Summer Campaign Parts 1.2.3.

The sailing I watched in the last three months has me very excited for the next generation of top notch athletes who will (soon enough, if not already) represent the USA on the world stage.

The heart and soul of my summer campaign was what I am calling “A Three part New England Club420 Crusade of Pain” that included Nationals in Falmouth, Hyannis Regatta, then to Buzzards Bay (in the City that Lit the World, New Bedford, Mass).


The 6 days on, 1 day off schedule we sustained for three weeks was meant to turn our flatfooted sailing squad into hearty seamen and it did just that. After weeks of focused training  these savages returned home as calloused and intrepid as the people of of the tough NE region we explored.


Our team goal was to position ourselves during the qualifying rounds of each event in the Gold Fleet. Then to finish top third. Mission accomplished. I am extremely proud of the team.

It is important to remember the time and effort that goes into seeking achievement. The hours on the water, broken parts, and bruises are small indicators of the growing pains we went through. The most significant and resonating gains are much deeper and far more cerebral. Here’s a look behind the curtain at the bigger lessons learnt….

CURRENT IS REAL- Falmouth YC, 2016 420 Nationals. “a.k.a. No parking at our Club”

In our training days prior to Nationals. We spent a lot of time exploring Vineyard Sound and practicing in different areas of water depth and current intensity. What we found was extremely different sea-state/surface activity due to changes in depth.


In the photo above, the standing waves over the Middle Ground shoal in the Vineyard Sound, where the water depth jumps from 60 to 10 feet, sometimes less depending on the tide. The strong ebbing  tidal flow created a treadmill like wave where we spent about 30 minutes sailing downwind and only traveled about 200 yards.


Hours of research of tidal models and f731be29-c086-4922-872a-5b4c8d2d17e5.jpgflow patterns coupled with vigilant observations during practice days did saved us from the pitfalls of fleet tendencies.

Day one, race one, 50% of the fleet worked the right side of the course, sailing in shallow water searching for current relief. We knew this would be the case and led to the right side. The top four boats rounded mark one 9 and a half minutes after the start, then 1:30 goes by. O-n-e-M-i-n-u-t-e & T-h-i-r-t-y seconds went by before the next group of boats rounded. Why? The 3.5-4 knot down course current held boats as they double and triple tacked to get around M1. It was like watching the greyhounds at the dog track chase after that ever elusive mechanical rabbit. “They’re never going to make it.”

Case & Point:  The fleet got a very real taste of how important current relief upwind and finding current downwind was a winning strategy. Especially those boats who felt comfortable on the left side for the first five minutes of the race, until the boats on shore sailed into current relief.

Lesson 1:  Fall in line with natural forces. You can’t win against them.


The phenomenon of sea breeze is incredible. A simple calculation of air temperature, water temperature, and percentage of cloud cover can make the difference between: “the left side of the course is going to work sometime today, keep looking” and “the left side is going to work on the second half of your first downwind and the second upwind, count on it.”

I don’t want to give away too many secrets, but highly recommend some required reading of Frank Bethwaite’s High Performance Sailing to figure out how to predict wind activity and behavior. Thanks, Franky! You helped make the difference in our understanding of Gradient vs. Thermal breeze.

Lesson 2: Cloud cover, or lack there of, are incredible indicators of what the breeze is doing/or will do, both aloft and on the surface.


Above: Nico feeling divine in Hyannis Port, MA, just offshore from the Kennedy Compound.


An impromptu tour of my22d0e480-c0d9-442e-914a-76e3a163deba.jpg buddy, Jay Leidel’s,  sail loft [thanks, Squeteague Sailmakers] gave our group a look at what goes into sail design, manufacturing, and care. This was one of my all time highlights of our NE campaign. And it sparked some interesting conversation in our team.

We now have a new appreciation for the 420 sail’s top batten and spent the rest of our time up north investigating the performative effects of different batten tensions in a variety of wind conditions. It is amazing to see how differently the boat responds, especially upwind, when twist is introduced into the sail’s head. In light air, our heaviest crew was outpointing the lightweights. {wait, what?} All because we started adjusting a 4inch piece of nylon webbing.

Lesson 3: Keep looking for new ways to go faster & point higher.

955c96e9-fbbf-4f05-808e-3a73b7aa1986.jpg FINAL THOUGHTS

This past summer inspired a whole new level of engagement when it comes to venue preparation, research, and equipment tuning.

Local knowledge is overrated, and practicing sound forecasting techniques support informed racing strategies.

I can’t wait to build upon these new lines of inquiry and skills that I personally gained, and the skills I watched the athletes achieve. This summer was so rewarding. A huge thanks to the parents at Key Biscayne Yacht Club for supporting their sailors, and their Sailing Director, Adrienne Kamilar, for making it happen!bfa14593-5d9d-4c54-b74c-3759fa0f777c.jpg


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