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September 28, 2011

The winner of the Melges 32 Worlds must have deceased youth sailing coaches turning over in their graves.  Top level physical fitness, sailing in top of the line sailing gear, getting plenty rest and having a healthy diet are the staples to winning any major event like a World Championship.  Dougie Douglass proved last week that sticking to your routine, whatever it is, is the best recipe for success, even if it means sailing in the Spanish version of a moo-moo and woven sun-hat with a 12 inch wide brim and hosting nightly regatta parties with a live DJ and dancing until the wee hours of the morning. (Picture of Dougie and his outfit at the bottom right corner here)

Dougie and his team on Goombay Smash are no group of slouches with multiple World Champ Chris Larson on tactics, Andy Escourt trimming, Marco Constant on the main along with a talented group up front, and they are never missed on the race course with their vibrant team gear, or off the water when a cleaned out bin full of Goombay Smash is often the après sailing drink of choice at team headquarters.  Each morning during the postponement, Dougie would march around the premises of the Real Club Nautico Palma beating a huge bongo drum, adorned in his Spanish moo-moo, sunhat and hippie beads.  It turns out his stroll would be more of warning to the leaders of the regatta that he was getting primed for a comeback, and the beats of his drum were like footsteps approaching from behind.  This was all in good fun at the time, but it turned out to be a real mental game for some of the other boats near him in the standings.

The conditions at the worlds were some of the craziest I have witnessed in terms of consistency of the breeze, and it was a comforting feeling for any sailor who has struggled tactically to watch the worlds best tacticians find themselves in the back of the pack at times and scratching their heads.  Goombay started the event off with a 28th place and after using their throwout in the first race of a 10 race series, it looked like they could be crossed of the list of potential champs.  After readjusting their game plan, getting of the starting line clean and getting to the sides of the course as opposed to the middle, Goombay was able to find themselves within striking distance with four races reaming.  With the exception of Samba who held the lead for the first three days, the leader board looked like a chart of the stock market over the past month with most teams compiling a single digit finishes together with some in the high 20s.

Day 4 would prove tough for the group on Samba that had looked unbeatable up to this point.  Goombay would continue their charge, and at the end of the day, with only two races reamaining, Goombay grabbed a one point lead after Samba posted a 28, 10.   As the teams out of the running began to plan their evenings in Palma, we were all a bit surprised to find that the Goombay house would be hosting yet another party.  Wouldn’t they want to get some rest?  Shouldn’t they be lights out at 10pm?  Not Goombay.  When a few of us left the party that evening around midnight, the last vision was of Dougie busting a move with no inclination of getting to bed any time soon.

The final day of racing broke the mold of 80 degrees, sunny and a slow filling sea breeze that we had seen the previous 5 days as we awoke to rain, and calm winds off the waters of Palma.   After a 4-5 hour delay and with the 330pm deadline to get the final race started looming, the RC decided to send the fleet out in a rapidly shifting, slight N breeze.  A starting line was set and it looked like at least one race would take place, than shortly before the cut off time, the PRO came over the radio and announced there would be no more racing.  The cheers could be heard from the team on Goombay as the rest of us applauded and watched the celebration with a bit of envy.  I can only imagine the celebrations that took place later that evening.

For our team, we finished pretty much dead middle of the pack.  After starting out the event well, we struggled the final few days.  We certainly could have done some things better, but the take-way from this event was the Melges 32 fleet was very deep and there were no slouches whether you were fighting for first or 20th.   Thanks to Geoff Perini for a great time off the water.

Up next is the Grade 1 Chicago Match Cup off of Navy Pier in Chicago which begins on Wednesday.   I will be sailing with a new team on Don Wilson’s boat with experienced Match Racers, Laurie Jury and Mal Parker.  With 12 of the top match racing teams in the world in attendance, we will have our handsful trying to qualify for the top 6 and the overall purse of $65,000.  Check out live racing and some very entertaining commentary at www.chicagomatchrace.com

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