McKee's Key West Minute: On the Hoss

Tough day for Team Hoss, but a reality check with the foliage clears the mind.

Key West Race Week
Some time away from the racecourse does the Hoss team some good.Jonathan McKee

Rough day today on the “Hoss” team. We had good starts and ok speed, and the first part of each beat seemed to be going well, but I completely botched up the top of the first two beats. Not being one to wallow in self-flagellation (see my writing from yesterday!), however it is worth digesting the important lessons from today.

The conditions were light and lumpy with oscillating shifts and seemingly random puffs. So the aim upwind is to try to stay in decent pressure, not tack too often, but stay in phase. Those goals were sometimes at odds with each other, for example sometimes you had to sail in a compromised position to stay in phase, or you had to choose between staying in the best pressure and playing the shift. All that being true, the big thing thing I learned today was about the approach to the top mark.

I twice made the mistake of making too many tacks through the middle of the course near the top mark. Not only is the tack loss bigger in today’s conditions, but with so many boats converging on the top mark, there is simply less winds and more waves in the “cone of doom” downwind of the weather mark. Maybe if you are in the top couple of boats you can get away with it if the shifts are big enough, but if you are in the pack you need to pick your side and come in from one edge or the other. Often both edges will be better than the middle. In light air it even pays to overstand if it means you avoid tacks and maintain clear air and smoother water.

Of course I have learned this lesson 100 times before! But I had to re-learn it today. Sailing is like that. You may know everything, but in reality unless you can apply it to the situation at hand, you are like a beginner again! It hurts, and it is hard to rationalize. But like I said yesterday, I know I am better than how I sailed today. So tomorrow will surely be better. As soon as I can stop beating myself up!

I love the trees here. Especially the Banyan tress like this one. There is a lot of rain and it never freezes so there is an amazing variety of tropical foliage. The trees are very cool, but also the plants in people’s back yard. Everything from cactus the monster cypress trees to flowering hyacinth and bougainvillea, the variety is astounding. Maybe it’s because it is so different from where I live in temperate Seattle, but I always enjoy the vegetation in Key West.

Another day tomorrow! Another lesson to be learned…