Monday, October 16, 2017

Speed Tips from 1209

By: Brent Peterson

It’s the dead of winter and I’m uncomfortably hunched over my laptop, feverishly responding to an endless stream of demanding work email.  A new message arrives in my inbox from our recently elected fleet captain, John Dyer.  To my surprise, he suggests I pull together some of the details behind our doggedly slow shift from the back of the pack to within shouting distance of the regular leaders of the J22 fleet.  What have we done to improve our speed and finishing position on #1209?  My first thought seemed all too true; we get off the starting line and desperately scan the lake to see where #810 is heading.  Then we pull in on the sheets, ignore the compass and follow the leader!  Although that is still occasionally our thought process, we have developed a “routine” of sorts when we approach Thursday night racing.  John asked me to list the top few things we’ve discovered to improve our speed.  As I reflect back over the past few years, here are a few suggestions that have helped us:

  1. Rig tension & tuning: Work with someone on rig tension & tuning the boat if you feel slow.  Sailmakers have great guides to getting started and we have a wealth of knowledge in our fleet.  One Thursday night, my crew arrived early to begin rigging the boat.  One of our competitors was nearby and offered to take a look at our rig tension.  By the time I had arrived that evening, everything had been recalibrated and measured. Believe it or not, we managed to finish in first place that evening! Though our win may not have been entirely dependent upon rig tension, it is now something that we carefully measure before every race. Our goal with rig tension is to take away any excuses for the boat going slow.
  2.  Sail with others & learn from their experience:  We have a large group of phenomenal sailors in Fleet #1!  Ask someone to go sailing with you.  Ask questions and keenly pay attention to their answers.  Also, don’t just focus on the driver, but rather talk with all positions. I have learned that each position on the boat carries a different perspective when it comes to what works best.  The greatest result may be a combination of everyone’s ideas.  On #1209, we have incorporated many nuggets of advice.  We spend hours sailing together so we can anticipate each other’s moves & responsibilities.  Keep in mind that repetition is your friend.
  3.  Get out early and develop a pre-race plan: If my crew and I can break away from work early enough on Thursdays, we head out on the water early to sail up at least one side of the course in order to validate wind direction, wind shifts, and velocity.  Once we gather some basic information, we reference what most people call “local knowledge.”  For us, this is a notebook of our learnings.  Since none of us can remember “local knowledge” from one week to the next, we found that it’s beneficial to keep a notebook detailing previous races.  After most races, we mark locations and record wind direction, as well as what tactics seemed to work best.  Over the past few years, we have also gathered information from other WYC club members and store this information on the boat. Once we gather the numbers on the wind, we bring out the notebook and develop a race plan for the night.  We don’t always adhere to our plan throughout entire evening, but it helps us with positioning at the start and knowing where we’re heading on the first leg upwind.
  4.  Post Mortem:  After the race is over, we review what happened: the good, the bad and the ugly.  This is where we discuss what we could have done better, as well what worked best. Our goal is to learn from every race so that we improve over time.  Celebrate success, but remember to learn through failure.

The objectives that I have previously listed are merely a few thoughts about what has seemed to work for me and my crew. In Fleet #1 at WYC, we have the incredible privilege of racing against some very talented sailors.  The task of competing against them may seem daunting and discouraging at times, but with more focus, knowledge from others, detailed notes and practice, success is just around the next buoy. And remember, when all else fails, quickly scan the lake and follow #810! 

1209 j22
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