QKWRW: Appleton's Updates

North Sails' Cameron Appleton checks in from the J/70 fleet.

Key West Race Week
Clean starts, quick exits are key in the J/70 fleet at Quantum Key West Race Week.Quantum Key West Race Week/Max Ranchi

A few days ago I was sailing a 200-foot super yacht with loads are in the tens of tons. Here in Key West with the J/70, I have new experiences to come and a new class to learn.

Sailing is a tough sport to be consistent, especially when jumping from boat to boat. We have to be very good at converting on the basics. The fundamentals of this sport are the same no matter what sort of boat you sail. Where it differs is in the process and how we set ourselves to achieve our goals.

We all want to go out and sail mistake free. The teams that continuously make the fewest rise to the to, right? It always seems so simple. As we sail all the time we should know what to do! For me it's about learning which parts of each class or classes make or break a day and how to position yourself to do the little things that we easily forget are so important. With Key West being the first time sailing together, we will properly line up against a 40-plus boat and we have to grow as a team with goals of understanding the fleet’s style.

Now the hard part starts. We need to know if we can be fast enough upwind and hold tight lanes, which is most the important skill in large fleets. It's one thing to tune fast, but another thing to be able to convert and race fast. With a few days of practice, we can be satisfied we are able to match the top boats speed wise, although starting, tacking and getting around the corners are equally important.

Our first goal is to get comfortable with sailing at the line, holding the bow at the angle to maintain just enough speed to keep steerage, then holding our spot and set ourselves up to be good at pulling the trigger. Over the coming days this will be our number one focus. In the back ground we'll keep refining how we all interact as a group. It's important for each person to play a different part in the start then around the race course.

This all for another day’s conversation. Today’s focus is to make sure we can have higher percentage starts.