Doug Newhouse and his team on the J/88 Yonder won the 2016 New York Yacht Club Race Week, posting three firsts and three seconds over the eight race series. We caught up with Doug to collect some words of wisdom and reflection on racing.
What conditions did you encounter at this event and how prepared were you and your team?
The Race Committee really gave us the full range of sailing experiences—a stadium course, round the island, racing up the bay, and racing in the open ocean. The breeze was strong for most races, including a driving rainstorm—but in the strangest race, the breeze changed from a 10-12 knot southerly on the first four legs to zero on the fifth leg, and then to an 8-10 knot northerly in about five minutes! Our tactician wisely realized that even though we had just dropped the kite we needed to hoist it again; his quick thinking plus great crew work allowed us to win that crazy race.
What was the biggest contributor to your success in winning this regatta?
It all starts with the team. We have a good core group and almost everyone is a twenty-something ex-college racer. They provide energy and are excited to have fun on a new boat like the J/88. Importantly, we participated in the Sail Newport one design regatta the weekend before Race Week, and we were able to work out some issues.
Everyone is talking about your incredible downwind speed. How did you guys go so fast downwind?
We need to give a salute here to North Sails. Last year we had a first generation kite, and when we switched to the newest North design it made a huge difference. The shape and overall performance was a game changer. Also the crew works the weight aggressively, like a dinghy, which allows me to keep a calm tiller and focus on keeping the boat balanced.
How did you set up the boat?
North tuning guide all the way.
Can you give us three things that you and your team would do to make your boat go fast?
It’s important to keep a balanced boat—heel angle makes a big difference. Crew consistency.
Practice, practice, practice…
Tell us about your team; they always looked to be well positioned on the boat.
Most of the crew comes from smaller boats. They are always trying to give us the best boat balance. Hopefully everyone is choreographed and can handle every situation.
As the owner, driver and skipper; can you tell us how you interact with the crew during a race?
No yelling—it adds stress and is counterproductive. Before we go out every day, we have a team meeting to discuss every issue that might come up. I ask everyone their opinion, starting with the youngest. After each race, we debrief if time permits. Also everyone has a defined role and mine is to drive—I don’t call tactics, I don’t trim sails, I only try to focus on moving the boat forward in the most efficient manner.
What do you and your team plan to work on for future events?
We need to get better. Our competitors are really great sailors and every race is up for grabs. We need to go faster—great tactics are easy with great speed. We want better sail shapes—always working to refine the sails. Crew work is always ongoing. Lastly, better starts—we were never over early but seldom first. The playbook is never finished.