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T. Hutch’s Quantum Leaps

Terry Hutchinson brings in the speed loop onboard Quantum Racing at Quantum Key West 2014. Watch, listen, and learn.

January 21, 2014
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Sailing World

Onboard Quantum Racing

On the final day of racing at Quantum Key West, the boys on Quantum Racing get it done in the TP52 class. Keith Brash/Quantum Racing

Sticking to the Routine

Well, when I ran into Dave Reed and Meredith Powlison from Sailing World at Kelly’s Bar & Grill (race week headquarters) on Friday night after racing I’ll be honest—things were a little fuzzy!

Why?

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Good question.

For me Key West has some great traditions. Just as it has been since 1991, I do certain things going to and from Key West. I am a creature of habit. I always drive from Miami because I’m not a big fan of small planes, and because there’s a great “local” seafood restaurant around Mile Marker 82, which makes a great steamed shrimp Po Boy, dripping in spicy sauce. I always stop.

The same is true for the back end of the regatta, which is when I find my way over to the Tiki Hut at the Galleon on Friday for a few mudslides—hence the reason for the fuzz, and my big grin.

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Some years the mudslides have had the bitter taste of defeat, but not this year. This year it was the sweet taste of success after a hard fought week on Division 1. As we sat there listening to the music, pontificating on the week, it’s easy to see where things went really well for Quantum Racing. We started the event with a 1,1,1. Race 1’s win was a fourth turned into a first, and a bit of a jag. Ran had sailed a good race and we clawed back to put ourselves in a good spot. On the final run, things went on our way. Wednesday was our testing day, with a 6,3,4. to Ran’s 1,2,3. At this point we were in third behind Ran and Azzurra.

Thursday morning’s debrief had us make some adjustment to communication’s onboard, and more support from our afterguard at certain times allowed for a great day. On top of some stellar starting, the team was finding a groove boathandling wise that was crisp. Quantum Racing went 1,2,1 to Ran’s 4,1,5.

Friday was about holding serve. We had a 3-point lead going into the last race and held the tiebreaker. It was a pretty comfortable spot, so it was agreed that there would be no let up and race to win the day. Realistically we came within one jibe of getting sprung, but could not quite get clear. Azzurra sailed a good race and battled back for the win.

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As far as traditions go, Quantum Key West is one of them and it is a great way to kick off the racing season. As a professional sailor I thank Quantum Sails and all the sponsors who took on supporting Peter Craig’s staff at Premiere Racing. Without their leadership it would be a long winter, so thank you.

As far as the fuzz goes, well, it wore off pretty quickly, buy what’s left is a great memory of a great week one more reason why I love our sport.

(continued for earlier posts)

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**

**

Use ’em if you’ve got ’em

A pretty good day onboard the Quantum Racing today, 1,2,1.

The day started with a good briefing about things that we can do better and having a higher strike rate in our decision-making. With Doug driving for this event Ed Baird has moved into the strategist role and like anything we are learning each other in these respective roles. The number one thing on my list this morning was integrating Ed’s thinking more into our game plan. We had been underutilizing Ed’s talent to this point this week and yesterday highlighted that I needed support at certain times of the race. Two things that came out from this discussion were: 1. Today our decision-making today was clearer and crisp. At critical times in the race Ed’s input allowed us to make decisions with confidence. 2. Willingness of the afterguard to play to their strengths.

It may sound stupid, but learning each other’s personalities takes time, and well, it has taken us some time, but having these great honest conversations allowed us to play to our strengths today. It’s about crisp starting, good boatspeed and boathandling, and not forcing things. Utilizing the experience that we have between Ed and Juan was invaluable in our success today.

Tomorrow is a new day but I think we are onto something that we can carry on. I’m always amazed in these circumstances that regardless of events, awards, and titles that people have won competing consistently at a high level requires hard work and open communication.

On deck for tomorrow we have a 3-point lead over Ran. There’s no reason to change our formula. Consistent starting, consistent boathandling, and good boatspeed—they’re all things we started developing last Saturday.

With good breeze in the forecast it’ll be good fun.

“Hump day!?” It was more like lobster pot day on the Division 1 racecourse. Things onboard the Quantum Racing were good and bad today. In the game of inches and continual improvement we won and lost some battles. Race 1 Doug, Greg, and Juan nailed the start and we had a good one going into the last top mark in second place only to hook a pot as we came out of a tack (this was the bad). The incident happened right at the top mark and well that was that . . . last! We lost valuable points, which was inevitably a 5 -point swing in the results. But the pot catching was not just reserved for us. Emotional Hooligan and Azzurra also had the privilege of hooking a pot so I can’t complain too much. Race 2 and 3 . . . well, those were characterized by not executing in the start. Nothing more, nothing less. We just need to do a better job, so the good news is it’s something we can control.

The big winners of the day were Interlodge, owned by Austin and Gwen Fragomen. As we have seen this year on the TP 52 Super Series, when the Interlodge gets going they’re hard to stop and today they had it going. They had good starts, and when they did not start well, they cleared out and things just went their way. Now, as the benefactor of things going our way the past couple of days, I have no room to complain, so I won’t. However, I will say congrats to Interlodge and team for a stellar performance.

As the event evolves we have met our first goal; get to Wednesday in the hunt. The next two days will be a test of patience and will as the Northeasterly we know reeks havoc on the course. Currently Ran sits atop of our class on 14 after a solid performance, Azzurra on 15, and Quantum Racing on 16. So on hump day we are in the hunt and for now that is good enough. We don’t need to “step it up,” but we do need to refine, so that is good as plenty of challenges still lie ahead.

Final thought, no Wild Bills, or mechanical bull riding for me tonight. Although, I am sure there will be some folks having fun, as it should be on a 60-degree night in Key West. As it should be . . . hmmm, maybe some mischief lay ahead for us on Friday?

**

Practicing for the Bull**

It was a pretty wet start to the day but in the shadows of the notice board my day started with a great catch up with my friend Brad Read. Brad is the executive director of Sail Newport in Rhode Island. As we reminisced about the old days of J/24 racing and the great competition that we provided each other we also talked about the path’s each one of us has taken. Having witnessed firsthand what Brad has done growing the sport of sailing and introducing it to new people at Sail Newport you would be hard picked to find a bigger advocate for our sport. While the day started and ended with a torrential down poor the morning shower was good timing as it was good fun chatting with Brad. That’s what’s great about being here—lots of friends and plenty of people to talk to.

The rest of the day was tough. The Division 1 race committee had its hands full. In the first two hours of the day the wind would have gone through 720 degrees of wind shift. Needless to say creating havoc on setting a course. Good patience though to attempt one good race. As fate would have it though it was a tough one. Our range of wind direction was 250-315 and the windspeed was 7.9 to 26.3 knots. Again creating absolute havoc.

Onboard the Quantum Racing we had a good day, good start, and again good enough management of the pot holes on the racecourse. We lead the entire race and struggled to lay the gate marks because of wind and big left shift. As we ripped along at 23 knots of boat speed there was a fair amount of anxiety to get up and through the gate marks. We ended up rounding the unfavored gate and with Azzurra pressing hard 50 percent of the way up the last beat we had lost both Azzurra and Ran, only to have the breeze shift right and we got it all back for the win.

We still have lots of little things to continue to work on, but it was a good day in that we are continually getting better. This is Doug’s first event back driving since February and the challenges that we face in developing our communication and timing is really fun to work through. But this allows for a lot of focus on big-ticket items that have a big impact to our boat’s performance. The funny thing about it is while we have not sailed together for two years, our expectations are the same—to win. It’s hard to think about anything other than the areas to continue to improve. That focus will keep us going in the right direction.

Tomorrow is a BIG day! Some of you maybe thinking it’s because there maybe three races in reasonably fresh breeze. Nope! Bull riding. Tomorrow is Wednesday in Key West so we have the challenge of mechanical bull riding at one of the local watering holes. Stand by for the report on that one!

(continued for previous posts)

It’s 10:42 p.m., and I’m watching the “Bourne Identity” trying to unwind the day. Not sure this is the proper movie to get into relax mode, but it’ll do. Over on Course 1 today we had some challenging conditions to say the least. The race committee pushed to get the racing going and like most first days of the event we knew that it was going to be survival, on top of it the conditions were brutal. Light 3 to 5 knots with big shifts and lots of holes to run into. Fortunately, onboard the Quantum Racing we managed the potholes to finish the day 1,1—definitely not as easy as the scorecard looks.

Playing back the day and trying to learn, my mind is racing on what was learned. There are about a hundred things, but in the interest of keeping it short, I will stick to three.

Momentum at the start. We had one race with zero momentum from about 3 minutes onward into the start. The lack of speed sailing around the pre-start whacked us in the forehead as we had very little speed at the gun. When it is light and the air and water are chopped up on these multi-class courses, keep the speed on at all times. Race 2 was the exact opposite. We chose to start slightly away from the favored end of the line and yet had a heap of speed. This speed negated any line bias and got us away cleanly toward the first shift.

Communication. Best day yet that we have had with our speed loop. Brett, Warwick, and Lorenzo gave great feedback all day to Doug [DeVos] about angles and anticipation. Conversely, Doug would give us what he was feeling and thinking as well (two-way communication). By giving his feedback we had great dialogue about the one thing that we have to be in order to win, fast. But never underestimate the importance of proactive communication. It keeps the boat pushing forward, and more importantly, when things are not going perfectly the speed team keeps the boat going fast. There is no other priority higher then boatspeed.

Change. On board Quantum Racing we are really lucky to sail with some of the best. Today Warwick Fleury (four-time AC winner) at the end of Race 1 quietly said to me to get the jack on board, “We need to do a rig adjustment.” There was no real rhyme or reason, but he had a hunch and a feel that the rig was just too tight and wanted to make a change. We did and it was glamour. Warwick is a pretty quiet and unassuming guy for someone who has as much success as he does, but it is obvious why. He is thinking and never afraid of changing things to keep improving. The best part about sailing with really good people is the standard that they set in their job. Being proactive to change and improve is a great example of how to succeed in our sport.

All the things above are probably pretty obvious, but the devil is in the details, and Day 1 at Quantum Key West was about details. Not unlike any other day, but something about really light air and attention to the smallest things that yields success. A solid start, but as always plenty of meat on the bone.

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