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Speed First

The first day for a new crew on Joel Ronning's J/70 Catapult

February 15, 2014

“I’d rather work on boatspeed than takedowns,” Bill Hardesty says the day before racing. “If you’re ahead of everyone, the takedown will just happen.”

We’re talking about our plan for the day ahead at the 2014 Sperry Top-Sider St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta. A few hours earlier, Hardesty and Joel Ronning pulled me aside at registration and asked if I could sail for the weekend on Ronning’s J/70 Catapult, as winter storm Pax has cancelled the flight of their fourth crew.

So we sort out the specifics of the day ahead, and how to get me up to speed fast in a boat I’ve never spent significant time in.

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But Hardesty’s words ring true when the AP is lowered the following day, in mid-afternoon, and we head out to the course for the one and only race of the day. The breeze builds to 5-10 knots as we get out to our circle, and the guys take the time to sail upwind as Willem van Waay locks in our rig tune. We discuss the jib car location and then spin back down to grab our starting sequence.

With a clean lane and our bow out off the start, we find our boatspeed and get far away enough from traffic to play the shifts. We round the windward mark in the top five, and then take starboard jibe out to the leeward layline. With a good header, we jibe, round the favored gate, and head back upwind.

The leader’s too far ahead to catch, but we make our move to solidify second place by playing the righthand side of the course.

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It’s a nice calm race to start the regatta with, and a good reminder that no matter who you’re sailing with, if you can get around the course faster than the other boats, you’re set up for success.

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