North Sails LOFT NEWS


Local Sailors Come Out On Top

Right after crossing the finish line 1st to win the regatta

How did your team prepare for racing in San Diego?

We had intended to get some practice time in by getting out in a J/105 in Toronto Harbour, but it just didn’t work out due to busy schedules. The five dudes in front of me on the boat, Scott Collinson (Main Trimmer), Dave Jarvis (Tactician), Andrew van Nostrand (Jib Trimmer), Rob Emery (Spin Trimmer) and Fraser Howell (Bowman), all race on J/105s throughout the season, so that of course was a nice factor in our preparation. Scott and Dave also were involved with a lot of highly competitive IC37 racing in Newport, RI this past summer, which really upped their game.

My lack of recent J/105 or any kind of keelboat racing was a bit of concern from a preparation standpoint, as my racing is almost exclusively in Lasers. So not having even seen a J105 in a year meant our prep as a full team came down to emails, phone calls and one practice day at the event. Certainly not optimum, but we would just have to work with it. We went over the pros and cons from our 2018 regatta where we finished 2nd overall. I called up old friend, Dave Perry skipper of the winning team at last year’s regatta, to get his thoughts on what worked for his team. He kindly provided a few insights and reinforced some general strategic concepts we had picked up in last year’s regatta.

One of the great things about the International Masters Regatta is that SDYC works hard in advance to equalize the boats. The owners “loan” their boats to the club for the event, which are then emptied of all excess gear, the rigs are tuned to the same shroud tensions, the identical sets of sails are club owned and used solely for this and one other event, and brand new jibs were provided this year. Teams rotate through the boats following each race. Volunteers go through each boat at the end of the day and a diver cleans the hulls each morning. The result ends up being a true test of sailboat racing, with equipment differences effectively removed from the equation. There are a several boats among the 11 that seem a little faster typically finish well each race; however, since everyone gets the same shot at each boat –it’s completely fair.

What elements helped your team perform well together? What did each contribute? 

I think the key strength of our team is that each member knows his position to the level where there’s full trust and confidence in each other at all times. We have a very quiet and calm boat. I can only recall about three moments over the series where there was a bit of, shall I say, “tension” on the boat (and any that did occur originated from the nut at the end of the tiller).

Scott has solid J/105 expertise in keeping the boat at its maximum speed and VMG towards the mark. For example, he will typically rip his hat off on downwind legs so that he can better sense slight apparent wind angle changes on the back of his neck. He’s all over me (in a positive way, of course) downwind to assist me in guiding the boat at the precise optimum angle. Combined with Rob’s spin trimming, these were definite advantages, as we felt we were the best performing crew off the wind. Scott is also a strong team motivator. For example, he would announce on the way to the course area our motivating/team-bonding “word of the day”. On the all-important final race day, his word of the day was “United”, and that was ideally timed. We sailed as a united team throughout, even when things weren’t working out quite to plan in the first couple of races of the day. 

Dave is an excellent tactician, both strategically and tactically. He’s calm and calculated, nails layline calls and decision making in general to keep our air clear and position us nicely for the critical mark rounding approaches. 

Andrew and Rob trim the jib and spin to perfection. Andrew stays on top of jib halyard tension and lead position as conditions change, and with Rob I can’t recall one moment when the chute luffed and needed an aggressive trim or ease. Rob and I have positive communication with each other downwind, where Rob is consistently communicating “good pressure” or “a little soft”, etc., which of course is essential for me to make very slight course alterations to maintain constant optimum VMG towards the leeward mark. 

Similar to our sail trimming, Fraser’s work on the pointy end was flawless. I can’t recall a hoist, takedown or other maneuver where we had any kind of sail handling issue. Fraser, Andrew and Rob also are all sensitive to our correct heel angle, and rarely does Scott or I need to call for more or less weight on the rail. It just quietly happens.

Tell us about racing. What were conditions like?

The conditions were pretty much the same all three days of racing. I’d call it 8-12 knots, flat water, small oscillations here and there, and typical variations in puffs and lulls. Overall a fair racetrack, with a few opportunities to make up ground or lose it if not on the correct side of the course. Tidal current would play a factor when the RC set the windward mark more to the east of the Bay, which was closer to a deeper shipping channel. This added an interesting tactical consideration. 

What was your favorite race? 

Easy question: it was the 11th and last race, which came down to a “who-beats-who” battle between the local “Team Sinks” crew and us. Chuck Sinks, an experienced racer, had as is tactician the legendary Vince Brun, former Olympian and multi-class world champion (and former President of North Sails One Design). The crew was also loaded up with seasoned top sailors, so we knew going in they would be a challenge. 

As is typically the case, getting a good start would be vital in the last race, as there wouldn’t be many passing lanes once off the line. With about 40 seconds before the start gun we were on starboard with sails luffing near the committee boat end. The Sinks boat tacked to starboard a few boats to leeward of us. Dave spotted a potential opening below Sinks where we could try to establish a leeward position on them. I looked down to leeward, saw the “hole” Dave had eye balled, and immediately decided, yes, there’s just enough space to slide in there. I pulled the tiller to weather, snuck behind their transom and starting heading up with just enough room above the next boat to leeward. We then began a slow luff to head-to-wind taking the Sinks boat up with us. We could almost sense a collective “UH OH” coming off their boat, as we quickly had them where we wanted them. With about 10 seconds to go we bore off for speed with a nice start leaving them struggling to get up to speed when the gun went. The bulk of the fleet headed to the right side of the upwind leg to get in the helpful upwind current towards the shipping channel and we were headed there as well, with Sinks directly to leeward of us. They tacked to starboard a little early for the layline we thought, but it gave us a perfect opportunity to tack right on their air. This pretty well put them away for good, and realistically we just had to sail a clean race from thereon. Fortunately, the current was stronger than I think anyone anticipated, and with a touch of luck involved, we were pushed upwind to where we ended up just making the mark without needing to tack. Beauty! We rounded with a couple lengths lead and held it nicely to the finish – a very satisfying final race!  The press boat drove up and handed us a bottle of chilled champagne and our cooler bag, and the hour-long motor back to SDYC was rather enjoyable.

Did anything surprise you about the event, conditions or the racing itself?

No real surprises, per se, other than that most of the other 10 crews were very solid, with a few having some well-known sailors onboard including former Olympians. There was really only one or two boats not capable of putting in a top 5 race, so racing was tight. Also notable, although not surprising, was the flawless race management work. 

What does it mean to you to win the Masters International? 

What I’m particularly proud of is that, although we were happy last year with our 2nd overall finish, we knew we had what it takes to challenge for the overall title. We established the goal, maintained our confidence and executed our game plan. It’s nice to be the first Canadian crew to have won this event.

How does this win stand out from others? 

As most of my racing in recent years has been in the singlehanded Laser, winning a competitive regatta like the IMR, in evenly matched/rotated boats, really stands out because it was a total TEAM WIN. This, in addition to the fact we came back a year later to “take care of some unfinished business”, made it a special victory.   

What advice can you provide to other sailors? 

The number one factor towards success is what I like to call putting in the “BTUs” for Boat Time Units. Now, as admitted earlier, we didn’t have time to put in the BTUs for the regatta, but we performed well because the other five guys had been sailing as much as they can, while the Laser helming time I’ve had translated nicely to steering the J/105 and being able to squeeze into tight spaces. So my advice is to get as many BTUs in with your crew as you can throughout the season. Don’t solely get together for racing, but rather get out for some solid practice time, where you’ve mapped out what you want to work on in advance, work on weaknesses, practice starts and mark roundings, and follow it all up with positive debriefs and note taking. And, of course, always make it fun!

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