McKee’s Key West Minute: Keeping it Real

Win or lose, it's always a matter of perspective. Be confident in yourself and your breaks will come.

Key West Race Week
The top end of the J/70 fleet shows no mercy on mistakes. But when they do happen, says Jonathan McKee, keep it in perspective and move on. Paul Todd/Outside Images

I was talking to my friend Tony Rey after sailing today. I have always respected his views on all things sailing. He was telling me about the team he is sailing with here in Key West. Yesterday they sailed OK but did not get many breaks and ended up with mediocre scores. The team was pretty down, and several of the guys were grumbling about how badly it was going.

Today, they had the same speed, the same boathandling, and the same tactical process, and they got a 2, 2 in probably the toughest class at Quantum Key West Race Wek. The difference was they got a few breaks and a couple of lifts at critical times, and nothing else changed!   On my “Hoss” team, we had something of the same situation today. In Race 2, I got a little out of phase at the top of the beat, and we lost a couple of boats. No big deal, and luckily my team does not grumble about that kind of thing too much. So we did not change anything, and I did not really change my tactical thinking, except to pay attention to the oscillations a little more.

Lo and behold, in the last race, we were in a similar position, about sixth, but we stumbled onto a couple of good shifts, and got that little lift at the key time, and we went on to win the race.   My point is not that sailboat racing is totally random (although there is some randomness), it is that you need to maintain confidence in yourself and in your team, especially when the wheels seem to be falling off. I like to remind myself, “You are the same sailor that you were yesterday, and all those other days when you won all those regattas.


When you have a bad race, it does not mean you are a bad sailor. It happens. Move on and don’t lose your mojo. Now, I’m not saying we should not try to learn from our mistakes. That is one thing that top sailors do well. But don’t make one race a referendum on your sailing skills, and don’t let your crew dwell on what could have gone better.

One of my favorite sayings: “You are not as bad as your bad races, nor are you as good as your best races.” The truth always lies somewhere in between, so try to maintain an even keel and avoid the emotional roller coaster. Analysis is good, but over-analysis is bad, and sometimes things just don’t go as planned. There is always tomorrow!


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