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Melges 20 Gold Cup Re-cap »

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.

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