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Managing Expectations in Annapolis

There were 25-knot puffs rolling across the Chesapeake, and it was the first day of the sailing season for the crew of Hugh Bethell's J/105 Jester.

April 30, 2011
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Hugh Bethelll knows what it takes to win. Among the feathers in his cap after a decade behind the wheel of his J/105 Jester is a class victory at the 2005 Annapolis NOOD.

“I’ve been doing this long enough to be able to tell when the chips are falling into place,” says the Baltimore resident. “And they start falling into place—or not—months before a big event.”

Between crewmember health issues, schedule conflicts, and soggy weather, Bethell’s team got off to a late start this spring. In fact, the first time the boat left the dock with a race crew aboard was an hour before the start of the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD, and even then, the race crew only included four people—Bethell, regulars Bradley Rodier and Mike Oh, and me. So make that three and a half. J/105s typically sail with five or six crewmembers.

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But we had a new suit of sails, the boat was in order, and a light southwesterly was blowing across the Chesapeake as we headed out to our circle. Expectations were low, but spirits were high.

As the new guy aboard, I appreciated the crew’s methodical approach to boathandling. We talked over every maneuver well in advance and, afterwards, discussed what needed improvement. In this manner, we managed to get the boat cleanly around the course, without any major tangles, shrimping episodes, or breakdowns, even as the breeze piped into the 25-knot range.

Bethell is a dinghy sailor at heart, and he aced all three starts. We had good speed compared to the other 27 boats in our class, and more often than not, we found ourselves in the hunt. But in the radically oscillating wind, our strategy was less than perfect. We frequently found ourselves strung out in the corners, where fortunes change quickly and scorelines end up looking like this: 22-3-21.

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Despite our up-and-down day, when the racing was over we turned towards the dock in a jovial mood. To be disappointed in our results would’ve been unreasonable, given the state of our chips. We had worked as a team and made improvements on every leg, which, if you ask me, is victory in itself.

Cedric Lewis’ Mirage leads the J/105 division. For compete results, click here.

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