Quantum Key West Race Week 17: Easy Tiger, Ready to Move

The teamwork is clicking on Easy Tiger, and we know what needs to be done to to get ourselves up the standings, so Thursday is our day to make a move.

Key West Race Week
With much lighter breeze for the final race of the day, we went from hiking to heeling to get power in the sails.Dave Reed

Much has been learned on our morning commutes, but today’s insight comes from our long sail in, after finishing our third race of the day, as we sailed in from way, way out on the Division 3 racecourse. The Flying Tigers were the last and lonely seven boats of the regatta, sailing in against a bright setting sun.

Yesterday was lesson was in re-setting. Today is in fine-tuning. We’re not alone in that we’re sailing together as team for the first time. Plenty of others down here in Key West are either in the same boat or haven’t sailed together in a few (or many) months. The days of practice before the regatta starts are never enough because we can stop improving, but we, like everyone else are improving as we go. Day by day. Race by race.

Today is a perfect example: we follow out routine of getting out to the course early, go through our mental checklists, and establish our team and personal routines. The bailer I’d crafted from an empty cranberry juice container I found this morning has cut my bailing time in half between races. It’s faster and because I’m back on deck sooner, I have a chance to look upwind before the start at what the breeze is doing.

We get ourselves in a bit of a squeeze play in our first start, but the work we’ve done the day before, about feeling when the boat is fast or slow, is noticeable. Eventually, we settle in and hold our lane while others peel out for clean air. We sail a solid beat and finally find ourselves in the lead for the first time this week. Albeit a slim one.

As we come back to the middle of the course at the top, the regatta leaders on Nigel Brownell’s Hogfish racing tack below us. We subconsciously grow anxious, lose focus on our boatspeed as our attention is all on them. We get slow, get spit out, have to do two more tacks and lose them before the mark.

Game over.

It’s a good lesson in the importance of staying hyper focused on our boat when locked into these sort of drag races. It is our one most identifiable mistakes of the day, which cascades, and we finish fourth. Tough way to start the day.

But, remember the previous day’s lesson? Reset. Move on.

And we did. With an excellent start, and control of our destiny, we sail our best race of the regatta. We’re leading, until the final few feet from the finish when we try to slam dunk Brian Tyrell’s team on Boat No. 4 (they’re the fast Melges 24 team from Washington). All we have to do is jibe clean, cover them into the finish and we’ll have our first bullet. It’s a crash jibe and just before the turn, the clew floats in on the wrong side of the headstay, gets pinned, and we pull off the ugliest jibe all week.

What a downer after such a hard fought race, but we’d take a second.

Reset.

When the race committee decides to start a third race, we’re sunbaked, exhausted, and probably dehydrated and have faded into a coma. We aren’t 100-percent mentally ready, but the race committee waits for no one!

With a decent start, we’re off chasing Brownell and his Hogfish boys again. But once they’re sprung, they’re long gone. We put in a full-team effort to get second and feel good about beating Tyrell’s gang, which had nipped us at the previous finish. These are three good races for our team, but the sail in is just as good. Its relaxing and fun, and it’s a chance to debrief with the one-and-one for tomorrow. For me, I feel our downwind mojo is much better and the one thing I’d like to work on is using more precise verbiage when calling breeze. With six people on the boat, there can be a lot of chatter, so my goal is to cut back on mine.

We’ve made it through hump day just fine. Tomorrow, as the saying goes, is moving day, and with Hogfish so far out front on the standings, there are only two boats squarely in our sights. We are only 3 points out of third thanks to our two missed races on friday. My guess is we have two more races coming our way before the week is out, so it’s time put the learning into action. It’s time to make a move.

Key West Race Week
Brian Tyrell's No. 4, our closest rival, sets up for the start of the final race.Dave Reed