Weed, Waves, and Dreamers
Even when racing at Key West, it's important to remember Martin Luther King Day. Just don't forget about the seaweed on your rudder.
Firstly, let us all remember that this is Martin Luther King Day. In the heat of a regatta, sometimes we forget these things, but, to me, MLK was a great man and a great American: a person who embodies the ideals of fairness, equality of opportunity, and pursuing the right thing, even if it seems impossible. The world is a better place for people like Martin Luther King, and he sets a high standard for all of us to live up to. So many people in the sailing world get consumed by selfish and trivial concerns. How can I make my boat a little faster? How can I get a better ride? How can I look good in front of the crew? All of us need to pursue our personal goals, but, in my view, that is not enough. We must also do some things that make the world a better place, in some small way. And we must lead by example. When we do the right thing, others are watching, and maybe they will, too. Climbing down off my high horse now...
It was a challenging day on the water. The waves were big, but the wind was dying, so keeping the boat going was really hard, especially in the second race. Added to that, the weeds were as bad as I have ever seen them in Key West. The technique for dealing with big waves varies from boat to boat. In the Melges 24, it's important to heel a little just before the bad waves, easing the jib as it hits. Then, slowly flatten the boat and trim on, using the flat spots to rebuild speed and maybe gain some height. But don’t get too slow for the next set of waves. Crew weight coordination and careful steering/trim are rewarded.
Dealing with weeds is a complicated issue. Strategy A is to steer aggressively to avoid them. This is usually possible with very careful attention by the helm and lots of help from the bow. Strategy B is to ignore the small weeds but avoid the larger patches which could really stop you. I think the correct approach depends on how well you can clear weeds if you get them. On the M24, you have a kelp cutter, and the rudder can generally be cleared by hand if the weeds are floating. So you have some latitude to live a little dangerously. If you don’t have a good means to clear, you have to be a lot more careful, because the consequences of weeding out can be severe. In any case, every boat struggled with weeds today, and I saw a lot of people working on their kelp sticks after the race. One upside: if you have a bad race, you can always blame it on weeds!