March 13, 2011
(Cue the harp and haze to resemble a flashback…)
My first experience sailing with Mary Anne took place in 2005 when I was a new employee at Melges and she was my first official “client” after purchasing a new Melges 17. With a brief introduction of “’Hi, I’m Mary Anne’…’Hi, I’m Sam’…’Let’s go sailing’” we embarked on our maiden voyage.
It was a sunny, spring day on Lake Geneva with a stiff Westerly breeze and temps in the low 70s, but the water still had a cold bite. We set off from LGYC, sailed upwind into Fontana, set our spinnaker and prepared for our first gybe. Mary Anne was steering well and as the spinnaker filled on the new side I was full of praise, except there was one problem…she was not on the boat to hear it. She had missed the hiking straps and fallen overboard.
Despite the cold water temps and an embarrassing blunder in front of a person she had just met, when I was able to retrieve Mary Anne, she was all smiles, and what I would come to learn is that regardless of finishing well or poorly, she was continually full of positive energy and relentless in her pursuit to get better. After our first meeting, I did not anticipate that our sailing relationship would last for many years and that we would have the opportunity to win a highly competitive Melges 20 regatta.
Fast forward to Day 3 of the Audi Melges 20 Bacardi Cup, March 20011. (Cue a more balding, slightly fatter Sam to represent present day.)
We sat in 2nd place 5 points behind Paul Reilly’s team on Red Sky after 4 races. In anticipation of 2 more races and the addition of a throw-out, there were too many permutations of who could win, and the only thing we could do was focus on sailing well and control what was in our realm. Our motto of the day was, “we have a lot of work to do.”
The breeze had blown itself out from the previous day, and we were left with an 8-11 N breeze, which according to the forecasts was going to clock right. Our formula of starting clean wherever there was room had worked well up to this point, and with the boat-end available we were feeling good about executing our game plan of getting right. Near the top mark, the right didn’t come in as much as we had hoped, but it was enough to get us around in the top 3.
We did a good job of picking off 2 boats on the next lap, and with about a ¼ of the downwind to go until the finish, one of the more bizarre experiences I have had sailboat racing took place. There were essentially 3 boats dueling for the lead, we were positioned in the middle of the two and still leading, but it was going to be tight. We could hear the noise of a helicopter and a short time later, it appeared 30 yards in front of us, only hovering 100 ft or so above the water. The photographers quickly snapped photos and then peeled off the course, leaving behind a swirling torrent of breeze that we could not avoid. Our sails luffed violently and it took a good 10-15 seconds for normalcy to prevail. The boats around us remained unaffected and picked up some valuable distance, but we managed to keep our slim lead and took a hard fought, bizarre race win to get closer to the overall lead.
Red Sky took an 8th place which was thrown out for a 4th, and Michael Kiss’ team on Baccio retired from the race when they were holed shortly after the start on a port/starboard which was likely to be grounds for redress. We tabulated the results, and again came to the conclusion that with three boats in contention, all we could do was focus on sailing our boat well. We still had a lot of work to do.
The final race got underway after 3 general recalls and a black flag start with extremely shifty and unstable conditions. It seemed like the right was trying to fill, but huge lefties would descend on the course, and there was one point up the first beat when boats on the right and left sides of the course had matching angles on opposite tacks. Throw in a bunch of Miami Vice motor-boats going half throttle, Star boats sailing across our course after completing their 93-boat regatta and getting mixed in with the Melges 24s who were now going upwind with us at the same time…it was like a Packer fan in a Brat shop…madness.
Michael Kiss did a nice job of getting right at the top, and we fought from the left side to round in 3rd just ahead of the 4th place boat. The top group would remain intact the next lap around, and as the breeze became more unstable we were in a battle as the boat behind us did a better job of staying in the pressure downwind. When we crossed from opposites sides near the finish, we slipped to 4th and would have to wonder if that was enough to take the regatta win.
Overall we finished 1 pt. ahead of Red Sky, but with redress pending for Baccio, any feelings of excitement were muted as our fate was now in the hands of the judges. An agonizing hour passed, Peter and I said our good-byes to Mary Anne and Bill knowing that regardless of how we finished, we sailed very well. Peter and I stood on the corner of CGYC waiting for a cab to the airport when Michael Kiss and his tactician Chris Rast approached fresh from their meeting with the judges. Knowing we were anxious to hear what happened, Chris informed us they were given average points for the entire series and we had won the event by .6 points.
I immediately called Mary Anne and I am still not certain who is happier; Mary Anne for finally achieving a regatta win, or me for seeing a person who is the epitome of what it means to be good for the sport of sailing be rewarded after so many years of hard work. Mary Anne is now the only woman helmsperson to ever have won a premiere open championship in any of the Melges sportboat classes, and I am proud to say I was a part of it. Thanks to Peter Keck for being an awesome team member, and to Mary Anne and Bill for having me on the M an M team since 2005.
March 8, 2011
MSP/ATL/MIA, sail, sleep, sail, sleep, sail, sleep, sail, sleep, sail, advil, MIA-MSP/11pm. Home 24 hrs, laundry, change diapers, family time, sleep, 530am, pack, coffee, MSP/MIA, sail…
Throughout the yearly sailing calendar, there are always events that butt up with each other when sailing in multiple classes. And while I do not have it as frantic as others, the first two weeks of March is busy time of the year when the US Sailing scene begins to come out of the deep freeze and gets steadily active into the summer months. Fresh off the Melges 32 Miami Championship, I flew home for a quick 36 hours to get some face time with the family, and a much needed quick recharge. While the pain of taxis, airports, and general travel is hard, getting home for the shortest amount of time is always worth it.
Up next is the Audi Melges 20 Bacardi Cup and the Miami Winter Series Event #3. Back on M and M Racing, we are looking for a solid effort and a complete regatta as we have had moments of brilliance in our first two events, but have been inconsistent when it comes to our execution. With over 27 boats registered, this will be the biggest Melges 20 US event to date and securing a top 5 finish will not be an easy task, but with a strict focus on the process of doing well, hopefully at the end of the event we can have our team name announced at the prize giving.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of racing the Melges 20 this winter has been the training program we developed with Paul Reilly’s team on Red Sky, and Kent Haegar’s team Mach Schnell. While it is sometimes hard to explain to a couple of C Scow sailors like Paul and Kent about what a spinnaker actually does on a sailboat, we have managed to carve out 1.5 days of training before each event with debriefs and very fun team dinners each night of the event. Sure the racing is fun, but the process and the journey of getting there is more often the enjoyable part. Not to mention, the training allows us to really hammer some of the basics like boathandling, leeward marks and speed that we would normally not have the time to do in a strictly racing atmosphere. The extra effort to get to the events early and organized has paid off; in the last event our 3 teams posted results of 1, 3, and 8. Not bad for a group made up of mainly of sailors who race scows with only 1 sail!
The final event in the Winter Series will also crown the overall Series Champion. As it stand, reigning National Champ Michael Kiss and his Team on Baccio, lead Paul Reilly’s Red Sky team by 1 point. It should be some good racing this weekend, and it may all come down to the last beat of the last race to determine the series winner. Stay tune to 42marine.com for full results and photos throughout the weekend. Bacardi Cup info here.
March 4, 2011
On the walk from the hotel to the boat Friday morning, the palm trees had more bend than usual, and there was a little uncertainty amongst the competitors gathered at the Miami Beach Marina basin as to how the day would go. With the forecast for breeze out of the East at 22-30 kts with 6-8ft seas, “survival”, “keep it upright”, and “where are the lifejackets?” were just a few of the phrases heard on the dock before we pushed off.
Sailing out to the racecourse a few miles South of Miami Beach, we acclimated ourselves to the conditions by jib reaching at 14-16kts with waves giving the team on Volpe a repeated dousing. The RC promptly started at 11am and a theme that would stick around for the remainder of the day quickly revealed itself; get right. There were plenty of shifts throughout the day, but the boats that could make it to the right corner first usually got across the fleet. This was even true for the boats who had terrible starts, tacked out behind the fleet but could lead to the right side.
After hanging with the top group in the first race, it was clear we would need to be a little more aggressive on our sets and douses as our conservative boathandling was good for sailing clean, but not enough for going from 5th to 1st. As the day wore on, we got more confident with our sets and douses and our helmsman Ryan DeVos did a great job of keeping the boat exiting low on sets and out of gybes to ensure we did not wipe out. With full weight in the back on the boat, and huge waves to surf down, the sails were getting plenty of action off the wind, and the trimmers had their hands full.
Our speed was generally very good all day, and with the exception of a tough first beat of the second race when we miscalculated the location of the windward mark, we sailed very well and got better throughout the day. Race 1 we battled in the top group most of the race, had a shot at 2nd going into the finish, but a brief collapse of the kite would cost us 3 places with the boats around us who were able to stay roped up and moving fast. The last race of the day, we put it all together as we started at the boat end of the line, led to the right corner, tacked over on a max right shift of the day and were able to pull of two clean gybe sets and leeward douses while keeping some very good competitors behind us. It is always a great feeling to be the first boat back into the harbor…and the first boat to cold beer!
We currently sit tied for 3rd place with our brethren on the other DeVos boat (Delta) who put together a very good day. In typical fashion, the team on Samba showed good form in the breeze and have a nice lead headed into day 2 which is forecast for similar conditions as today, but slightly lighter. While there were plenty of wipe-outs, ripped sails and general disarray for some boats in the fleet, the overall carnage was very minimal and as the fleet gathered for beers at Monty’s, it was all smiles and salt-caked faces after a great day of 32 racing.
January 24, 2011
My goal was to provide updates everyday from Key West Race Week, but after our team on Intac put together a solid Day 4 with finishes of 5, 1 and won the day, I got a bit off track when we ended up celebrating with a few too many refreshments at Turtle Kralls which was adjacent to our slip. Sure, winning one day out of a five day series does not mean that much in the big picture, but for our first event together as a team and after battling inconsistency, big mistakes, and just plain bad luck, winning a race and Day 4 with a stacked fleet of 32 teams was a huge moment and a nice reward for the hard work that that our young team from the Virgin Islands had put in throughout the week. Heading into Key West 2011, I was not sure what to expect as I prepared to race with a rookie Melges 32 team in a fleet that is notorious for exposing mistakes. Luckily for me, I would be the one learning valuable lessons about team-work, effort and that while good results are certainly enjoyable, the process of working hard, having fun and enjoying the people you are with is what makes for a great event.
In the first race on Day 4, we snuck into the top group at the first windward mark and battled with veteran 32 teams Samba, Red, and Leenabarca. After a few splits, position changes and some boat on boat action, we finished just behind Samba in 5th place, and edged out Leenabarca and Red. In the 2nd race of the day, we battled through a tough start, managed a very tight cross on port tack shortly after the gun and found a clean lane headed to the right side. With eventual regatta winner Goombay Smash to leeward and ahead, and top 5 overall finisher, Yasha Samurai on our hip, I quietly thought to myself it would only be a matter of time before our lane shut off, forcing us back into traffic on the left side. After a few minutes however, Anthony (mainsheet) and Mark (helm) did a great job of fighting hard to keep the boat moving, and it was not long before we forced Yasha to tack, and crept forward and away from Goombay. Once at the top of the course, tactician Peter Holmberg called a nice starboard tack layline, and we rounded with a nice lead. There are some races that you win when you bang a corner and take a bullet, but during this race, we fought hard for our position, built a nice lead and extended as the race went on. With a taxing breeze in the 5-8 range, temps in the low 80s with 100% humidity, and a team grinning from ear to ear when we reached the dock, it took several mudslides to keep us refreshed.
With our solid day 4, not only did we prove to ourselves that we could hang with the best in the fleet, but we had now snuck into the top 10 overall which was our goal headed into the week. On the final day of racing, we did our best to shake off a bit of dust before we left the dock, and en route to the race course, the RC came over the radio and announced there would be 3 races. There was a bit of excitement on our boat as we were still feeling confident from the previous day and felt we could move up a few more places, but also were aware of that there can also be a lapse in effort and mental focus after good day.
With similar light-air conditions to the previous 4 days, our fast settings were in place, and it was just a matter of getting off the line cleanly and sailing smart. After a clean start by what I would assess was not more than 6 inches from not being over early, we got clear air and headed to the right side of the track. With a few storm systems heading north of KW, the breeze was a bit unstable and was anyones guess as to which side of the course it would fill from. We would soon find out that the left side would come storming in to the top mark with pressure and we were left to battle in the middle of the pack and fought hard to take an 11th. In the next two races, we would have our work cut out of for us as we were over early in both starts, and would have to sail perfect races to get anywhere near single digit finishes. Apparently the dust from the previous night was a bit thicker than we originally thought.
In the last run of the regatta, a big right shift descended on the course which meant pulling off a quick gybe set at the offset mark was a neccessity if you wanted to hold your position. Once completed on our boat, our kite filled and we made our way to the finish. We took a quick look under the boom and saw that 2 boats in front of us could not pull off the move cleanly and we were able to grab a few points, sneak into 11th place in the final race, and win a tiebreaker for 9th place overall. Our last day was nothing spectacular, but we managed to fight hard and do just enough to secure our goal of finishing in the top ten. As for the regatta, in typical Melges 32 fashion, the regatta came down to the last race with Goombay Smash stealing a regatta win from Warpath who found themselves OCS in the second to last race.
Overall, a very good event for a rookie Melges 32 team. The best feeling from the event was how the team gelled and improved throughout the week. We had a bow team of young, talented sailors that were willing to work hard, took on their jobs with some serious aggression, were not afraid to get after it, and went from having no experience on a 32 at the beginning of the week, to being one of the top foredeck teams out there. Nice work to William Bailey, Topher Kingston-Williams, Leslie Baehr, and Mark Stephenson. Owner Mark Plaxton from the Virgin Islands made sure that we followed the #1 goal all weekend; to have fun and learn. It is always amazing what happens when you focus on the process of having fun, instead of focusing on the results themselves. Thanks to the team on INTAC for a great week of sailing and reaffirming to me some valuable lessons. Race reports and pictures here.
November 30, 2010
The Vikings are 4-7, the snow is flying, Minnesota is experiencing one of the coldest Novembers on record, and Santa Claus isn’t coming for another 20+ days…its a perfect time to head to warm Ft. Lauderdale for some sailboat racing.
Over the past 4 years, the Melges 32 Gold Cup has evolved from a 12 boat training event where the fleet shared a coach, had video sessions at the end of each day, and owners were just getting their feet wet in this new class, into a 20+ boat annual event that features top level amateur and pro sailing talent. Although the event takes place at the end of the calendar year, the Gold Cup signifies the beginning of the next season since there is typically a 2 month hiatus between the Gold Cup and the last major event. Teams have a chance to regroup, reorganize and apply the lessons they have learned from the previous season to the start of the next.
For the 2010 Gold Cup in particular, having 23 boats is not only surprising, but a very good indicator of how strong this class has become. The assumption was that most of the 30 strong fleet at the Worlds would be taking a few events off and that the 32 winter series might see a drop in attendance. With several teams like Star, Ramrod (2009 Gold Cup Champ), Warpath, Leenabarca, Red, Arethusa coming off strong World Championships and hoping to carry that through this winter, along with new teams like Dawn Raid and Catapult, it is clear that fleet veterans are ramping up again, and new owners with talented teams are continuing to jump into the fray.
When it comes to events that have a good vibe and a great feeling, it is sometimes hard to put your finger on what exactly gets the job done, and the success of the Gold Cup cannot simply be attributed to the great competition it has drawn over the past few seasons. First, the Gold Cup has a great venue located at the Bahia Mar hotel and marina where all the teams are housed together and the boats are a 30 second walk from the lobby. Sure, the hotel itself needs a little touching up and you often wonder if the elevator is going to make it to your floor, but not having to get in a car all weekend is certainly a plus. The free Heineken Light provided at the end of each day by 32 owner of Ninkasi (Goddess of Beer), John Taylor is also a nice perk. John has been doing this for several years, and it not only gets him some crossings, but keeps the fleet mingling and in good spirits at the end of each day. Lastly, the best feature of the Gold Cup occurs on the last day which is take a Junior racing day. Each team is paired up with a junior sailor from the Lauderdale Yacht Club and it is always priceless to get a glimpse of the junior when they are handed the tiller and get to drive the boat on the way out to the race course. We get to provide the juniors with a great experience, and it keeps the teams from taking things too seriously and helps each of us to remember why we got into the sport in the first place.
Picking a winner is never an easy task in this fleet since there are plenty of talented teams and all it takes is for someone to get hot or find their wheels and they will be tough to beat. The crew list can be found here and feel free to take a stab at the top 5 in the comments section of the blog.
Stay posted to 42marine.com for daily updates and reports from the 2010 Melges 32 Gold Cup.
September 14, 2010
After a quick 36 hr stint at home and a few loads of laundry to wash away the remnants of the E Scow Nationals, the bags were repacked and it is off to San Francisco for the beginning of what will be a long 2 weeks in preparation for the Melges 32 World Championships. The 32 Worlds will mark the end of a very busy 2010 season, and will also be the final regatta in the 2010 circuit for the Samba Pa Ti Melges 32 team that has been working hard for over a year to make a run at the 2010 World title. With a quick look at the crew list for the Pre-Worlds and Worlds, it is very apparent that winning will not be an easy task and whichever team walks away with the title on Sept 25th will not only have had to sail extremely well, but will have to have some good luck on their side.
During a World Championship regardless of the class of boat, there is always a heightened sense of anticipation and excitement as the regattas and days tick down to the actual event. Rumors swirl about what is fast, who is sailing on which boat, and who has the latest boathandling technique that make doing a gybe-set in 25 kts a cinch. It is very easy to get caught up in all of the hype and the biggest challenge it remain focused on your boat, team and what it will take to sail well individually. Not only is there good natured excitement on the dock, but there will no doubt be some very negative aspects that emerge from this World Championship. There will be some measurement infractions, redress hearings and some hotly contested protests that emerge from the water as was seen during the 2009 Worlds when eventual Champions Bliksem won a hard fought protest with then 2nd place boat, Team 93. Bliksem would go onto win the worlds, but had the protest been decided differently, they would have had a hard time taking the title.
But all of the above is what separates a World title from a National or big name event. The Worlds is the ultimate pinnacle of the racing season which relegates even the best and most competitive regattas leading up to the event as simply “training”. I have been asked by several of my non-sailing friends what it means to win a world championship. My response is it elevates you to a level amongst sailors that is achieved by very few, much like winning a Super Bowl, World Series or Stanley Cup. Sailing of course presents a different challenge since you are not competing against one playoff team at a time, but in the case of the 2010 worlds, 33 teams all at once loaded with the worlds best sailors. The scary thing about this event is that if you find yourself in the back of the fleet, it will be just as challenging as the front of the fleet.
As for the Samba, we are feeling as good as we reasonably can with our settings and preparation, and the only thing left to do is…execute. Sailing clean tactically and boathandling wise will be a huge key to success and if we can manage to stay out of the fray on the starting line, near marks, and avoid any “majors”, we should be able to put ourselves in a good position headed into the last day. Upon arrival later today (Tuesday) in SF, we will take care of weigh in and head out for a brief shakedown sail in preparation for the Pre-Worlds/Rolex Big Boat Series which begins on Thursday. Just like the Cal Cup a few weeks ago, teams will be pushing hard to sail well in this preliminary event, but will be careful not to tip their “hand” and give away any of their speed or boathandling techniques.
Stay tuned to 42marine.com for the inside scoop from racing at the Melges 32 Pre-Worlds and Worlds. The Pre-Worlds take place Sept. 16-19, with the World Championships Sept. 22-25.
June 27, 2010
After 3 days of up and down racing on Lake Mendota, Tom Freytag and his team on I-7 claimed the A Scow National Championship with a gritty race 4, and a statement race in race 5. With unsteady breeze in the 7-9 range, the I-7 found themselves in the back of the pack while Rob Evans and team on M-1 were in the top 5 in race 4, and only 2 pts behind in the overall standings. By the final downwind however, I-7 flew through the fleet and managed to finish one place ahead of M-1 to add an extra a point to their overall lead going into the final race.
Race 5 provided similar conditions and the start showed that the Wizard of Zenda, Buddy Melges still has a few tricks up his sleeve as he nailed the start at the committee boat and led most of the race. It was great to see Buddy taking charge and showing how he can still dominate. The speed and smarts of the I-7 were too much for Buddy and his team on Eagle, and it would be I-7 who would win the final race by a big margin to secure their overall title…a very well sailed regatta in tough conditions.
Overall, another fun A Scow regatta. These boats really are great racing machines with each team having fun people involved. Up next for the A Scows is the ILYA Champs on Lake Geneva in August which should have over 25 boats.
Top 10 –
10). V-0 – Nice work Dex!!!
May 13, 2010
Day 1 of the Europeans got underway with a very light 6-8 mph seabreeze and very flat seas. After a very conservative start with a port end favor, we found ourselves in the top 5 closely behind the leaders in Race 1. We quickly reminded ourselves however, that when racing in the Melges 32 Class in both the states and in Europe that the slightest mistakes will cost you big. We had a minor issue during the set with our tack line which resulted in a shrimp and us getting rolled by the boat behind us once we got underway. Not only did we lose one boat, but it also affected our positioning for the leeward mark which was well down the track. We struggled to regain our form and took a 8th place in the first race, dropping a few from our position at the first top mark.
Race 2 started with similar conditions, but would finish with a 40 degree shift to the right as the sw gradient breeze began to take over. After another good start with good speed with the boats around us, we found ourselves poked out with the lead boats on the left. Halfway up the beat however, the boats on the right who we had forced to tack and had in our back pocket, were showing huge lifts and were easily crossing by the time we tacked over. The breeze slowly decreased, with the runs turning into a follow the leader type situation with the Samba team near the back of the pack. Assuming the breeze was going to continue clock right and increase, we legged it out the right on side on the last upwind, hooked into some nice pressure and were able to pick off a few boats, hold on the next downwind and take a 9th place. Not a great finish, but we felt ok knowing we had good speed, but were victims of a tough shift.
The last race the committee managed to set a starting line that was not reachable on starboard tack. Recognizing this early, we set up 3-4 boats from the pin and immediately tacked at the gun, putting us across the rest of the fleet and in good position. After shifty battles in 10-12 kts of wind, we finished in 4th place behind Red, Brontolo and B-Lin.
Overall a frustrating day due to the fact we were going well, but did not have the solid results to show for it. The forecast tomorrow is calling for similar light winds along with a heavy dousing of rain, followed by sunnier weather and a good chance of the Mistral showing up for Saturday and Sunday. At this stage we are going to need all of the races we can get to stay in contention.
Very unofficial, somewhat of a guess on the results from where we were –
1). Red (UK)
2). High Life (UK)
3). B.Linsailing.com (Italy)
4). Brontolo (Italy)
5). Teasing Machine (France)
6). Samba Pa Ti
Check out the official website for official results and photos. We are off to another lengthy dinner, tonight it sounds like plenty of pizza, pasta and even more vino. Standing by in Cagliari getting ready for Day 2.
April 21, 2010
For some, having a good regatta is like hitting a nice golf shot, just the moment you think you have it figured out, you shank your next shot in the woods. But like a consistent golf game, if you can put the good shot out of your head and start over on the next hole, and remember the process of your swing, chances are your next shot will be as good as the last instead of relying on the previous shot to get you through the hole. This past winter I learned a few valuable lessons with regards to managing expectations and remembering to always utilize the process of what it takes to have a good event. Read more »