February 12, 2012
Travel from skiing in the rocky mountains at 13,000 ft down to sea level in a matter of days did a number on my sinuses and kept me in bed most of the time we were off the water, but the sailing during the Melges 20 Winter Regatta was much better than forecast and provided a nice distraction from the biology experiment going on in my head. Sandwiched in between the highly competitive Gold Cup in December, and what will be the highly competitive Bacardi Cup in March, the February event typically allows some teams to work on areas of improvement in a more relaxed racing environment. With 38 boats, and 2 days of intense practice with several coach boats on the scene, it did not take long to figure out that there was going to be nothing relaxing about this event, and we were going to have to give each other a slap in ass, buckle our chin straps and do our best to be highly competitive.
Outside of the impressive increase in boats from year to year, the biggest change in the Melges 20 is that you can no longer get away with being right or sailing well 70-80% of the time, it is now a 90-100% of the time thing, which is bad news for our team on M and M since I have been an 82% kind of guy most of my life. The moment you make a mistake with tactics or boathandling, there are 10 teams that are doing it better and it does not take long to “wave ’em by.” But having both McKee brothers on either side of you on the starting line, numerous college all-americans and some of Italy’s best talent is what makes this fleet so great, even if our goal of cracking the top ten is that much harder.
The biggest downer for our team this season has been when we come off the water a little more optimistic about our overall position than what the score sheet actually reveals. We do some things really well, we always battle hard in the top half of the fleet, but whether it is losing a few right at the finish, or bleeding a few boats with a silly mistake, our name is always next to a number in the low-teens. After the 4 race, first day of this event, there was that familiar sinking feeling as we had to scroll down a little further than we would have liked and found ourselves in 12th place. To the confusion of the others hovering around the notice board perusing the results, I let out a loud, “What’s it gonna take!!??”, hung my head and gave the report to the team. The good news is that the Coconut Grove Sailing Club bar is only a staircase away from the official notice board, and after buying our tuning friends on Argo a few rounds for poking Jason with our bow sprit on a set during the last race, our disappointment vanished at the same rate as our cold ones.
Day 2 brought high winds and cold temperatures hovering around 45 degrees and PRO Bruce Golison postponed until noon which allowed the temps to rise and the wind to die below class maximums. The fleet was not taking any chances and teams were busy tightening diamond stays, switching to their small spinnakers and doing thorough equipment checks. The scene on the racecourse was a different story as there were some decent puffs, but the breeze was very unsettled and there were lulls to 8 kts which had a lot of teams quickly changing their set-ups prior to the start. The thought on our boat was to hedge being set up more for the lulls as we could depower more easily in the puffs, than we could power-up in the lulls.
Things looked grim off the start of the first race of the day as we went all-in on the right side of the course and had to wait longer than expected for it to pay, but once near the top of the course, our rightie came in and we were able to round in the top 8. From there, we sailed our best race to date as we passed some really good boats, sailed smart and clean and took a hard earned 4th place. At the start of the final race, we had a tough start at the pin, battled hard to round in the top ten and hung on for a 10th, and after being miffed about losing our pals on Red Sky on 2nd upwind, we did well to fend off a few others and stay close to the leaders. Once we de-rigged the boat, I busted out my i-phone and cautiously looked at the results…down, down….10th! Sure, am I a little excited for getting 10th, yes, but after getting over our personal hurdle, it felt good to have a strong last day and make the press release. Now it is time to build on this and get ready for a solid event in just under a month which will be the largest Melges 20 event ever.
As always, the Coconut Grove Sailing Club and PRO Bruce Golison put on an awesome event. During the skippers meeting, commodore Ron Rostorfer started the meeting with, “Welcome to CGSC. Our mission is to provide a great racing experience.” As a competitor, you can’t help but be encouraged by an organization that is set on making the sailors happy. It is no coincidence they are attracting new members an upgrading their facilities every time we visit.
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