McKee Minute: From the Melges 24 Worlds

Sailing World Racing Editor Jonathan McKee joins Bora Gulari for the 2017 Melges 24 Worlds in Miami. Here's what he learned from day 1 of sailing.

Melges 24 Worlds
Pierrick Contin
Bora Gulari's Air Force 1 takes flight on the opening day of the 2017 Melges 24 Worlds in Miami, standing second overall after three races. Tactician Jonathan McKee scans the racecourse from his perspective at the backstay.Pierrick Contin

The first day of a regatta is often the hardest. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, which often does not allow us to sail our best. It's often said that you cannot win the regatta on the first day, but you can lose it. So I try to sail in a way that allows the team to find its footing and still be in a position to eventually win the regatta.

The start is often the time that Day 1 jitters show themselves. It’s important to stick to your preparation routine, and follow a disciplined approach to getting consistent if not brilliant starts. This often means avoiding the ends and the most crowded parts of the line, where the potential for disaster is highest. Pay close attention to the time and distance relationship and give yourself enough runway for a good acceleration.

Boatspeed is another important area. You do not need to be the fastest boat, and usually it’s unrealistic to expect to be. The most important thing is to learn from each day, and get faster for the rest of the regatta. So start out with your most familiar settings, but recognize that every day is different, especially the sea state. Don’t be afraid to talk to the boats that were faster at the end of the day, and understand how your setup or technique was different from theirs.

Boathandling is also a key to success, but it may not be 100 percent on Day 1. This means it is smart to avoid challenging moves or pushing it too far. Start a little bit conservative, and discuss with the crew after each race how to make small improvements. Then you can gradually ramp it up as your team’s skills and confidence improves.

Most importantly, relax and try to enjoy the day. You have probably worked hard and made sacrifices to get to the starting line. But don’t let your expectations get in the way of enjoying a nice day on the water with your friends.