March 21, 2013
Getting back into the routine of doing daily recaps from regattas has been harder than I anticipated. It is probably similar to going back to the gym after a lengthy stint away and despite the gusto to get ripped like AP, you find yourself in the steamroom after a brisk 10 minutes on the eliptical.
Since the last report from the Melges 32 event in Virgin Gorda, it has been a busy couple of weeks with racing Melges 20s in Miami with Jim Wilson on Oleander, and now back in St.Thomas for the 2nd M32 Carribean Series event. With just 9 boats competing, the fleet will once again be smaller than anticipated, but with no weak teams, there is no shortage of action . As we found in the previous event, the fleets seems to travel around the course together in a tight pack, and a small duck, bad tack or gybe doesn’t cost you a few lengths, but 3-4 boats. And with a small fleet, the racing will go down to the wire as it is always hard to put many points on your competition.
As for St. Thomas, the scenery and sailing down here is unreal. The Volpe and Delta teams arrived on Tuesday and locked ourselves in our hotel rooms as going out on the town only would have been temptation to eat and drink before our weigh-ins on Weds morning. With our team being tight on weight, and after missing my target weight by +5 pounds the previous event, I was on double secret probation and would have not been a good career move being over again. The weigh-ins are painful couple of days, but in the end it is ultimately my fault for pounding too many chicken wings while watching football this winter and getting to a weight of 204 instead of being closer to my target of 189.
We were a quiet boat heading out for the first day of practice, rehydrating and feeding, but with a quick look around at the scenery and being on a fun boat sailing down-wind in the trade winds, it doesn’t take long to get the positive vibes rolling. It should be a good week of sailing, and being based out of the St. Thomas Yacht Club is awesome. This club has an island feel to it, in an amazing location and they understand the sailors are there to race hard and have fun and they do and great job of providing both.
Racing starts on Friday with 4 races scheduled, stay tuned for results and photos from St. Thomas.
February 22, 2013
With a two boat Melges 32 program, there are a lot of logistics and moving parts to ensure that both the Volpe and the Delta get to the starting line for the first race of the regatta. Getting to the Islands is a project and requires planes, cars, ferries, and once the team makes it, several houses are needed on Virgin Gorda to provide lodging for all the sailors, shore crew, coaches and chefs. All in all, there are roughly 24 people that make up the Delta/Volpe program.
Luckily this group is made up of solid people who all get along, and it does feel a like a family when we get together to eat before and after racing. Just like any group there is a hierarchy, and I was reminded about this as the all important bed selection was made upon arrival. When traveling there are a few unwritten rules, one of which is the best beds go to your elders. Being assigned to a house with the tacticians and trimmers, I am the youngest of the house at age 32 and as I surveyed the beds at the lovely Anniversary House, I found they were all claimed until I saw a lonely cot tucked away in the corner of Jonathan McKee’s master suite. After a double check to confirm my sleeping arrangement, I set my bags down, gave my bed a test and confirmed that this mattress was most likely first used by a pirate when Virgin Gorda was discovered over 500 yrs ago.
With a little improvising, I moved the mattress onto the floor of the main living quarters, set up some pillows, laid down a few towels to help soften the protruding springs, and now have a nice little Jr Suite. Unlike the other bedrooms, the main living area does not have any AC which allows me to open the huge windows and enjoy the nice Caribbean trade winds and to become one with moths the size of small birds, and mosquitoes which make their relatives during a Minnesota summer seem docile. I sleep well knowing I will not be the youngest forever, and that if some young kid does not abide by the rules and tries to take a nicer bed from me, I will not take the matter lightly.
The sailing up to this point has been truly awesome and you can’t help but be a bit awestruck to have the opportunity to race in such a cool location. Each morning we look out to see 15-22 kts out of the east and with the option of racing either outside or inside the North Sound of Virgin Gorda, both locations provide a dramatic setting, with hilly islands, beaches, palm trees and rest of the BVI’s in the backdrop. It was a lot of work for all the owners to get their programs here, but for those who made the effort it has been well worth it.
The first day of racing was on the outside course, and the weather mark was placed a short distance in the lee of Necker Island, providing plenty of shifts on the race course. The fleet is small with only 9 boats, but each team is pretty stacked and there are very few lengths between the front and the back, making every tactical and boathandling move critical. We had good pace on the Volpe all day, and while we took a bullet in race 2, we needed to sail cleaner in race 1 and 3 to crack into the top 3, and some improvements are needed on our downwind mode as we tended to be a bit higher and same speed with the boats around us.
It sounds like the intention is to sail inside the North Sound on Day 2 which will be a full on street fight as there is not much room and with a small, competitive fleet, you can go from hero to zero in a blink. With the breeze funneling over and through the gaps of the eastern portion of Virgin Gorda, there will be plenty of passing lanes with big shifts and changes in pressure. Day 2 will be another day of racing in paradise and there are some great photos from Day 1. Results.
February 19, 2013
It has been roughly over a year since the last blog at 42Marine.com and with too many details to cover, here is a summary: Obama is back in office for another 4 years, and if this flo-chart of Obamacare is any indication, we are in for a confusing, wandering second term. Adrian Peterson was the best player in the NFL, the Vikings beat the Packers to get into the playoffs and continuing with a longstanding trend, when given a choice of food, Packer fans will always choose sausage. The earth is getting warmer, Lance Armstrong is Manti Teo’s girlfriend, and my 3.5 yr old daughter Lily was invited to a play-date from a boy in her pre-school claiming he wants to show her his trains…wtf.
As for sailing, America’s Cup teams are finalizing their practice sessions in foiling 72 ft catamarans, and these boats truly are amazing. The jury is out on if this version will be good for the cup in the long term, but leaders at Oracle have certainly taken it in a different, much more futuristic direction, and fingers crossed, it will bring some positive exposure for sailing, and a good experience for the city of San Francisco.
The Volvo Ocean Race, one of the best sporting adventures on the planet, is going to a smaller One-Design platform, and an all-women’s team is actively training and putting a team together for the next edition of the race. To keep sponsors involved, smaller, cheaper, and safer (slower) boats are being used, and ports that are friendly for sponsors are the main driving factors deciding the routes of the legs. These will all be smart changes if the exposure of the race can grow.
It was a good year at 42 Marine, and although 2012 was up and down results wise, there was plenty of sailing on the Melges 20, 24, 32 and Match Race Circuits, and 2013 is shaping up to be busy. This past year also provided the experience as Interim Director at the Lake Minnetonka Sailing School, and after having to take on responsibilities ranging from Director, to President of HR, to Webmaster, to Executive of Fiberglass Repair, to Therapist to Passionate Parents, to Lieutenant of Bathroom Cleaning, to Minister of Bee Control on the Volleyball Courts, I have new appreciation for Sailing School Directors. It was a great experience, and with a skilled team in place for the coming season, LMSS is primed to get a record amount of students sailing and racing.
At the moment, Melges 32 teams are tuning up in Virgin Gorda for the first segment of the Melges 32 Caribbean Winter Series. Last year the class agreed to move its popular winter series from South Florida, to the Caribbean and at the outset it looked like there would be 20 boats. Once all the logistics were put in place, a few teams opted out and while there are only 10-12 boats, for those who made the journey, it will be well worth it. The first event is going to be held out of the newly constructed Yacht Club Costa Smeralda satellite facility, and if you can’t enjoy yourself here and the surrounding area, you have problems.
For our team on Volpe, we have licked our wounds from a disappointing finish at the 2012 worlds, and we are a looking for a positive start to the 2013 season. We are all a bit heavy for our weigh ins on Weds morning, and it is not easy to try and cut weight in the Caribbean when all you want to do is eat some roti and have plenty of rum and Ting.
Stay tuned for some awesome photos from the race-course and more importantly the shoreside activities. Our crew headquarters for the week are a bit drafty, but we should be able to make it through the week OK.
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.
January 22, 2012
The final finishing gun has sounded, the Green Parrot has run out of rum, and the roosters of Duval Street have given a final cocka-doodle-doo to mark the end of the 25th anniversary of Key West Race Week. What inadvertently turned out to be one of the greatest editions thus far with perfect sailing conditions and a lay day due to lack of wind in the middle of the week, this event never disappoints and the only shame is that more US sailors were not here to partake; it’s the best event our country has to offer and for reasons that cannot be pinpointed, the weekend warriors that are the lifeblood of US Sailing are watching from afar. The top-end programs are still attending, and KWRW is important for pro-sailors as it serves as a huge networking opportunity with owners and team managers actively setting schedules and ramping up for the year of racing, but the legions of PHRF and one-design sailors from the great white north that can typically be seen listening to Jimmy Buffet and lounging on their boats for hours after racing have become rare. KWRW built up a reputation of being on a bucket list for many sailors around the globe, and fingers crossed, whatever chased away the common sailor will have passed by next year’s edition.
In early December, it looked liked I would be watching from the sidelines as the Volpe Melges 32 team was not planning to attend and most other teams I talked with were using this event to try out new team members to start priming for the Worlds coming up in September. Getting nervous that my string of 5 KWRW’s in a row was coming to an end, I lobbed a facebook IM of “what are you doing for KW?” to Bora, and plans were quickly in place to get a team together on his 24, assuming he could dig it out of a frozen shed in Michigan.
I had not sailed with Bora up to this point, but duking it out with him in years past, I knew I would be learning a lot throughout the week and we would have a shot to win. With Bora’s “do whatever it takes” attitude to get on the starting line, I also knew that I would be taking a trip back to the grassroots, get-on-the-water and get-racing-at-all-costs type of mentality that seems to have been lost in recent years. I didn’t think I would miss the college sailing days of cramped sleeping quarters, lurking around other teams houses’ like tarpon under a dock in search of dinner, or giving an audible “sweet!” when discovering a day old slice of pizza on a cluttered kitchen counter before anyone else, but it just shows that if you have a fun team at a great venue, not much else matters…now if I can just find those 1,000 thread count bed sheets, my slippers and mint scented bubble-bath when I get home.
The reward for our tight living quarters was a highly competitive team and sailing conditions that any sailor dreams of. After hiccup in our results on Day 3 with a 6th place, we were able to return to our winning ways and take a few more bullets, and only needing to grab a 4th or better on Friday, we nabbed a 2nd and got the job done with a race spare. The 24 fleet was a fraction of the size from years past, but with a few top teams in attendance, the racing was still as good as ever and hopefully the 24s will flock back to this event in coming years. For anyone pondering…it is worth it.
Like a Packer fan at an all-u-can eat buffet, we were welcomed to Key West with open arms and after partaking in the bounty at hand, we all parted ways exhausted, smiling, thankful for the memories, and very excited to get home. Once the 24 was all put to bed on the trailer, we made way to the Halfshell Raw Bar for a few frosty pitchers and ensuing Gentleman’s chugs, and from the naming of Biscuit, to the discount double-checks, Troll’s unruly sanitary behavior, Andrew’s snoring and Bora’s weak coffee, new inside jokes will be shared the next time our paths cross, and if real friends were counted like they are on facebook, each of our tallies went up by a few.
January 17, 2012
Nervous about a bleak forecast the remainder of the week, the RC on the Melges 24 and 32 circle moved up our leisurely start time and packed in 3 races on day 2 in a 8-12 kt SE breeze with lumpy, confused seas. After being more disorganized getting off the dock than what is preferred, we managed to pull our act together and take a bullet in the first race of the day, and narrowly avoided a motivational speech I had teed-up had we taken a bad result. Having instituted a fine for anyone who was late for dock-off, the offending parties will have a hefty tab to pay at the end of the week, and had I given my speech, it would have involved something like being late and disorganized is not a good way to start a day. Racing is hard enough as it is.
Our biggest strength to this point has been getting off the line punched with the boats around us and letting our speed go to work. There was a little adverse current in all 3 starts today, and it seemed the fleet was having a hard time getting to the line. We did a nice job of getting moving early, using a high build when needed and making a nice timed run for the line when it was time to race. From there, most of the races have been on repeat as it has been a race to the left corner, tack near lay and round in the top group. The last race of the day was a great battle with the team on WTF, and after fighting off a mild bout of paranoia and battling through a few tense moments, we crossed line for our 5th straight bullet of the event.
If the forecast holds for tomorrow, it will allow for sailors at Key West to do some tourist activities instead of hitting the race course as the wind is not expected to get above 4-5 kts all day. One fun part of the week has been to see the Melges 32 team Celeritas sailing well, and taking their first bullet of the Melges 32 careers on Day 2. After spending a few days of training with owner Malcolm Geftner and team on boathandling and heavy air sailing, it is great feeling to see their hard work pay off! Keep it up! Stay tuned. Results.
January 16, 2012
One of biggest complaints from European and US teams at Key West in previous years was the early start times which had sailors headed to their boats in pre-dawn darkness and pushing off the dock just after sunset to prepare for a day of racing. Throw in a late night on Duval Street, and by weeks end many of the teams had the look of a tourist from Alabama trying to figure out a jet-ski instead of a top notch racing program. The organizing authority relented this year, pushed the start time back to 11:30 which left plenty of time for an egg sandwich, mingling with friends on the dock and checking out the massive tarpon that lurk under the boats. It even allowed me enough time to grab a spare life jacket from my boy Guy Mossman on Battle Rhythm, and in his typical unselfish fashion, gave me the large off his back knowing my man boobs would not squeeze into the only spare which was a small. Whether it is rubbing elbows at a random bar, riding handle bars on a rented bike to the next fun location, or piecing things together to make it to the race course, it is good to have friends in KW.
Just as we saw in the practice days, the breeze settled in at the 15-22 range providing some fun conditions and with former Moth World Champ and Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Bora Gulari (good video) on the helm, our goal was to sail clean, avoid any majors and secure a top 3 finish. Despite being from Detroit and having to overcome that most of his life, Bora guided us two clean starts and we were able to make it around the track without any problems to secure a 1, 1 for the first day. It wasn’t easy as we had to battle with Blu Moon and WTF in both races, and there are definitely some areas where we need to improve like our approaches to the leeward marks and changing our mode a bit quicker upwind with the changing pressure.
After a hard day of racing, we made our way back to our at condo at the Galleon which is about a 30 second walk to our boat. With 5 sailors packed in a small place things can get a bit messy at times, and when the owner of New England Ropes which is a major sponsor of Bora’s program dropped in for a post race visit, we were caught a bit off guard and handed him a half-full jar of cheese dip, chip crumbs and a half filled beer and welcomed him to our impromptu sponsor party. I think he was thankful only the on-the water photos are in his catalog.
Prior to leaving our condo this morning, we did a bit of wagering on the Melges 32 fleet as we have a front row seat for watching a world class fleet duke it out. Samba cleaned up the day which put our tactician Jeremy Wilmot and bow girl Kelly Stannard tied for the top spots, and after putting all my chips in with a team that shall remain nameless who did not live up to my expecations, I am firmly in last place. Clearly I need to do more to motivate my team.
Full Results. Photos.
January 15, 2012
If Key West Race Week was a person, it would be the highly talented, heavily recruited football Quarterback that had all the fame and glory in H.S. and College, but woke up one morning at the beginning of their pro career, partied out and overweight wondering where all of the girls went (cue Todd Marinovich). The fundamentals are all still in place, but the intangibles seem to be missing resulting in a lackluster product that has only a few more years show its true value before its legacy is washed away.
Just like a coach that sees potential in a gristled, veteran QB, Key West received a major shot in the arm when Doug DeVos and Quantum Racing stepped up to the plate to be the headlining sponsor of the event for 2012. It would be a challenge to find a person who has been more charitable with growing the sport of sailing than Doug DeVos in the past few years, and in its 25th year with a rebounding economy the hope is that the numbers will begin to rise, and return Key West Race Week to its place as the premier event in the country. Despite the low numbers the past few years, the racing is still the best to be found, and the lure of just being in Key West is what makes this event a must do for the die-hards. The best part for me is taking a post-dinner stroll down Duval street and whether it is watching a tourist get bucked from a mechanical bull, or spotting a transvestite scooter parade, there is no shortage of entertainment in the southern most point in the US.
As for the event this year, there is a stacked fleet of 52 footers headlined by the World Champions on Quantum Racing, the 32 fleet is still going strong with their typical 20 strong entries, and for the 24 fleet which I will be sailing this year with current National Champ Bora Gulari, the numbers are not strong with only 15 boats, but the top 5 will be hard fought with Blu-Moon, WTF, and Monsoon. We have had a few solid days of breezy practice which was good for our boathandling, and a bit of a harsh reminder of the long week ahead of painful hiking. Our squad has had no problem gelling on and off the water and if we can sail as hard as we have been laughing to this point, we should be in good shape.
If checking the results of the 15 boat Melges 24 fleet doesnt get you excited, you can always check out Key West mugshots of those who “Came on vacation, left on probation.” When this event was rocking with 400+ sailors you would be guaranteed to get a few photos of Dad’s from Ohio who had a little too much fun at the Green Parrot, wiped out their scooters and ended up in a cell with the large number of vagrants and pirates who pledge their allegiance to the Conch Republic. Or you can do a little reading the on the history of the Conch Republic, and particularly the Invasion of 1995 where Conch Republic citizens fended off a US Army vessel with a pile of stale cuban bread.
Scratch Sheet here.
December 12, 2011
I still am not able to 100% percent put my finger on what makes racing the Audi Melges 20 so special, but after competing hard in the classes’ biggest event to date, against sailors that are on a short list of those most respected, there is a sense of being re-invigorated and appreciating all that can get lost in the regatta-to-regatta grind. Hanging in the top part of the fleet in any race meant swapping blows upwind and down, having the guts to make a crossing call by inches and shooting the finish line overlapped with 3-4 boats. The 4 days of racing at the 2011 Melges 20 Gold Cup provided action that can not be found on a typical racecourse, and it helped to re-ignite a fire that had cooled from an up and down 2011 season.
Our squad on the M and M ended up losing some tight battles at the finish of a few races which cost us valuable points in the end, but as we put away our boat on the final day, there was a sense of, “that was fun and we can do better next time.” We corrected a lot of our problems from the Nationals a few weeks ago, one of which was our starts and first beats, and after having a fire in our bellies to get off the line with a solid beat, we found ourselves most of the regatta in a good position at the first top mark.
But as we quickly learned, getting around the top mark in decent shape didn’t mean much as there was a hungry pack behind us looking to pounce at the slightest sign of weakness. The biggest area we identified for improvement was the bottom third of the downwind legs, and our overall downwind “mode”. The end of the runs where steady breeze and an easy layline were hard to find cost us a lot of boats, and the biggest factor was not setting up on the correct side of traffic to get to the leeward gate that we wanted. Sometimes it was a better to give up a boat or two in the short term to focus on the big picture, get around the correct gate cleanly and set up for the next up-wind.
Another critical area was exiting the first windward mark and being able to gybe when you wanted. After everyone set at the first top mark, there was a line-up of 20+ boats extending on starboard, and it was a silent game of chicken as to who would gybe out first, sail across a large patch of bad air without getting jumped from the boats behind. If you extended too far, you could get jumped by 10-12 boats and rolled, but if you gybed too early, you could miss out on the honey-hole in the corner which often had some good breeze. The difference between looking like a wizard and a complete moron was just a few hundred feet.
The biggest take away from the weekend was the mental energy and focus that is required to execute every portion of the race. Not just thinking a good start or setting up for the leeward gate is going to just happen, but thinking through each process and executing it well. We improved from our last event, but there is still a lot of work to do on where we want to be.
As the for the event, we had a front row seat to watch the two Italian teams duke it out in the final race after being tied on points for the overall lead. Wither several lead changes, it went down to the last hundred yards and B-Linsailing.com who had lead most of the regatta suffered a tough loss to a well sailed team on Stig. Thanks to Mary Anne for another great week of sailing on M and M. And to PRO Bruce Gollison and the Coconut Grove Sailing Club for an awesome event. Overall results. Great video highlights from Day 4.
December 8, 2011
With 40 Melges 20s spread out over Biscayne Bay, establishing yourself in the front group is not easy and if you do get there, gains and losses were exchanged rapidly. The best option throughout the day was to put the blinders on to what was happening on the other side of the course and focus on your own area, and having the ability to catch the last shift into the mark was the biggest difference maker. The nice, steady 12-14 that the forecast called for never materialized, and we were left with a 7-12 Northerly breeze that was swinging through 50 degrees.
Our first 2 races on M and M were good enough to be considered keepers, however the third race of the day, we found ourselves OCS and staring at a lot of transoms when we re-rounded. Catching back to mid-fleet was a good effort, but having to utilize a throwout this early was not in our gameplan. A quick look at the top 15 boats shows that everyone had a deep finish, and we need to do our best to stay behind the line and continue to allow our new found speed go to work.
Time for sleep….full results. 3 long races scheduled on Friday.