Rolex/ Dan Nerney| |Later this week, Sailing World editors Dave Reed and Stuart Streuli will face off in the Swan 42 class, seen here at 2009 Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex.| Sunday, July 20
Editor vs. Editor, Take 2
Well. Stu got me good on this one: he and his cohorts on Amelia out-tacked, out-trimmed, and plain out-smarted team Mustang, and not by a little, either.
At some point in the four-day regatta, between races our skipper and SW Editor at Large, Gary Jobson, out of the blue, asked aloud why Lance Armstrong seemed to be holding back in the Tour de France. I don’t follow cycling at all, so I had nothing to offer, but Mike, my partner at the primary winches, explained that it was all about the peloton (the group). The mountain stages were coming up, and that’s where Lance would make his break.
Our tactician, Charlie, then chimed in with the quick peloton comparison to sailing: in a long regatta like this, the really good teams just cruise in the pack until the final day, and then someone makes a break. That’s usually, Lance.
Ironically, enough, that’s about how it all seemed to go on the last of four days of the New York YC Swan 42 Nationals in Newport. In superb sea breeze conditions, the guys on Amelia made their break, winning two straight races and then closing with a fifth (despite, as Stu may explain in his own words here, with a broken primary winch). Their final push launched them into third overall, 14 points out of the lead.
The crew of Andy Fisher’s Bandit, which had been wearing the figurative yellow jersey after the opening day, had the equivalent of a mountain-stage burnout, and with two of their worst finishes of the regatta. At times, we didn’t help their cuase, but maybe they had expended all their energy on the third day when they won both races and set the pace for the rest of us.
But cruising in the pack, as Charlie pointed out earlier in the week, was Phil Lotz’s team on Arethusa: with all top-10 finishes (and no individual race wins), they rode right into the overall win. With an amazingly consistent effort (for validation on this point, simply look at the results-for the most part, everyone else was all over the map. We were among them, for sure.)
As the sun sets here on Aquidneck Island and I sit down to post this and recall what I can of a blurred week of sailing, the sea breeze is dropping and the sky is fading to light blue hues with streaks of pink and black stratus clouds. Kind of like my bruises and knees. Stu’s right. Trimming jib on a Swan 42 makes me ache in places I never thought possible. The raw, open wounds on my knees won’t miss the non-skid. My palms will appreciate their time away from the winch handle. My back will thank me for not having to throw my body into that last, awkward inch of turn in 20 knots. My eyes can now relax from looking for puffs, waves, and chops.
I swear I was tacking in my sleep last night, and I probably will, tonight, too. I wouldn’t be surprised to dream of Amelia slamming a lee-bow on us with Stu, sliding under the lifelines after trimming and looking across, giving me a look that says: “OK, boss. Now watcha got?”
Well, Stu, I’ve got some stories ready for editing, is what I’ve got. Congrats on beating me on the racecourse once more. Now get back to work. We’ve got deadlines waitin’.
Same Lessons, Different Regatta
In the fourth race of the regatta, we on Amelia scored more points than Phil Lotz’ team on Arethusa did in the first four races.
That was the reason that, despite the fact we closed the regatta with six top-5 finishes in a 20-boat fleet, we were on the outside looking in when it came to the overall championship.
We said at the outset of the regatta that top-five results were what it would take to win. We couldn’t have been more correct. Lotz won the 2009 New York YC 42 Nationals with 50 points over 10 races. He was the only skipper to have all single-digit finishes. He did it without winning a race. In fact, he didn’t have a finish higher than a fourth until the final race. It was a masterfully consistent performance.
Any hope we had of winning the regatta evaporated in that fourth race. We were over early, slow to return to the line, fouled another back-of-the-packer at the second windward mark, did our turns, and crossed the line without a single boat in our rearview mirror. In throw-out regattas you can get away with such a race, where things go wrong, you gamble, even gamble recklessly, and wind up with a horrible result. In a no-drop series, like the Swan 42 Nationals, that isn’t the case. Of course, by the time we realized that we were in 10th.
We found our legs in the second half of the regatta, especially the final day when we won two races, finished fifth in the third and won the day by seven points. That was good enough to move us up to third. I also managed to give come out on top in our editor vs. editor battle (see above). Dave Reed, on Gary Jobson’s and Tom Enright’s Mustang, ended up in eighth, 10 points out of fifth. Hopefully, by tomorrow, I’ll have some deeper thoughts on the regatta. Right now, after 10 races in mostly solid breeze-two on the final day with only one functioning primary winch-I’m fairly spent (understatement) and my bed is calling my name.
Thursday, July 16
A few years ago the crew of Amelia attended a party with another Swan 42 crew. As we were going through the introductions, one of the other boat’s crew, a burly guy with a foreign accent asked me what I did on the boat. “Oh he trims the headsails,” said one of my teammates.
Mr. Burly Guy gave me a funny look. “You don’t look like a jib trimmer,” he said. I explained that I was actually the spinnaker trimmer. Nonetheless, I was somewhat insulted at the time. What does a jib trimmer look like? Did I not look strong enough to handle the load.
In time, however, I’ve come to realize that there was some logic to his thinking. Trimming the jib on the 42 is not an easy job. Bigger is better. And I’m not.
Yet that’s just where I found myself today, trimming the jib in 15 to 20 knots on Rhode Island Sound. I was also trimming the spinnaker. After three races, I was completely exhausted. Actually, I was basically there after two races, the third was done on fumes.
For all my efforts, and those of my teammates, who worked their butts off as well today, we stand right in the middle of the pack. We didn’t lose the regatta on Day 1, but we certainly gave ourselves a hill to climb. We had some good pace upwind, but struggled a lot downwind. In our time away from the class the boats have started sailing even deeper downwind and we had trouble matching their angles, and keeping the chute full. We’re going to switch things up a little bit, have someone else fly the spinnaker, allow me to focus on the uphill trimming and hopefully find some legs downwind.
In the editor vs. editor battle, Dave Reed actually took Round 1, at least in the preliminary results-there were A LOT of protests today. He’s 8th with 27 points, we’re in 10th with 28. Three boats came away relatively unscathed today, but then there’s a logjam in the middle of the standings. Tomorrow looks to be a completely different day, with winds in the single digits. The sort of weather where I can be a jib trimmer. We need to make a move.
Wednesday, July 14th
Mostly Dave Reed and I pull in the same direction. We work together at Sailing World, where he is the editor of the book, cranking out nine issues a year, in addition to a few special sections, and supplying our voracious website with content as often as we can. We also sail as part of the Crack of Noon J/24 team on Thursday nights. Dave brought me on board not long after I started at Sailing World 10 years ago. Of all the things he’s done for me since I arrived in town, this is easily the one I value most. The weekly opportunity to get out on Narragansett Bay and test myself against some great sailors is simply a bonus. The camaraderie of the team, win or lose, reminds me why sailing is such a great lifetime sport.
Even when we race against each other as part of Laser Fleet 413, Newport’s premier frostbite troupe, we still spend more time trying to make each other better. Who beats whom is worth a crow or two Monday morning, and nothing more. The ultimate goal is for each of us to move up in the pecking order (though I am doing that slightly faster than he is.)
That being said, there are always exceptions to the rule. This week is one of them. For the 2009 Swan 42 North Americans, which will take place Thursday through Sunday, Dave and I will be racing on opposing boats. He’ll be sailing on Gary Jobson’s Mustang while I’ll be on Alex Jackson’s Amelia. To make things even more symmetrical, we’re both trimming headsails. My goal for the regatta is twofold: 1. Finish as well as possible in the regatta; my hope is to defend the Swan 42 North American Championship titles that I won while aboard boats in 2007 and 2008. 2. Beat Dave Reed. And not necessarily in that order.
So check back on this blog to see who’s beating whom. We’ll also give you a little insight into the event. We expect around 20 boats, and if past regattas are any indication, the competition should be tight. One of the side effects of the class’s emphasis on amateur competition is that no team has yet to develop into a dominant force in the class. It’s just too hard too keep a good team of amateurs together, and compared to the top Cat 3s in classes like the Farr 40, amateurs are much less consistent. Winning this regatta will require avoiding mistakes and a fair measure of luck.
For my team on Amelia this may be a challenge. We won the regatta in 2007, when we had our share of luck, but haven’t sailed the boat in 18 months. That can be a lifetime in a new one-design class. Everyone else is learning and getting faster while you’re sitting on the sidelines. And we have a few new people to work into the crew. Working for us is the fact that skipper Alex Jackson, a former college All-America selection at Tufts, has been doing a lot of Melges 32 sailing and his touch on the helm is even better than it was two years ago.
We also have a lot of fun together. When Alex sent around the email asking whether the core crew from 2007 would be available for this regatta, I replied in the affirmative as quickly as I could get permission from my better half. Part of this is that I like the concept of the Swan 42 class, which restricts each boat to only two Cat 3 sailors. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the opportunity to sail with top-flights pros, but there’s a different feel to an amateur-dominated boat. Partly it was due to how much fun I have with the guys on the boat. It was also due to the chance to defend the championships I was fortunate enough to win in the past two years-oh, wait, I already mentioned that. Finally, it meshed well with my increasingly busy schedule-a child will tend to do that.
Oh, and then there’s the chance to beat Dave Reed. Stay tuned, and we’ll tell you how it all turns out.