Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Regatta Report: CORK

The Canadian Olympic Regatta, Kingston or "CORK" is a mainstay of the North American skiff sailing circuit. Canada has a thriving skiff community, especially in the 49er and 49erFX, and it seems like they all come out for CORK. This year saw eleven full rigs competing and nine FX's, making for a full starting line for both fleets. The four days of racing saw the full spectrum of conditions, from postponed mornings of drifting to full on heavy air conditions, and everything in between. Additionally, the race committee and regatta organization team ran as professional an event as any. Between these factors, on the water competition, full spectrum conditions, and top tier event management, we were able to put our training to good use and get down to racing. We finished third overall in what was very close racing among the top teams and were very happy to see pieces of training that we had worked on earlier in the summer starting to fall into place.
some awkward faces at the top mark....

We approached this summer's racing, CORK included, with the mentality that a regatta and a finishing position are only as valuable as the insight they give you into your next training block. In other words, scores don't matter as much as lessons learned, so with that in mind here are the top three lessons we learned in Canada.
1) Be ready to make that shift.
~With extremely variable wind conditions we were changing the rig tune and settings between almost every race. With only around 10 minutes between our finish and the next start we had to discipline ourselves to cross the finish line, take down the kite, and then turn up wind to check our rig setting and make the appropriate changes. There is no rest for the well tuned skiff team. While we were mostly successful in dialing in the rig tune the other shift that is just as if not more important to make when sailing in varying wind conditions is the mental shift, and that is something we are still working on and will keep in mind while training. Setting up your mind to sail in 18 knots, even though it just finished a race in 10, takes just as much deliberate effort as setting up your boat.
2) Race from the start.
cursing along with the green kite
~Getting from stopped to full speed is a tricky business in the skiff; mostly because as a boat they don't like to stand still. However, the conventions of racing necessitate that we do stop and then get to full speed and much of our training in San Francisco focused on the nuances of that acceleration process. We saw that training definitely paying off on the starting line at CORK and we felt as though we had more agency in our down speed maneuvering than many other teams. However, one thing we were naive to before starting against other boats our own speed was the boat on boat dynamic of the start. If you want to win, winning the start is a good first step. This means not passively crossing the line at go (which in and of itself is easier said than done) but positioning yourself to race others off the starting line. It means getting aggressive, getting close, and getting bow out. As we move forward we will be reminding ourselves that every starting line, whether its in practice or a race, is an opportunity to hone these skills and we will not be taking the easy way across.
3) Take care of what gets you there.
~You cannot compete in a regatta if you and your equipment cannot make it to the regatta. To that end, check your tire pressure and get an oil change. Our trusty (actually not so trust, at this point) regatta-mobile for the East Coast, a Honda CRV with 230,000 miles on it, strongly objected to the concept of towing a two boat trailer from New York to Ontario and back. Just over the Canadian boarder she completely ran out of oil and we saw our competition prospects flash before our eyes. The car, lovingly referred to as the Millennium Falcon, made it and is now officially retired from all towing, but the incident was a reminder that even if the vehicle is not a racing machine, like our boats, it still requires love, attention, and routine maintenance.

There are many more regattas and many more lessons to come for us so stay tuned!

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