April 17, 2013
When Malcolm and I first met in 2012, I was helping to coach the Celeritas Melges 32 team (latin for acceleration) prior to Key West Race Week with a focus on improving boathandling. During a practice session when it was blowing 20 and after recovering from a gybe turned wipeout, Malcolm who prior to 2007 had never sailed before, is a former Bio-Chem professor at Columbia, has over 100 patents to his name, has put to market several pharmaceuticals, and is a legit Rocket Scientist, shouted to me over the wind and flapping of sails, “rocket science is easy….this sailing stuff is hard!!!”
Flash to 2013, we have just completed the first Melges 32 European event as we march towards the 2013 Melges 32 Worlds at the end of the September. Our results were far from where we would have liked them this first regatta, but improvements were made in all phases, and we are able to take some positive moments and momentum into the next event only a few short weeks away.
As is the case with any new team when people are sailing together for the first time, there are adjustments to be made along with figuring out how to meld together several different approaches. Being a scientist since he was a teenager, and dealing with absolute data and numbers to explain everything in life, Malcolm takes this same approach to sailing and if there is an instrument to measure some aspect of sailing performance, there is a good chance it is on our boat. Contrasting that with my seat-of-the-pants style with the only instrument needed being a compass for heading, and being perturbed we have at least 100 lbs of extra weight in equipment to collect what I deem needless data, my answers of “Malcolm. I can’t explain it in technical terms, but if we don’t put the bow down and go faster, we are going to get passed,” don’t always suffice. We managed to meet in the middle and had a good rapport going by the end of the event, but there were some good debates before, during and after racing.
After a tough 2nd day, our team regrouped and set out for 3 races on Sunday. With a beautiful setting under blue skies and warm spring temps on the Bay of Gaeta, we put together 2 decent races, including a top 5 in the last race. Adjustments to the rig were made that morning which helped our speed become competitive, and at times better than some of the faster teams. The team up front grew increasingly more confident in our boathandling, and despite our worst starts, we were able to string together good first beats and hang most of the race. We have a long way to go to put together consistent top ten finishes, but we are headed in the right direction.
With a quick pit-stop at home to do some laundry, get a haircut and spend 24 hrs with the fam, it is back on the airport to the Lowcountry for Melges 20 racing at Charleston Race Week. Coming off a solid winter series with Jim Wilson on Oleander, we will look to post a good result at a very challenging venue in Charleston Harbor. With current that pours in and out from 2 rivers and the mouth of the harbor, each day of racing is totally different, and while understanding the timing of high and low tide, and the depth of the harbor can be helpful, identifying the trend and whether you are gaining or losing early on is key.
Joining our team this weekend will be Minnesota native, and current US ONE Sailing Team member Dan Morris. As is the standard for the Melges 20 fleet, the competition is no joke with experienced owners and the best pro and amateur teams calling tacks and trimming sails. Having the goal of going out to win the event is setting the team up for failure. Our goal is to sail well enough to put ourselves in the top 7, and see where the chips fall from there.
Racing starts Friday, results and photos can be found here.
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