2007 Sperry Top-Sider Chicago NOOD:Laser Sailor Wins T-10 Class, First Overall

With the help of his /Wombat/ crew, Rick Strilky made a victorious return to the Tartan Ten class in Chicago. "First Beat" from our June 18, 2007, /SW eNewsletter/

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Michael Lovett

Two years ago, lifelong Tartan Ten sailor Rick Strilky made the unlikely switch to the Laser. The then 50-year-old began preparing himself to compete on the international level at events like the Cork Regatta, an annual ISAF Grade 1 event held in Kingston, Ontario. Meeting the physical demands of the 14-foot, 130-pound Laser after sailing for so many years in the 33-foot, 3,340-pound Tartan Ten required Strilky to develop a whole new feel for the boat."Obviouly one had nothing to do with the other," says Strilky of the transition from T-10 to Laser. "I've just been learning the techniques one by one, trying to get up to that competitive level you see in the Laser class."Over the weekend, Strilky took time out of his Laser campaign to sail the 2007 Sperry Top-Sider Chicago NOOD, his only Tartan Ten event of the year. On the Wednesday before the regatta, Strilky and crew--tactician Mike Considine, bowman Peter Sherman, spinnaker trimmer Audrey Kaiser, mainsail trimmer Mark Watkins, jib trimmer Vince Fanizzo, and Claudie Hecquet--went out for one evening of practice. When racing began for the 33-boat Tartan Ten class on Friday, the Wombat crew knocked off the rust with a 12th place finish. With Considine providing steady tactics in the unsteady breeze and Sherman leading the crew through smooth sail changes, it didn't take long to get up to speed. Wombat proceeded to win Race 2, finish in the top five in the following three races, and take first in class. For their impressive performance in the challenging conditions--and equally challenging division--Strilky and crew won first overall and earned a berth at the Sperry Top-Sider Caribbean NOOD Championships in November.What was the key to success in the impossibly light conditions we saw in Chicago?You know, it was nothing more specific than getting off the starting line. That was the most important thing, I think. Other boats would get buried at the start and have to commit themselves to one side or the other. In the light air, you had to have choices, you had to get somewhere where it was reasonable to get to the other side. Did you make a game plan before the race expecting to modify it up the beat?Yes. Definitely. There was a lot of improvisation. You come in with a feeling for where the velocity is going to be, but then you expect to change your plan. You had to modify your plan according to the fortunes of your competitors and, in some cases, the performance of the race committee.Did returning to the T-10 after sailing Lasers give you a new approach to the big boat? Actually, I was disoriented at first. It was hard to feel the helm, especially in the light air. I was sort of unsure of my helm pressure all weekend.Well, it must have been paranoia, because you seem to have steered pretty well.Yeah, I guess it was. Guess I steered well enough. For complete results from all 17 divisions, click here.