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Interview with Brad Russell, 2018 National Champion
The 2018 Thistle National Championship was hosted by Cedar Point Yacht Club and their famous “Westport Mafia” hospitality provided a great time on shore. An amazing funk band, mafia night, and food trucks throughout the week kept everyone entertained and full. North Sails hosted a chalk talk each morning with Dave Dellenbaugh and Paul Abdullah with great attendance and participation. Rules expert Dave Perry was a guest on Tuesday and turned into a 5-hour marathon session during postponement ashore.
North-powered boats took all ten top spots on the scoreboard. Our Thistle expert Mike Ingham caught up with the new National champion Brad Russell for a quick interview:
First of all, congratulations on your 2018 Thistle National Championship! Start off with telling us something about your team.
I sailed with teammates Joe Hart and Terra Berlinski. Joe and I sailed together all year and have a great time on the boat together. He’s very physical on the boat, always has a positive attitude, and excels at painting the picture of what the fleet is doing, while this was the first time bringing Terra on board and she was an awesome addition with her positivity and being proactive on the boat. We were one of the heavier boats at around 500 lbs, but it didn’t seem to hurt us much even in the light air.
What were the conditions like?
Conditions varied greatly, with one race in very light air, two in heavy air, and four in light to moderate conditions
What sails did you use?
Our speed was excellent all week and in all conditions. We use a North Fisher main, Proctor jib, and Full Radial AirX500 spinnaker.
How were you set up?
The boat is setup to get overbend wrinkles halfway back the main window when fully trimmed. Our mast is 4-9-4 on the diamonds with the black Pro Loos gauge. We started the week with our forestay at 25 and moved it to 26 after Monday when the overbend wrinkles were slightly shy of the target. We didn’t use a shim on the mast step all week, but the step is shaved. After Wednesday I would have used a shim in any more races as our main was a little too full, but it was not windy enough, so we did not. Our rake was 27’ ½” and our prebend measured exactly 1” when the forestay was 25 and got slightly greater after tightening the forestay.
Any other trade secrets you would be willing to share?
We tried a few things during the week that were different than you see on most boats. In the moderate air we were trimming the jib quite hard, often over an inch inside the 10.5” tickler we use off the diamond. This only works because we use a jib leech tell tale to make sure there is still full flow between the two sails. The other thing was dropping the traveler some in heavy air, about 6-8”, to help neutralize the helm a bit.
Tell us more about that jib tale?
We felt as long as the leach tell tale kept flowing we could trim it in more. We kept experimenting with it further in and we were able to keep it flowing and it seemed fast.
You never won a race, and you were top 4 almost every race (except the last, but we will talk about that later). Tell us your strategy for the regatta and how you were able to be so consistent.
Our strategy all week was based on staying conservative and consistent. We try to sail defensively up the middle unless we are confident one side or the other will win. We rarely felt confident what side would win the first beat so we usually found ourselves trying to stay between the fleet. We would usually lose to a couple boats from the winning side, but we got to the top mark in the top 4 in all but one race. We would then try to sail fast and work with the boats around us on the reaches, instead of fighting with each other. Once the lead pack distances itself from the fleet there’s a little more freedom to fight with the boats immediately around you.
About that last race, you were winning going in, and multi time Thistle National Champ and Match Race Pro Dave Dellenbaugh needed to beat you and put some boats in-between to take the lead, that must have been pretty nerve racking, right?
The last race was really exciting, as Dave tried to match race us backwards through the fleet after we rounded the windward mark in 2nd and 3rd. After an extremely intense couple legs we only fell back to 7th. He wasn’t able to put enough boats between us to win the regatta. I never thought I’d be good enough for Dave Dellenbaugh to care to tack on me once, much less try to match race me backwards through a fleet, so that was pretty cool!
Congratulations again to Brad, Joe, and Terra!