Steve Henderson, Mike Mayer and Karl Brummel were partners in a J/105 many years ago, but when the J/111 came to the scene, they made the leap immediately and have since continued to be one of the best and most polished teams in the class. Much of the their success has little to do with speed—although they have plenty of it—but rather the chemistry of the squad and their collective focus on efficiency all the way around the racecourse.
“It’s one of those things where we love each other and it’s worked out well for everybody,” says Brummel of the partnership. “When things need to be bought or break, it’s 33 cents on the dollar. Good guys, good sailors and we get more use out of the boat.”
When the races are more casual, the three owners move around the boat into different positions, but for serious regattas like the NOOD, Mayer drives. “In conditions like we had this weekend where it’s light and lumpy, he’s just really fast,” says Brummel.
Henderson trims mainsail or jib while Brummel will either command the bow or the pit. The Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta Chicago, he admits, was the first time he worked the pit in a major regatta. “It worked out fine,” he says with a laugh, and later admits a few errors lead to mistakes in his department.
Boat prep also falls on Brummel and while Kashmir looks perfect today, there’s still a long list of small improvements on his worklist. “We’ve had it for eight years and are comfortable with where we are,” he says. “The running rigging gets tired and things like that, but there’s nothing major. The boat is in good shape and we just need to sail it better.
“I thought we were fast downwind and our speed upwind was OK on Friday but not great,” says Brummel. “We had some boathandling problems that we were able to fix, so Friday was OK [with a second and third] and then Saturday, in the first race, we just got launched. Fortunately, the other top three or four boats somehow got buried.”
Race after race, the team’s speed improvements were noticeable as they honed the rig tune and trim of their new jibs. Boathandling issues were resolved, particularly with the spinnaker work, and the difference was obvious. “Mike commented on Friday that there was some running around and more urgency, but as things get smoother and the crew moves together there’s less pounding on the deck,” says Brummel. “You can really feel when everyone’s settled in and in the right spot. The boat just goes better. Quiet boats are fast boats.”
Brummel attributed Kashmir’s downwind speed to the coordination of Mayer on the helm and trimmer Zach Hernandez. “He’s a rockstar,” says Brummel. “Mike and Zach work really well together and working the boat as hard as we can. It showed this weekend.”
Come Sunday morning, Kashmir held the overall lead, but barely, over this highly competitive fleet. Their game plan going into the one and final race was to get a clean start and cover the competition, said Brummel. All they had to do was sail their boat well.
“But we failed to execute that plan,” he says. “We got a horrific start. We were second row, we tacked out to port and went right. It turns out there was a nice lane of pressure on the right that wasn’t on the left and we rounded the mark first.”
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, he adds, but what also helped was that the second-place boat was over the starting line early and had to restart. “That took some pressure off of us, but the third-place boat got a good start so we were not thrilled with the first 30 seconds of the race,” says Brummel. “We were flat out lucky.”
That luck earned Kashmir the class win and the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta Chicago’s overall title, which nets them a spot at the NOOD Caribbean Championship in October. Before then, they have the big J/111 class championship and a host of other events on Lake Michigan so there’s a lot of sailing yet to come.