Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wing and Moth Worlds update

As most of you know, there has been quite a bit of controversy in regards to the legality of the wings in the Moth Class. Look through the SA forum here to get a feel for how polarized people feel about it
But in the mean time the class has now officially decided to let the wings measure in at the Worlds, and that takes some worries of our plate for the time being....
Yesterday marked the first day I spent a couple of hours sailing with the wing. After a morning session with my soft sail I took Wing #1 out for a spin. For all you Wing newbies out there, here are a few high lights of how it feels and what it does:
  • Weight wise it's really similar to a standard soft sail rig, so the dynamics are pretty similar (inertia)
  • You only really play with two controls: Main sheet and camber and on both there is hardly any load (my hands were really happy about that)
  • It was pretty shifty and gusty (5-12 knots) and it was really easy to change gears by just adjusting the camber of the sail (one small line with almost no load on it). The Softsail guys kept on having to work the vang and cunno.
  • Boat handling is a lot easier because you have more space to get across the boat, A LOT more space.
  • Speed wise the wing is performing well upwind in anything over 10 knots, but we haven't quite figured it out downwind.
  • Rigging and De-rigging takes 2 minutes
  • It looks cool

We are currently giving Wing #3 the finishing touches and when Bear arrives back from the Sydney-Hobart, we should be able to get all three wings out at once. Should be a good look.
In the mean time the rest of the fleet hasn't slept either. There are canting rigs out there, some more chopped off foils, crazy wand systems... the list goes on.
On the water, Scott Babbage and Nathan Outteridge are looking quick around the course.

Time to get up and get some cereal in me. It promises to another long day in  Belmont!
Chris out

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Houston, we have lift off!

So I got to Belmont on the 22nd (a couple of days ago), by airplane, train, bus and walking.... Bora,, Bear and  Matt had already unpacked the container and put their boats together. Since then we have been furiously working on sorting out the wings. Unfortunately Bear had to leave yesterday for Sydney as he will be sailing on the Volvo 70 Ichiban (ex- Brunel) and wasn't with us when we took the first second generation wing for a spin. Bear's rigging controls all worked beautifully and the wing is an absolute work of art!
Here are a couple of pics and a video at the end...
Stepping the wing for the first time to sort out control. Bora, Matt and Bear

The Master at work....
Chris out

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bacio wins first first Miami Winter Series Event

The Audi Melges 20 Winter Series have started with a bang for us! It was great to get back in the boat again since our last event on Lake Geneva at the beginning of October. We had two days of practice on Thursday and Wednesday to shake off the cobwebs, which we used mainly to work on maneuvers and starting. Our boatspeed has never really been an issue so it's a bit on the back burner right now. New on the team for this season we will have Jamie Kimball joining us for a couple of events, substituting for Mitchell (Michael's son) when school or his Laser radial sailing has priority over the Melges 20 schedule.
With an incredible 26 boats on the starting line and various teams practicing hard in November and December we were really excited about this regatta. Obviously the competition had stepped it up and as the number 1 ranked team in the USA they were coming after us!
On Saturday there was only very little wind on Biscayne bay and the Race Committee found a small window of opportunity to get one race in. It started with 4 knots (class minimum) and by the end of the first run it had more or less fizzled out again. John Arendhorst's "Blink" with Scott Nixon and Dani Gamache showed great overall performance to take the race win ahead of Mary-Ann Ward and class new comer Ryan Devos.
Light air action on "Blink"
We, on the other hand, only looked good in the beginning. Showing great speed for the first two legs, but then we picked the wrong side of the course for the second upwind and lost over 9 places on one upwind! Puh, tough one... Luckily, we rallied back on the last down wind to finish 9th.
Needlessly to say, not quite the start to the Winter Series we had envisioned.
But better times were on their way with some solid breeze in the forecast for Sunday's racing. And Aelous delivered on his promise.

Three more races were held on Sunday in increasing breezes with gusts over 20 knots. Just what the doctor had ordered! Luckily we had just received our new SLAM team gear from Filippo Bovio (US SLAM destributor) so we were all set to go.
Now it was time for Bacio (Italian for "Kiss" by the way) to pull out the plugs. Again it was Ryan Devos with Morgan Reeser and Drew Weirda that was challenging for the top spot in the first race, but eventually we reeled them in and scored our first win.
As the wind increased for the the last two races, more and more teams struggled with boat handling and we capitalized on superior upwind and downwind speed to take two more bullets and the overall win. This also allowed us to win the most important race, the one back to the hoist at Shake-a-Leg before all the Etchells would come in.
Chris, Michael and Jamie
 Obviously a great start for "Bacio" for the Audi Melges 20 Winter Series. Full Results can be found here.
Our thanks go out to the Audi Melges 20 Class and their superb class secretary Joy Dunigan for organizing a great event and also to SLAM and Filippo Bovio for our outfitting our team.
All Pictures by Joy Dunigan

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Stay on the long tack!

My roommate Steve Hunt has a couple of important tactical guidelines that he teaches his high school sailors. One of them is to stay on the lifted tack towards the mark. Today's racing conditions were challenging to say the least and his advice was spot on. The breeze was coming exactly offshore and this provided for some very shifty winds. We saw a 40 degree range in direction and velocity was between 8 and 20 knots. In our team huddle before the first race I told my team that we were aiming for three top 6 finishes and that we were going to achieve this by not getting caught out to one side of the race course in order to still be able to capitalize on all the shifts which became more and more random towards the shore line (the windward mark was 100 yards from the beach). The plan worked out and we rounded the first windward mark twice in 1st and once in 2nd!
With a 7th and two 2nds we won the day and finished 6th overall (on count back with Jeff Ecklund's Star).
Our team steadily improved over the last couple of days and it has been another interesting and rewarding learning experience for me. I would in particular like to thank our "Pit " Linda Lindquest-Bishop for some good advice in regards to our team communication and role distributions.
Obviously my thanks go out to all of our team members for having put a great effort into getting Delta its first really good result on the score board. Bob Hughes (our alternative driver for Saturday and Sunday) Morgan Reeser and Willem Vanwaay kept our boat fast and we all know that the best tactician is called "Boat Speed"!!!!
Last but not least I'd like to thank Doug and Dalton Devos and their awesome shore crew for enabling us to sail this great event.
For me its off to Miami tomorrow, getting ready for the first Melges 20 event of the winter. I'll once again be sailing with Michael Kiss on "Bacio". Can't wait to bomb around Biscayne Bay!
Chris out

Full results can be found here

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Good and the Bad...

Farlet Fontenot, our coach, put it in the best possible way today: Chris, your fortune is that you are sailing with some really great sailors and your problem is that you are sailing with some really great sailors. Sounds confusing, but he totally nailed it...... I will explain: 
As I mentioned in yesterday's post we have some new people on Delta. Some really GOOD new people. Willem Vanwaay (former Bliksem Trimmer) is trimming and we have Morgan Reeser doing Main for us and also providing great tactical insight being a Ft Lauderdale resident. For me as a tactician it's a two sided sword. I tremendously respect Morgan as a very accomplished sailor, having known him from back in the days when we both used to sail 470s. So when he does provide his tactical opinion and it doesn't concur with my own current tactical plan I start second guessing myself. I need to learn to trust my instincts while considering other opinions, no matter who it is. After all, in the end it is my call.
I feel truly very lucky for being in this situation and having the opportunity to grow as a sailor with such good people around me. Not something which should be taken for granted.
We ended the day with a 3rd and a 12th and are now laying in 10th overall, fairly close to 6th. Tomorrow we are expecting westerly breezes which are known be very shifty. So I'm sure we'll have some more interesting tactical discussions on board!

Chris out

Friday, December 3, 2010

Team Confidence rules...

The Melges 32 Circuit has started off again and the fleet has regathered in Fort Lauderdale for the Gold Cup. It's a three day event and we have a solid 21 boats on the starting line. There have been a few crew mix ups since the Worlds and our two teams, Volpe (Dick and Ryan Devos) and Delta (Doug and Dalton Devos) were able to pick up some really good sailors. Sam Rogers has joined Volpe as a trimmer and on Delta we have Morgan Reeser doing Main and Willem Vanway trimming. Yes, some really good people....I have switched into the tactician spot and now have to carry the blame if we go the wrong way. :-)
Unfortunately Doug and Dalton couldn't make this event and we've had to scramble to fill Delta's driver's seat. As a very worthy helmswoman we today had Linda Lindquist and for Saturday /Sunday we'll have Bob Hughes (Heartbreaker) filling in. We also have a new bowguy, Roy McPhail who has his hands full with the massive Melges32 kites. That said, we have 50% new crew on our Delta team, not our regular driver and are also currently working on a new Kite retrieval system (Take down à la 49er style). We did have two days of practice but our confidence in executing tight maneuvers under pressure is obviously not where it should be, yet!
We sailed three races today in glamorous wind conditions and Linda did a great job. We put her in some pretty tight spots and she stayed cool through out the whole day. We even pulled off a pin end start perfectly! With an 11th, 9th and a 12th we are now currently in 11th place overall. Volpe, with Ed Baird doing tactics and Ryan Devos on the helm, had a really good day and are currently in 2nd overall. Full results can be found here.
So for tomorrow Bob Hughes will be on the helm and we're looking forward to some more tight racing in sunny Florida.
Chris out

Sunday, October 31, 2010

New Mach2 Moth West Coast Distributor

As most of you know by now, I have been bitten by the Moth bug. Even though Pro-Sailing is a lot of fun, I was looking for something I could really sink my teeth in and I found it in the Moth. At the Europeans in Silvaplana I finished a respectable 9th place and turned a couple of heads. While talking to the designer of the Mach2, Andrew McDougall, we came to the conclusion that Mach 2 Boats needed an East and West Coast distributor to further help grow the success of the Mach2 Moth in the USA. And here we are now, Anthony Kotoun is in charge of the East Coast and I'm helping the fleet grow on the West Coast.
If you belong to the kind of sailor that is ready to take the next step and add another dimension to your sailing, then  you should consider jumping on a moth. It is truly exhilarating! I'm looking forward to helping many more sailors enjoy the feeling of effortless foiling.
More info about the Moth and how to order one can be found here: Mach2Boats

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Team Bacio wins the Melges 20 Nationals

Mitchell, Michael and myself with our trophys

Well it's official, our team won the Melges 20 Nationals with a huge lead. We sailed the first race today and finished second, then sailed straight back to the club to take our boat out of the water. We didn't need to race the last race as that was going to be our throw out. We counted 5 first places and two second places. We weren't exactly planning on  giving everyone that kind of a spanking, nevertheless it feels pretty good.

We actually had to fight for our second place finish today, after rounding in 10th at the first windward mark. We picked up places around the course, found 5th gear on the second upwind and rounded in 2nd at the second upwind mark. John Arendhorst had a nice lead and we couldn't quite reel him in.....Congrats to him and his team on securing second place!
This marks the end of almost 9 weeks of sailing for me and being away from San Diego. Too long! Anyways, tomorrow it's off to the West Coast, to check in with my room mate Steve Hunt and put in some serious surfing. Can't wait for some good surf and dawn patrols, followed by breakfast at the New Break Coffee Shop in OB.

Final results can be found here and
the official Melges 20 Blog here.

Chris out!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

2nd day of racing at the Melges 20 US Nationals, Bacio takes two bullets and a second

Another beautiful day awaited us today as we got ready to race at 11 AM on lake Michigan. Breeze was again out of the south around 12 knots.

 Our team went through our usual pre race routines and discussed our strategy for the first race and the whole day. With three bullets on the score board we were going to take it easy and focus on getting single digits on the score board.
With our secret weapon, Mitchell, on board this was going to be easy! But today we had to fight for our finishes. Often it came down to the last downwind on which we showed superior speed and we're able to pick up the last remaining boats ahead us. The breeze slowly rotated right and eased off to about 6 knots for the last race. We ended the day with another two bullets and a second. Which now puts us in a comfortable spot at the top of the leader board. It's kinda weird to be in this position because you never count on being in it. Tomorrow we just need to get one race in the top 15 and we can call it a day and go enjoy drinks at the Yacht Club. The forecast is calling for light winds so that means that anything is possible.....
I'm grateful to be part of Michael Kiss' program. He has put the necessary levers in place in order for us to be in this great position to challenge for the top spot. Immaculate equipment, new sails, practice time etc, has all led to where we are now. Thank you Michael!

Time to get some zzzzzzs and just have a good night's sleep.

Chris out

More info can be found here
and also on the official Melges 20 here

and results are here!
and pics are here!

Friday, August 27, 2010

1st day of racing at the Melges 20 US National Championship. Three bullets for Team Bacio

Once again I'm sailing on board the Melges 20 "Bacio"with Michael Kiss and his son Mitchell. It's the highlight of the season for our team, the US National Championships hosted at Michael's home Club, Macatawa Bay Yacht Club in western Michigan.
Our team had some good practice Monday through Wednesday and a well deserved day off on Thursday. We worked on maneuvers, tuned our boat and sorted out all the important details.
The entry list is looking good with plenty of well skilled owners and professionals helping to get the boat around the course. The weather has been very cooperative and today even the wind was on its best behavior. We were greeted with 15-17 knots of South-Westerly breeze, a nasty chop and an impressive 1 knot southerly current on the race course. After a couple of failed starts the pin  boat was finally in the right spot and the fleet was behaving better (maybe because of the Z-Flag?) and the race was on.
We're USA 13, stomping through the chop

We played two shifts and rounded in first, put the kite up and were....... gone. We won the first race in great fashion and did the same in the second and third race. Three bullets, nice way to kick off the championship!

We have 5 more races scheduled over the next two days, we just need to take race by race and not get over confident.
Preliminary results can be found here and the pics are from the local Photographer Mark Niskanen.
Mitchell, Michael and me

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Final day of racing at Moth Europeans, Silvaplana Switzerland

We woke up to another beautiful day in the Engadin, packed up our bags and made our way to the club.
Bora and Nathan were tied for first place so the stage for an epic battle was perfectly set. Unfortunately Bora and Anthony had managed to catch some kind of stomach bug, so we were happy to see an initial postponement as the Maloya wind took a while longer to establish itself.
Racing got underway around 2PM and things were looking mighty fine for the US Airforce Team. Even though Bora didn't start well, he worked his way through the pack and won the race. But not without feeding the fish at least once every lap. He came in to shore and was totally exhausted. He was winning the regatta, but his body was failing him....
Anthony was also struggling with dehydration and was taking advantage of the fact that the Silvaplana lake water is fine to drink. I started strong in that race, but had to many boat handling errors to bring home a really good finish.
For the last race Bora made it down to the starting line, but couldn't keep up with the intensity as his stomach was cramping up more and more and so eventually pulled out of the race. This left the door wide open for Nathan to go on and win the race and therefore also the overall ranking. Hat off to Nathan for showing some excellent performance.
I had another o.k. race and in the end was able to squeeze into 9th place, with which I'm very happy with. I feel super lucky to have been part of the US Airforce Team. I learned a ton about sailing the Moth and what this class is really about. The camaraderie is probably second to none.

Anthony and I are off to the airport now to catch our flights back to USA.

US Airforce Team over and out (until the next time)

P.S. check out the videos and pics on the official website. Really nice stuff.

Friday, August 20, 2010

4th day of racing, the eagle has landed

Launching my Moth "gimme more"

Sorry to tell you folks this again, but we had another spectacular day of racing here in Switzerland. The sun was out, the Maloya Wind was pumping and the Moths were flying. The US Airforce Team was looking solid. Bora has finally taken the overall lead with another two bullets and a second. His main competition, Nathan Outerridge, had a tough day with another impressive break down (layers of Carbon coming off his main horizontal), but still scored ok results. Tomorrow it will come down to who beats who in the remaining races.
Anthony was also struck by bad luck when his lashing of the shrouds broke and his rig came down. He got towed back to the beach and the shore team had him up and running for the last race.

It seems that as the racing is drawn out we are seeing more and more breakdowns happening. These boats need constant maintenance in order to be in racing shape. Luckily (touch wood or my head) I haven't had anything that held me back so far. It's nice to be racing with a brand new boat....
Those who have been following the racing on-line with the Trak Trak GPS System know by now that I had a pretty nice day. Each race I felt better and better and kept pushing the boat harder. In the first two races I scored a 6th and a 5th, capitalizing on my upwind speed and just staying out of trouble around gates and low pressure zones. For the last race I gave it all I had and came off the starting line with all guns blazing. After some mediocre tacks I still managed to round the top mark in 4th position. The breeze was up and I had told myself I would push it hard downwind. With some well placed gybes I rounded the leeward gate in 3rd! Nothing wrong there. But then my luck ran out and during a mini second laps of concentration I stuffed the bow and the boat went stern up. For the first time this regatta I lost my cool and yelled out some swiss/french/italian/american profanities as I got on the centerboard to right my boat. Bora sailed past me during the whole process and cheered me on to get my act back together again quickly. After getting back in the saddle I managed to get back in 8th place. Tough way to end the day, but still a very good overall performance with the improvement arrow still showing up.

Don't believe the results are up yet so checkout the website later.
Tomorrow morning we have to get out of our apartment and then it's off to the club for the last few races.

Send us your best vibes so we can bring home the bacon!

US Airforce Team out

Thursday, August 19, 2010

3rd day of racing, Happy Gilmore has learned how to put!

Start of race 9, I'm in the first row, third boat from the right

Today was classic Maloya Wind conditions with full sunshine on Lake Silvaplana and the Race Committee cranked out another three races.
Bora had another solid day with a 2; 2; and a bullet, but his main competition, Nathan Outerridge had two bullets and a first. They are obviously still very close in the ranking, with only two points separating them.
Anthony looked very strong in the first race, but unfortunately his vang strop broke on the last lap forcing him to sail with a very full sail, dropping him a couple of spots. A quick pitstop on the beach, some help from Dave and he was good to go again for the next race.

Using the analogy from Happy Gilmore: Chris has learned how to put ;-) (non-americans won't understand this joke). I was able to pull off three top ten finishes and I'm obviously super happy to have moved up in the rankings.  I started the day with my raptor sail and a softer rig, anticipating stronger winds. But that never happened so I ended up switching sail and mast for the last race. I just couldn't keep any height with that setup (sail blading out too quickly). A quick pit stop and help from everyone on the beach and my other sail was up and running. It was the right call and I was able to bring a 7th place home in the last race,
I'm now in 11th overall and it would be great to be able to crack in to the top ten. I have the upwind speed, but I'm still holding back downwind (adjusting my ride height gizmo, so I don't ride too high). Bora on the other hand  doesn't touch his adjuster and just sails super smooth (and a bit out of control at times!)
Biggest difference for me was the improvement in my tacks. They weren't great, but none of them were super bad (as in capsizing). I rounded twice in the top four, which shows that I have the starting skills and the upwind speed. My game is slowly coming together and it's fun to be able to play with the big dogs. There is still ways to go, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Our commute on our bikes takes us past a beautiful waterfall and we decided to hike up to the fall on the way home.
Instead of boring you with more sailing pictures here are some more scenic ones.
Our Swedish Hotties that hang around our boat park corner...
Bora, Dave, myself and Anthony on our way to the waterfall
We see this waterfall from the race course
More pictures and results can be found here.

US Airforce Team out!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2nd day of racing at the Moth Europeans

The American Eagle rules the alps!
US Airforce team, chilling out in between races

Bora turned in a stellar day with two bullets and a 2nd. THAT is why the US Airforce rules the sky baby!
Breeze was up in 20 knot zone when we launched and and on the way down to race course I swear I hit at least 28 knots of boatspeed! Needlessly to say the conditions were a bit too challenging for guys like me (not enough time in the boat). But on the other hand Bora just couldn't stop smiling every time another gust came through. He knew it was his time to shine, and man, he did shine!
Anthony I looked pretty good at times, we both actually led the 2nd race until the windward mark, when I decided to check out the water temperature (also known as capsizing). Anthony kept charging until his downhaul broke, which made the boat really difficult to sail. At least we were both able to play with the big boys for a change...

In the third race i unfortunately missed the start by a couple of minutes after again checking the water temperature, so I just had to keep working myself through the pack. On the bright side it's worth mentioning that I had blistering upwind speed, which was really nice! Now i just have to stop being such a chicken downwind and freaking send it!
Anthony in second place at the windward mark

Since we only completed 6 instead of 8 races so far, we will be racing again tomorrow (which was supposed to be our day off).
Results can be found here!
Our team is off to the official dinner which is held on top of a mountain somewhere.

US Airforce Team out!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First day of racing at the Moth Europeans, No rain today!!!

Please no 4th race, please no 4th race, please no 4th race... Was going through my mind up the second beat of the third race. My legs were getting seriously tired and my arms were cramping up after the first two races. Temperatures were a bit more moderate today and we didn't have ANY rain!!! Soooo nice!!!

Lets backtrack a bit to get everyone up to speed...
We have three USA Moths here at the European Championships in Silvaplana, with Bora Gulari leading the charge. In addition we have Anthony Kotoun (US Virgin Islands) who has been training hard in Newport for this event. Myself I haven't exactly had a decent build up for this event. After the Coronado Event in the beginning of February I haven't gotten any serious practice in. Fortunately I got some good sailing in Harbor Springs before coming here. On the bright side I have stepped up my equipment program, chartering a Mach2 Moth for this event. Its amazing how much easier it is to get up to speed compared to the Blade Rider. I had a huge smile on my face the first time I took it for a spin :-))))
The last couple of days have been cold and rainy and the mountains around have been getting whiter and whiter with new shades of snow.
There were a couple of highlights from today's racing (did I mention it didn't rain already?)
First imagine 85 moths taking off on the same starting line with the odd port tack starters swerving through the pack. The amount of adrenaline pumping is ridiculous!

I hooked into a monster lefty and made it to the windward mark in about 6th place. Hmmmm, lots of good company around me. Needlessly to say, after a couple more gybes and tacks I found myself around 18th place. Wow! things happen fast in the moth class...
Bora sailed through the fleet and finished 4th and Anthony had his first top ten! Yoohoo!!! Not a bad way to start the day.
At the start of the second race it was Anthony and Bora who blasted through on port. Anthony made it through, but Bora provided some spectator action, having to avoid one too many starboard tackers and almost capsizing! Again the left was strong and finding a good left shift was key. On the other the top right of the course was getting known quickly as the the "Coffin Corner". So over-standing on port was much better than getting stuck in the coffin corner...
Again Bora kept plugging away, showing good speed and great boat handling around the course, ending up with a 6th. This time I kept the pressure on and was able to squeeze into the top ten. I was pretty sighted with my performance. I headed into the shore to put on another layer as the temperatures were dropping and the chill factor increasing. Lucky enough the finishing line is basically 50 meters next to the beach, so it was a quick in and out.

I met up with the rest of the US Airforce team in the starting area and I felt that my arms and legs only had one more race in them. After a mediocre start I kept working the left side of the beat and kept away from the coffin corner. Everybody on  the race course was looking pretty tired and hiking form wasn't exactly spectacular. Bora was duking it out with Nathan Outerridge at the front but couldn't quite bring the bacon home. Nevertheless, with a 2nd in the last race his probably in third overall now.
Anthony and I put in another o.k. race but nothing spectacular.
Results aren't up yet, so you'll have to check later.
All of us are pretty pumped up that racing has finally begun and we're looking forward  to kicking some more Euro butt tomorrow.
US Airforce team out.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bacio finishes 6th place out of 37 boats at the Melges 20 Gold Cup in Malcesine, Lake Garda

Together with the owner, Michael Kiss from Holland Michigan, Alain Stettler and I represented the USA at the unofficial World Championships of the Melges 20 class.

A brand new Melges 20 (Hull #190) was waiting on us in Malcesine on Monday morning and my good friend Alain Stettler and I spent most of the day putting our sweet little new toy together. (Kudos go out to Federico and his team at Melges Europe for excellent service and always lending a hand if something wasn’t quite as it should.) After some more boat work and two days of practice we started racing on Thursday.
At Charleston Race Week this year we won the Melges 20 event, so the expectations from owner Michael Kiss were understandably high! But looking at the line-up at this event I knew it was going to be WAY harder. First of all we had all of the top Italian teams and they have been sailing these boats hard, REALLY hard and are way ahead of everyone else in terms of boat handling and tuning. Secondly, the tacticians and crews were more or less the crema de la crema in Italy and internationally. Names like Gabrio Zandono, Roberto Benematti, Matteo Ivaldi, Flavio Favini, Nathan Wilmot, Juan de la Fuente, Branko Brzkin, Chicco Fonda were starring down at me… Hmmm, this was going to be interesting and challenging to say the least.
A 6th place in the first race put us on the right track but our hopes for a top finish evaporated when our bow sprit unexpectedly broke in the second race and we limped into the finish in 23rd. To make things worse the fleet sailed another race and we’d have to score a DNC. Arrghhh....

Again Federico and his Melges Europe team pulled through and the next morning we magically had another bowsprit installed when we arrived at the boat. Which other class provides that kind of service, hellloooo!!!
For the rest of the regatta we now had to play it safe as we were already counting a 23rd and were using the DNC as our discard. We sailed a good series of single digit finishes which put us in 6th place overall in the end. Full results can be found here.
Oh and did I mention that almost all races were sailed in 15 - 20 knots and sunshine?

For our team this was mainly a good event to learn more about the tuning and for Michael to get more comfortable in boat-on-boat situations and managing tight lanes. We did a lot of spy work on the top Italian teams and were on par with them at the end of the regatta. So overall this has been an excellent opportunity for us to improve our skills and hopefully get a little jump on the US Fleet at the up coming Nationals in Holland, MI in about a months time.

What were the highlights of this regatta?
  • Excellent service
  • Spectacular regatta venue and race management
  • Great food
  • Outstanding crew (Alain)
  • Very focused and trusting driver (Michael)
  • A few good tactical calls
  • Improvements in upwind speed
  • Solid downwind speed
  • Morning and evening bike rides along Lake Garda

What were the down sides of this regatta?
  • Broken bow sprit
  • It actually rained once
  • Traffic through Torbole
Here some more pics by Carlo Borlenghi, Renato Tebaldi, Meredith Block and Fabrizio Prandini
Bacio at leeward gate, Alain fighting with the kite
Bacio blasting downwind
All Ladies team "Troublemakers" showing how it is done!
Alain and Michael taming the beast, where's Chris?
Michael getting us around the leeward mark safely

For more pics and video by Mr Clean visit the Melges Europe Facebook page.

So far sailing in this class has been a blast and I can't wait to get back on the Melges 20!

Chris out

Monday, July 12, 2010

Melges 24 Volvo Cup in Torbole, Lake Garda

Last week I had the great opportunity to sail Melges 24 with my "old" Match Racing Team and the addition of Felix Kaiser on one of the most beautiful sailing venues in the World, Lake Garda. We were going to sail the Swiss EFG Bank Melges 24, Hull nr 336. Lake Garda didn't disappoint and we had 12 races sailed in 12-20 knots of "Ora" and sunshine, every day.
My team included Alain Stettler (an old high school buddy of mine) our trimmer, Patrick Zaugg our tactician, Pascal Alder our bow man and Felix Kaiser doing Middle.
Before the race even started we had a bit of drama. The racing was going to start on Thursday and somehow we thought it started on Friday! As Pascal and Felix were only arriving on Thursday evening we needed to find some replacement crew. Lucky enough for us, Dave Hudson (a good friend of our family) from Capetown was in town practicing for the Laser SB3 Worlds and we "borrowed" Marlon and Roscoe from his team for the first day.
Sailing in Torbole in the Melges 24 is really intense as usually you have to work the left side of the course, up the cliffs and then find the right moment to exit on port.
Having a fleet of 60 boats tacking up the shore provides for some interesting crossing situations and often some boats end up having to be taken out of the water at the end of the day. Not having practiced together at all we started a bit shaky and after two days were laying in eight place, knowing why the Italians are dominating this class. It's impressive how professional this guys run their campaigns! But in the mean time we had also managed to snitch a bullet from them and were drawing first blood....

The third day saw us sailing a consistent series with all top 8 finishes which solidified our position in the top eight, laying only ten points out of third. With three races to go, a podium finish was definitely still in reach. In the first race on the last day another mid-line start with a good transit line gave us a great lane to the cliffs and we were able to squeeze around the windward mark in 2nd. A couple of well placed gybes saw us take the lead and eventually the bullet. Nice way to start the last day of racing!

Things were looking good with 2 minutes to go before the start of the next race, but I was a bit trigger happy and jumped the gun. "OCS Bow number 99" came over the radio and we had to turn back to restart. After having some serious issues with connecting the dots on the first upwind, we eventually rallied back to 16th. Unfortunately the race was started under the Z-flag rule which meant that 20% of the fleet was added to our score (becoming our throw-out). The race committee signaled the warning signal to the last race 2 minutes before 14h00, the last possible time to do so and we were off to another race. We actually played the middle this time and rounded the mark in 4th. Ricardo Simoneschi on "Audi" and our team went back and forth for third place. We eventually got him on the last gybe to the finish, when "simo-gybed" with him and then rolled him. Needlessly to say the whole team was pleased with this last maneuver! Our finishes were: 7, 23, 4, 11, 1, 18, 6, 8, 5, 1, (16) and 3, putting us in 6th overall.
It was really nice to be sailing with some friends, bombing around lake Garda during the day, eating great food in the evening and closing the "Wind's Bar" at night. I guess this qualifies as a true active holiday in my book!
My thanks go out to all my team mates and to EFG Bank for providing us with a fine Melges 24 for this regatta.
More pictures to the regatta can be found here and the results can be found here.
Photo credits by Pierrick Contin

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Attitude of Winning: Embracing the Challenge

"You gotta be out of your freaking mind!" was the response I got from one of my best sailing buddies when I explained to him in early 2006 that Tim and I were considering campaigning in the 49er for the 2008 Olympic Games. "Morgan and Pete (one of the other US 49er teams) are currently almost dominating the class and you guys want to go up against them? You haven't even ever crewed in the 49er!"
I understood his reasoning but at the same time also realized that with that kind of an attitude you were never going to win a Gold Medal.

In today's short article I would like to dig into the most important factor when it comes to winning or losing: The Attitude of Winning. There are many parts that make up this attitude and one of them is the way we embrace challenges. It's something we are faced with every day, sometimes just on a small scale and sometimes it can be life changing challenges that must be conquered.

Some people think of challenges as mountains that have to be climbed. They see only the small crevices and steep walls, the difficulty of making it on to the next ledge.

I prefer thinking about the view we will enjoy when we make it to the top. The only way to truly master a challenge starts off by embracing it. You must be grateful to have been put into a position of facing the challenge.
That brings me back to the beginning of the article. Yes, campaigning for the Olympic Games is one of the biggest challenges you can commit to. Doing it whilst having to beat other great teams in order to actually go there makes your life even more difficult! And that is the point. The view from the top of that mountain is only as good as the challenges you must overcome in order to get there.

So the next time you're faced with steep competition at your next major regatta, embrace the challenge. Be grateful of having so many great competitors to sail against. As you're coming into that leeward gate with ten other boats at the same time, enjoy having the opportunity to show what you're made of.
Instead of being afraid of getting you're ass kicked, be grateful for the opening that lets you improve your skills.

Chris out

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gears and Transmissions

Dear readers
I'm feeling pretty lucky today so I have decided on writing this "delicate" and slightly weird article. Since I'm expecting to lose approximately half of the readers half way into the article I will start off by telling you what value it will bring if you persevere all the way until the end:
  • If you are a skipper or someone who is frequently in the position of putting new teams together, this article will give you new overall perspective on this issue.
  • If you are a Pro or Amateur Sailor it will help you realize what it takes to integrate into a team and hopefully you will question some of your current practices. (Never a bad thing to take a hard look at yourself, right?)
Here it goes. Business School has taught me that its very powerful to utilize analogies when explaining difficult concepts and that's what I will do here.
I will begin by explaining you the basic concepts of gears and a gearbox. (Again, please bear with me!)
 Picture from wikipedia, a five-speed gear box
Note the different sizes and tooth shapes of the gears mounted on the shafts
  • The purpose of a gearbox is to transmit power from a power source into something else, often allowing for a change of direction and different gear ratios
  • The efficiency of a transmission is defined by the quotient of the power at the output and the power at the input. (The more losses you have, the worse the efficiency will be). In an ideal world you would want to have 100% efficiency....
  • Gears come in many different sizes and tooth shapes. These shapes include straight cut, helical, double helical, bevel, hypoid crown, worm etc. Check out the wikipedia page on gears if you really want to dig into details...
So what makes it a good gearbox? A good gearbox:
  • Performs under the most adverse conditions (e.g. even if one gear somehow stops working), snow, sun, low and hot temps etc.
  • Has the appropriate gear ratios (amount of forward / reverse gears and ratios etc.)
  • Has low maintenance requirements (may be even self lubricating)
  • Has maximum possible efficiency
  • Is user friendly. Meaning that it is relatively non partisan to different kind of operators (the mechanism that shifts between the various gears
  • Does all the above at the lowest possible cost
In order for a gearbox to function properly:
  • It has to be designed to the correct specifications
  • All the gears need to have the appropriate size and tooth shape (straight cut won't work with helical, duh...)
  • Needs to be lubricated properly (oil levels!!!)
  • The shafts on which the gears are mounted need to be strong enough and properly aligned, otherwise you will have wear and tear on your gears and thus low efficiency.

So this is the point where I believe that anyone that doesn't subscribe to Popular Mechanics, will have closed this window and is updating their Facebook page with a note telling all their friends that I have completely lost it.

So how does this relate to sailing? Well, most of you have probably figured this out by now (and otherwise you're probably not the sharpest gear in the gearbox!)

I like to compare team members on a sailing team to gears in a gearbox (gearbox being the team).
Designing a new gearbox takes more than experience. Actually often it is closer to performing a long lost craftsmanship than anything else. Some owners/team managers believe that all you have to do is go out and get the best sailors on your boat and they will have the best possible gearbox available and win the regatta. Too many regattas have proved that this is the wrong approach...

I would like to suggest the following approach:
  • First of all determine the specifications of your gearbox. What is it supposed to do? How many gears? Which are the most important gears? How long does it have to last? The list goes on.
  • What are the resources at your disposal and compare that to the available gears on the market.
  • Analyze each gear on their compatibility with the other gears and evaluate what else they can contribute to the gearbox. (Some gears are known to also give back rubs and bake chocolate chip cookies for all the other gears. Such attributes help with keeping the gearbox nicely lubricated, hi Sarah C. !)
  • According to your budget and time constraints, build your gearbox and allow it to adjust to each gear (practice time). You can for example also bring in a coach to help you align the shafts (less wear and tear), help modify the tooth shapes and make your gearbox more efficient!
  • Once things are moving smoothly make sure to check the oil level periodically. (I have heard that nice team dinners or inviting your gearbox to a ski weekend in Park City works wonders in that area.)
And what does this mean to you as a gear within the gearbox?

Figure out what kind of a gear you are, so you know where you can add the most value. You don't want to end up somewhere on the shaft, having to work on a task that you're not good at. You won't be happy, and the rest of the gearbox won't be happy. Everybody on the shaft gets shafted, pun intended.
Whenever necessary and within your capacity you must adapt to the position you have been designed to do. This can also mean that you will have to change the shape of your gear teeth in order let things work smoothly. Can you do that?

Pro-Sailors like to gloat about themselves how they can just fit into any team and perform at the highest level. Unfortunately I have often experienced the opposite. Quite a few are prima donnas, need a lot of lube and usually have everyone else adapt to their tooth shape. In the process losing valuable other gear ratios and minimizing efficiency.
Amateur sailors on the other hand sometimes think they have the necessary gear ratios and strength and just can't deliver when the pressure is on.

What kind of a gear truly are you?

Hopefully this article has achieved its goal of allowing you to approach the way you put teams together in a new way and has you second-guessing how you as a gear could help the gearbox work more efficiently.

Chris out

P.S. Comments?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

You hide, you lose... Getting the most out of sparring partnerships

In our preparation for the forecasted light air conditions in China, Tim and I decided to hold two training camps in San Diego and Long Beach. We invited the Canadian and the Ukrainian Olympic representatives to join us.
 Rodion and George with some seals, picture taken in San Diego. They were super excited about these seals and made me take hundreds of pics of them...
Well, one of the great attributes about San Diego (apart from pretty consistent light air conditions) is the high concentration of truly remarkable sailors. I was looking for some advice for our upcoming partnerships and I found myself talking to Vince Brun and David Hughes at North Sails in Point Loma. In regards to how we should handle information sharing with our sparring partners (which would eventually be our competition at the Olympic Games), Vince's advice was simple. In his usual Brazilian accent he said: "You hide, you lose."

The most precious resource you have while campaigning is time. It's not money or energy, it's time and thus we must use it as efficiently as possible. It doesn't matter if you're in it for an Olympic Medal or preparing for a National Championship, if you need to fast track your learning curve then one of the best ways doing this is by working together with other teams. The benefits of working with sparring partners are manifold. Apart from having a speed benchmark, you get to share laughs and hard times, channel your competitive spirit on them (instead of yourself or your team mates) and sometimes it's just about sharing a beer with someone else than your skipper.

So how do you get the most out of a sparring partnership? Who do you partner with?
  • In an ideal world you find partners, which are faster/better than you in the conditions you're trying to improve in, but won't beat you in the regatta. You're looking for teams, which are practice kings, but can't deliver when the pressure is on.
  • Next on the list is reliability. A team, which always shows up on time and is organized is way more valuable than hotshots which grace you with their appearance when it fits their schedule.
  • All of this goes down the drain if you can't generate trust. Going the extra mile to accommodate your partners will most likely result in reciprocal actions and you will build a relationship that will provide much more than just a benchmark.
  • And obviously its an added plus if you like hanging out with them as well
Apart from working with the Ukrainians and the Canadians, one of our most memorable and fulfilling partnerships was with the German 49er team, Jan and Hannes Peckolt. They were highly dedicated, reliable and very German (and I don't mean that in any negative way). Together we spent countless hours on the water making each other faster, pushing each other when one team was ready to throw the towel in, sharing mast bend measurements and tuning philosophies. Jan and Hannes sailed a great Olympic Regatta and their efforts were rewarded with a bronze medal. I'm proud to have been part of the process in getting them there.
Chris enjoying a cappucino in the German team container during our training in Qingdao. Their container was amazing....

And that's what campaigning for the Olympic Games ultimately is. It's about working on experiences, goals, challenges and partnerships that you can be proud of for a life time, most likely more proud of than winning a Gold Medal...
So my advice to all of you who are seeking to work with sparring partners is to build a partnership that you can be proud of, no matter what the scoreboard ends up being. As Vince would say: "You share, you win!"

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Elvstroem Zellerbach, 2nd day of racing

Another beautiful day in San Francisco... We're about to board our Southwest flight so this one is going to be quick.

We sailed another three races today in a pretty well established westerly. The racing was tight in the front and we had some really good tacking duels up the shore line. We sailed very consistent but not quite good enough. In the end we lost the tie breaker with Max and David to finish third. The regatta was won by Screve/Moody, which seemed very comfortable once the breeze came up.
The first race of the day was won  by Kristen and Charlie and that was awesome!

For the last race the breeze was pumping and only Screve/Moody, Max/David, the Nielsens and our team were duking it out at the front of the pack. It was close racing and overall a very enjoyable weekend.

Our thanks go out to St Francis Yacht Club for putting up a great regatta.
Full results can be found here.
Chris out!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Elvstroem Zellerbach, 1st day of racing

JP and I are back together in the 29er, racing in the Elvstroem Zellerbach in San Francisco. The turn-out is a bit disappointing with only 10 boats on the starting line, but we do have some really good teams present.
We have Charlie McKee crewing for Kristen Lane from team Brickhouse (her 29er is called the "Brick Skiff"), Antoine Screve/ James Moody (the US team that will be representing at the ISAF junior worlds this year in Istanbul Turkey), Max Fraser/David (finished 5th at the worlds in the Bahamas) and few other talented juniors.
This is how it looked like this morning:
It was pretty low tide and we were going to race in the flood the whole day. Everyone who has sailed at St Francis Yacht Club knows that the current place a huge role. Especially in the lighter breeze. In a westerly breeze everybody heads immediately for the shore in order to get out of the adverse current. And that's what we did in the first race. We led for almost the whole first upwind, just to get caught by Max and David that kept working the shore even more than we did! Luckily we had pretty good downwind speed and were able to recapture the lead and win the first race.

Then finally the wind started to pick up a bit and continuously did so until the 4th and last race of the day when we started seeing some good puffs in the 18 knots range. But with the incoming tide it wasn't really a problem to handle it as the waves stayed fairly small.
Team Screve/Moody really lit it up with decent boat speed, but even better upwind tactics. Twice they pulled away from us by staying longer on the outside and picking a good right shift to come back to the shore. Well done boys! Our team did o.k. as well, ending the day on a 1st, two 2nds and a 3rd. Full Results can be found here.

And this is how it looked like when we came back in, just ridiculously amazing, isn't it?
JP and I are looking forward to a couple of more races tomorrow. Oh, and did I mention that JP pulled off four absolutely amazing starts? Wolf style baby....
For people who would like to watch the racing live you should try the St Francis Webcam that allows you to zoom in and turn the camera. Racing will start late because we have to wait for the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon to get under way.
The Triathletes swim from Alcatraz to Crissy Field (right next to St Francis Yacht Club) and then get on their bikes.
Chris out