We caught up with APS Chesapeake Racer Profile alumna Farrah Hall last month on a spectacular fall day with the dramatic backdrop of the U.S. Sailboat Show banners flying across the creek in downtown Annapolis. In between training sessions and competitions in Bulgaria, England, and Mexico, clearly itching to get out and enjoy the building whitecaps, Hall sat at the picnic tables in front of Compass Marketing – a sponsor of her campaign to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics – primed for an afternoon of windsurfing practice off Horn Point with Maksymilian Wojcik from the Polish national sailing team.
Currently considered the top-ranked windsurfer for the U.S., Hall has come a long way since she started windsurfing as a teenager in the late 1990s on the Magothy River and often needed a tow home for lack of tacking and gybing knowledge. Although she started sailing at the age of 13, she did not fall in love with it until she started boardsailing in high school. As a serious track and field athlete and Olympic distance triathlete, she had what it took to excel at the sport. While at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, from which she graduated in 2003, Hall founded the windsurfing club and worked at a windsurfing shop in Martha’s Vinyard in the summer. It was when Mike Gebhardt, a two-time Olympic medalist, visited the college that Hall learned that boardsailing was an Olympic sport. She began racing shortly thereafter and having thoughts of taking her windsurfing to the next level.
Last June, Hall finished as the top American in the RS:X female class at the Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth, England. At prime time, she was competing in the Pan American Games in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she was third place. After the games, Hall will head to Australia to begin training for her next qualifying regatta, the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships, for which she qualified in January at the Miami OCR and where she will compete to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.
What was your first most exciting recent event?
Our first pre-Olympic qualifier in Weymouth [U.K.], in June stands out for me. It was a very well-run event. The windsurfers usually sail inside the harbor where it’s flat, but they changed that this time. Outside the harbor it’s completely different. There are big gusts and big waves and interesting coastal effects. On this one course, there are big cliffs that make this lane you can catch to go upwind. The second course is near a high peninsula which makes for a natural stadium, where people can sit on the hill and watch. It makes the course shifty but really interesting. You had to watch the shifts all the time. A couple of times, I was behind and saw opportunities to catch up with puffs – and managed to have good races even after bad starts. That’s my favorite kind of racing; you have to think all the time.
Bulgaria was also exciting. It’s like the Hawaii of Eastern Europe. It has the same conditions everyday; it’s sunny and hot with a nice sea swell. You launch off the beach, which is always cool. There are the perfect conditions for planing – 12 to 15 knots – every day. You get in a lot of races.
With all that traveling, do you have a social life?
Not really. My social life is with the people on the racing circuit. I’m sort of an introvert anyway. I do miss my really good friends, especially when they have big life events. I have a friend who had a baby and another one who bought a new home. It’s hard when I’m not home to celebrate those events with them.
What’s your fitness routine?
I do heart-rate zone training where I build up a little more each week. Also, lifting, rowing, cycling, and running – hard, not far. I do speed workouts at intervals.
What’s new in your gear bag?
Atlantis high-tech shirts. I wear them sailing, running, and to the gym. Wet suits are also important gear for me. The one I have on is Neil Pryde. It’s hard to find one that works well for windsurfing.
What do you do to unwind and get your mind off competing and training?
I read constantly. I ready fantasy, science fiction, and adventure. I just finished the Game of Thrones series.