Jan 30, 2016-Building a Successful Racing Program
wingssail images-fredrick roswold
So far this year we have had excellent results on the race course. We’ve won most of the important races and we got first overall in the Bandaras Bay Blast and dominated the Vallarta Cup with four firsts out of four races, (although one of those races was completely thrown out and nobody was scored due to a race instruction foul up).
This has been thoroughly enjoyable for Judy and I and our crew is ecstatic about our success. After the last Vallarta Cup race we toasted our victory with champagne and arrived back at our dock with smiles that could not be contained.
There is a lot of luck at work in winning any sailboat race but in our case there was also a plan. We decided last year that we would focus on three things that we thought would improve our chances.
1. Upgrade the Crew
2. Upgrade the Sails
3. Work on the Rating Problem
By now, 2/3’s of the way through the season, we feel that the progress we’ve made on each of these three items have produced results. Let’s look at each one.
1. Upgrade the Crew.
Last year we had a team of mostly beginners and they became a good crew. With practice their boat handling skills became excellent but Judy and I spent too much of our attention watching every move they were making and further, they didn’t have the racing experience to be able help us with fine sail trim or tactics on the race course. Our sail trim was poor, and we missed a bunch of tactical calls and I was often distracted from my driving. This year we purposely set out to add some people with skill levels in those areas.
Our crew-finding challenge here in Mexico is complicated by the fact that we mostly use other cruising sailors as crew, most of whom have arrived here on their own sailboats, and who, while they tend to have good sailing skills, often want to go cruising on their own boats so we lose them after a while.
We were constantly alert for good sailors who planned to be around a while we when ran across one we asked if they wanted to sail with us for the season. Some did, some didn’t. Some couldn’t commit and just came once or twice and then moved on but others came and stuck. It has worked out well. We found some great people and we now have built a great team with several solid racing sailors among them. Our boat handling, as usual, is very good, our tactics are much better than before, we have good navigation, and we have good sail trim. One area however which has been more challenging has been finding a good bowman who can stay around. Our latest guy has been absolutely dynamite but he has work commitments so we are back looking for a permanent Bow Person. That’s where the poster you see at the top of this story came in.
But, in fact, the whole team has been pretty solid. It has exceeded our expectations and it has helped us win on the race course this year.
2. Upgrade the Sails
Our racing sails were getting pretty old (8 years) by the end of last season and we felt that we were lacking in pointing ability and speed. They were also falling apart. Buying new sails is costly and time consuming. To get ones which we could afford was even more difficult and more time consuming, if not impossible, but we set out to do just that and that effort is still underway. In the meantime we took the our main and genoa, the most important sails and the ones with the worst problems, to the sail loft and discussed some recuts with Mike Danielson at North Sales. Mike understood what we wanted to do and he made some minor changes which really improved the sails. He also cautioned us about the condition of the sails. “These have limited life left in them”, he said.
Well, the recuts worked some magic on the shape. On the race course they are fast and they have held together so far this season thanks to a bunch of PSA sail repair tape and lots of patches.
We are close to having some new sails on the way, but in the meantime we feel we have achieved our sail upgrade objective and it shows in the results.
3. Work on the Rating Problem
Last year, even when we sailed a good race, we could not correct out over the top boat, a relatively new production racer from Europe. We felt they had the wrong rating but since it was the only one in North America there were no other results to base any change upon. It could be that their consistent wins were just the result of excellent sailing.
We lobbied for nearly a year for a handicapper’s meeting and when it finally happened in December we got some relief; the rating was changed, not the 24 seconds I lobbied for, but 12 seconds, and it helps.
Judy and Nick have nailed the navigation task and we no longer miss marks. It is hard to overestimate the importance of this.
Dick has been calling the laylines perfectly and that has solved a bugaboo from last year.
I have had some really good starts, I mean really good starts, which is always a key factor in any win.
And all of the excellent crew work has allowed me to focus on steering which has also improved this year as well. Judy helps a lot with this by constantly watching the tell tales and my steering and coaching me whenever I need it.
We have had “guest visits” by some really super sailors and each has left us with some tips which we have been happy to follow.
All in all, we are pretty pleased with how our program has advanced. We hope we can keep it up for the rest of the season.
Click here and here for photos of our crew.
catrina liana image
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle.