Ft. Lauderdale delivered big breeze and waves for the 11 teams competing at the Melges 32 US Nationals. Jason Carroll’s team on Argo hoisted North Sails 3Di RAW upwind sails and finished in the top three of every race for a convincing overall win. We caught up with Argo tactician, Cam Appleton, about their secret to sailing reliably well and learned it ultimately came down to preparation, teamwork, and sticking to the basics.
Sailors experienced a range of conditions at the Worlds this year, starting with a light 7-9 knt SSE on the first day. Over the three opening races, crews tried to predict the shifts as rain clouds parted. Working farther into the regatta, they sailed into typical Ft. Lauderdale conditions. Saturday and Sunday were dominated by big breeze and equal swells – A mild 14 kt NE built to a high point of 25 knots on Saturday, and maintained at 18-23 knots Sunday with 6-8 foot seas. Argo used their 3Di RAW sails throughout the event, prepping each day for the new conditions. Questions regarding the North Sails Melges 32 sail inventory can be forwarded to the class leaders below. For Argo’s sails specifically: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We try to approach each regatta with the same mindset: to do the basics better than everyone else. When the conditions get harder, the basics become more important. That was the case at this year’s Nationals,” said Cam, who holds a 3-0 US Nationals record on Team Argo.
Start Each Day with 5 focus points… Or four if that’s all you need. On race days these will form your game plan and gentle reminders, and can vary depending on the race venue, the conditions, and who you have onboard. We enter the day with a strategy that plays to our strengths, yet protects our weaknesses until we have the time to work on them. These were our points going into the final day of Nationals:
– On the rig we were looking for a more locked-in zone between bow up & bow down, without excessive heel changes. Gently add a little more jack and go headstay +2 over the North tuning guide.
– After we get setup let’s make sure to do some TOD/Acceleration drills. Get a feel for the boat and how much leeway, how quickly the waves will stop us.
– Timing/rate of turn will change for jibes today. Make sure to recalibrate when we are warming up.
– Very likely asymmetric wave state on the runs. Get a feel for which is the weight back jibe and which is the hiking/more weight forward jibe.
– We’ve said it many times in the past – dominate the boat. Own it! Don’t let it push you around.
Encourage your crew…. everyone onboard is responsible for the boat’s performance. The Melges 32 integrates professional and amateur crew members so everyone is an important part of your success. As sailors we all have an understanding of what goes on and what needs to happen to sail the boat around the race course. As a tactician, being placed in the middle of the crew (on the rail) is key to facilitating communication. There are areas of the race course where different crew members shine and my communication is less instructional. Instead, I communicate a goal and hand over control to the front of the boat. For example, one of our more experienced amateurs is the lead guy for maneuvers. He is responsible for getting his team sorted ahead of time. I find this really helps the communication and directs attention to important factors like where the boat needs to be positioned or speed targets/goals. Trusting and relying on the crew to take care of maneuvers makes the transitions much more streamlined.
Stick to the Basics… Know your mantra and stick to it. Every top coach will drill these tried and true points into you. Most important: HAVE FUN SAILING TOGETHER, regardless of the outcome, because you enjoy each others company. Make that work for the team and you.
– No letters in your score (OCS, DSQ, DNF…)
– Focus on a good start. Be top 1/3 at mark one and pass ONE boat!
– Fight for every place, in every race. Winning a series can very well come down to turning a 12th into a 10th.
– Back yourselves and your decisions: that does not mean you just go on flyers every leg. At times your gut will tell you it’s time to be conservative or it’s a good time for leverage. Think clearly and don’t worry about anyone second guessing where you go on the race course.
– Capitalize on others boats’ mistakes to make passes.
– Stay pro-active with your crew weight and gear changing.
Finally, keep in mind the average winning score is normally 4th, so you don’t have pull a rabbit out of your hat or anything. Finish somewhere in the top 1/3 of the fleet each time and you’ll be in arm’s reach of the win!