In 24 hours, I had loaded, unloaded, and reloaded my boat to the roof of my car three times. It was now 7:00 p.m. and I was on my way to Milton with a friend driving while I was in the passenger seat filling out more paperwork. It was a full 12-hour day. I was denied at the border at 8:00 a.m. and dropped off my car for shipping at 8:00 p.m.
I had looked into shipping my car whilst in quarantine, but most options had to have my car empty and I couldn’t roof-rack my boat. Rock-it Cargo got my boat, car, and equipment to Florida in days. It arrived to the sailing centre and was such a smooth process.
Thanks to Rock-it Cargo I have my equipment in Florida and will be using it all winter. Having some of my gym equipment and road bike here allows me to skip the indoor gym and work out at home and on my road bike to stay safe during this pandemic. I will also be able to transport my boat across Florida for competitions.”
Douglas looks to compete twice this winter, in Fort Lauderdale in mid-January and then in Clearwater in early February. But the big focus will be in late March when she travels to Spain for the second event included in the selection process for the Canadian Olympic Sailing Team. Following the 2020 Laser Radial World Championships in February, Douglas currently leads the ranking list, giving her confidence that she will be on her way to the Olympic Games in July.