How the Best Teams Prepare
How the Best Teams Prepare
Take a page from these four season champions. Their pre-season prep always ensures their boats, and teams, are race-ready when the series starts. From our June 2011 issue.
Winning your local series or regional championship requires one consistent element: a crew that shows up each week ready to win. But early in the season, success requires showing up on Day 1 with the boat, rig, and sails sorted, ready, and reliable. To learn how the best teams across the country tackle their pre-season prep, and specifically what they’ve done this year, we tracked down four owners and came away with one critical point: if you think you have to fix or upgrade something now, do so, or pay for it later. And yes, neglect your bottom to your own demise.
Siren Song, J/133
Long Island Sound’s Top IRC Boat
Owner: Tom Carroll, New York
In boat lives, Tom Carroll’s J/133 Siren Song is still relatively young—six years old and immaculately kept. Despite a few thousand racing miles, offshore and around the cans in Western Long Island Sound, Siren Song doesn’t need a whole lot of speed-shop attention from season to season, just the usual winterizing routine. Small stuff, says Carroll, enough for a fair winter work list to keep on top of. But the top boat from Long Island Sound does have a major project on tap going into the 2011 season, yet another busy one in the Northeast, even without the Bermuda Race.
“We had a good year last year, so no need for radical changes,” says Carroll. With the Annapolis to Newport Race as the team’s season opener, Carroll intends to haul the boat after the race for a bottom job. “It’s time to paint the bottom.”
Carroll is unsure what paint compound or brand he’ll use, but you can bet it’ll be top-of-the-line. How important is it to have a good bottom? Ask him about the 2010 Long Island Sound IRC Championship, which he feels he could’ve won. “I got screwed in a bad way,” he says. Unbeknownst to him, for several weeks, his normal diver was sending a fill-in who never bothered to adequately clean the bottom. “We did horribly in the first few races. Once we realized how bad it was, we went in—it’s just not worth it when it’s that bad,” he says. “I’m a firm believer in a clean bottom. I’ve seen the difference.”
New for the season is a UK-Halsey laminate racing main and Code Zero. The latter is a much better shape and cut than his last. “If you’re in the right conditions, a good Code Zero makes a huge difference,” says Carroll. “We could’ve used a sail like this many times over the past few years.”
Carroll also will focus on updating the boat’s sat-phone system. For the 2010 Bermuda Race, he installed a KVH TracPhone unit, with which he’s been supremely satisfied. “A lot of sat-phone companies are not replacing their aging satellites, so you get big holes and periods where you go a few hours without anything,” says Carroll. “Ocean racing is a really tech-savvy thing nowadays, and we really rely on it for race tracking and everything else, including downloading the free water gribs.
“We don’t like to just have all the latest technical stuff with the boat. The boat is one piece of the puzzle; the crew is another even bigger piece. Boat for boat, the crew is what counts.”
Pearson 30 Flyer
Chesapeake Yacht Racing Association
PHRF B Season Champ
Owner: David Coleman, Baltimore, Md.
David Coleman’s Flying Circus is one of the best-kept PHRF boats on the Chesapeake Bay, the result of a long love affair with his 30-year-old Pearson Flyer, a boat he’s raced since the 1990s. “It’s the boat to have,” he says. “For 30 feet, it’s roomy and beamy; it’s just a big J/24. It’s fast, fun, responsive, and the sail-area-to-displacement makes it a quick little boat.” According to Coleman, race-ready Flyers can be found for $15,000 to $20,000.
Most of the local racing is casual beer-can style, and the fleet is a mix, with some teams using the weeknight series as practice for weekend “majors,” while most others are out just to have a good time. For more serious PHRF competition, Flying Circus regularly heads south to Annapolis, where “the sharp guys are.” Coleman and crew are regulars at the region’s major regattas.
“My approach is that, when we leave the dock, the boat can win, and then it’s entirely up to us. Our pre-season goes in this order: bottom, rig tune, crew. Each one has an action item each year. This year, we had to refresh the sail inventory with a No. 2. For the bottom, I use Interlux VC Performance Epoxy, sanded to 2000 grit. It’s literally sanded to a polished metal smoothness. I drysail the boat, which means we haul in and out every Tuesday, and then put it in again to do one major regatta per month.”
In terms of running rigging, he has the benefit of having a professional rigger as his foredeck crew, and leaves it up to him to ensure all the lines are as up-to-date and high-tech as can be. “He just puts them on the boat as needs be,” says Coleman. “All I do is give him a check.” Recent upgrades include all the traveler lines, halyards, running gear, and the backstay control line.
In terms of electronics, this spring Coleman will be installing a new multisensor triducer. “I didn’t have a knotmeter on the boat, so we finally put one in. Last year, we put in a TackTick M30 system and went wireless.”
Coleman’s winter work list includes shrink-wrapping Flying Circus and then combing through the boat during the offseason to replace pins, shackles, and anything that’s a potential problem. In the process he re-beds fittings and hardware and services the cockpit winches.