Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bacio wins 2nd National Title

We just concluded the 2011 Audi Melges 20 US Nationals in Miami. We had three absolute great days of races with over 30 boats on the line. All races were held in planning conditions and all sailors enjoyed to be  ripping along at 15 knots +. That's not bad for a 20 ft boat!
We started the regatta strong and never let go of the title. With a 3rd in the 7th race we didnt have to sail the last race of the day. Instead we just watched the start of the last race and enjoyed watching these great sailboats race upwind.
Key to our success this weekend was definitely having an upwind speed edge on everyone else. Speed makes you a tactical genius... It definitely made my life easy as a tactician.
There was also a bit of drama in the prelude of the regatta when some boat's modifications to their keel plate were deemed illegal. The boats were still allowed to sail the regatta but have to now change it back to its original state.
Our team, Michael Kiss, Jamie Kimball and myself, have worked hard on improving our sailing skills and it really paid off at this regatta. We spent the two days before the regatta practicing on accelerations, rounding marks and all the usual maneuvers.

Now its back to Switzerland for a couple of weeks of work, then back to Miami for the Audi Melges 20 Gold Cup in December.
Results can be found here: Results

Chris out


Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Rally Back

"Chris, how are we going to win the Nationals?"
This is the kind of email I usually get about a week or two before another Audi Melges 20 event from our skipper Michael Kiss.
Our team has had a pretty solid track record since we started sailing together last year at Charleston Race Week. It includes winning last and this year's CRW, winning the Nationals last year, finishing 1st at one of the Miami Winter series events and winning the overall Winter Series.

Sounds pretty good, huh? Well, there are also plenty of regattas we didn't win.
The competition has caught up and they have painted a big fat bulls-eye on our mainsail.
So how are we going to win the Nationals this year? How will we keep our competition behind us?
Well, for starters, let’s stay humble. I mentioned that there have been plenty of regattas that we did not win. And usually it’s not because someone else sailed exceptionally well, but instead because we made too many mistakes and weren't able to rally back far enough up the ladder.

So what kind of skills do you need to be able to fight back after bad luck has struck you down? Here's a short list our team will keep working on:

Minimize the damage.
When things don't go your way, try putting a lid on it. By throwing a temper tantrum you will most likely loose twice as many boats, than if you focus on the next opportunity to get back in the game. It once again starts off by having the right attitude in such situations. Instead of mumbling the usual ".... why us again...", giving up on the race or blaming someone else verbally, always give it your best shot. The race isn't over until it’s over! Instead of blowing a gasket because the guy next to you at the mark has no clew what he's doing and is taking it extra wide (and by doing so letting 5 other boats come barging in), embrace the challenge you have been given.

Get good at sailing in thin lanes.
Too often I catch myself ducking a couple of boats more in order to get a clearer, wider lane. Instead, force yourself to pick thin lanes and hang in there, even if it sometimes means to sail in some bad air. So while you are out there practicing before the race, figure out where exactly that “bad” air really starts and how you can stay out of it in crowded spaces.

Get good at sailing in bad air.
This will prevent you from getting bounced out to the lay-lines too often. Usually anything over a 7 degree shift warrants to sail in a bit of bad air instead of continuing on a header, for who knows how long, until you finally get a clearer lane to tack on (by this time the breeze has most likely already swung back anyways).

Risk Management.
Opposed to my usual low risk sailing style, you must also sometimes take a bit of added risk in such situations. But this has to be calculated risk and not just some blind, “ring the bell” in the far right corner. Usually this also results in clearer breeze and therefore you can capitalize on your, hopefully superior, boat speed.

So these are my two cents on winning this next regatta. We'll see how it plays out!
Chris out

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Starting, Italian Style!

Kiss the Madonna and Baby Jesus for good luck!
So we finally managed getting off the line in the last race. And guess what, we were second at the windward mark. OMG, we DO still know how to sail! Jamie's main comment in regards to starting was: Beat the two boats around you. And he is sooooo right. Keep squeezing up to the windward boat until you at least can see the veins popping out out of the tacticians forehead or until you hear something like: " He, he, he gazzo dio, porca miseria!!!!! Then smile at them as you bear away at 10 seconds and leave them in the dust. Yeah.....
In the first race we actually got rolled, again. And that after repeatably telling ourselves that we were going to pull the trigger early....anyways, we managed to find a lane and were in ok shape at the first mark. Coming into the leeward gate it was full on with boats piling up and lots of Italian language. We positioned ourselves infront of another boat told them that they did NOT have an overlap coming into the mark zone, had to give the boat ahead of us some room so swerved a bit wide and guess what? The boat behind us just barged inbetween the mark and us. We end up having contact with them. We yelled protest and within two seconds we get a red flag and repeated whistles by my favorite Italian Umpire (who's name I will not disclose, but will tell you that I believe he is half blind). As I look back (after hearing the whistle, sure that the Italian boat was getting a penalty) I see that the flag is pointed at us. Not believing what my eyes are telling me, I shrug my shoulders in disbelief. The umpire completely looses and he's head literally almost explodes as he yells: USA 13, you will keep doing circles until I say so!!!! Madonna, take it easy pal......
Obviously we were in last after doing our circles and getting getting released from "circling-hell", caught a couple of boats and got ready for the last race.

Lots of good lessons learned. I'm super happy to have sailed this event with Michael and Jamie. At the end of the week we had found great upwind and downwind speed, adjusted to Italian starting and solidified our team under pressure.
31 Audi Melges 20 boats, ready to race!

Team Bacio is looking forward to sharing some Italian Starting Techniques at our next event at Charleston Race Week in a couple of weeks.... He, he, he, he :-)
More, less critical, reporting can be found on the Audi Melges 20 website here.
Congratulations are in order for the top Italian teams that sailed a really good regatta.

Chris out

Our new team car and driver....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Not getting off the line......

Team Bacio is currently in Naples, Italy sailing the first event of the 2011 Audi Melges 20 Sailing Series. I'm once again on board together with Michael Kiss and Jamie Kimbell. After a long winter series in Miami we are now measuring ourselves against the top Italian Teams.
Not so well so far.....
Today we had three races and in each off them we had more boats ahead of us than behind us. Not good! Hmmmmm.....
The conditions were light, very light at times combined with a nice bit of chop and some swell. The three of us just haven't sailed in these conditions and it showed. Nevertheless we remain determined to improve our light air sailing and keep learning new tricks in every race. Our upwind performance went from end-of the-fleet to mid-fleet as Michael's steering got better and better and we loosened our shrouds to the point where I thought the rig might jump out of the boat!
The other issue is that we're just not coming off the line. There are a lot more good boats here and they are aggressive little suckers! We just need to get in there and growl back!
Dare I say that I hope we have the same conditions tomorrow? Not necessarily good for our results but it will definitely make us work harder!
The event itself has been very well organized. Audi is spending some serious money on the Melges 32 and 20, putting up VIP tents, showing off their super cool cars and having some hot hostesses sweet talking you into buying one.
But that said it seems the class doesn't show the same kind of camaraderie as we have in the USA. Everything seems very serious, so serious that they have brought in 6 (yes six!) umpires to police the racing on the water. The chief umpire held a one hour presentation yesterday about how we was going to crack down on any kind of cheating and that he wasn't afraid of sending people home.... Wow, I'm happy we don't have that going on in the USA. Hopefully the US Melges 20 fleet will keeps its friendly character as I believe it is one of the main reasons why it is prospering so well.

Tomorrow we have another three races scheduled and Bacio will come out fighting! No more Mister nice American guy....
Chris out
more pics can be found here
P.S. We're laying in 20th position out of 31 boats.....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Improving our Game...

Bacio wins Audi Melges 20 Winter Series!!!
Happy Faces on Bacio: Chris, Mitchell and Michael
Well we just finished the Audi Melges 20 Winter Series in Miami. With a 2nd place at the Bacardi Miami Race Week we secured the title and we are still the team to beat. The series consisted of three regattas, concluding with the Bacardi Miami Race Week which boasted a total of 26 Melges 20s! How is that for one design racing! Every event saw a different winner. We won the first event, Red Sky (Paul Reilly) won the second event and the last event was won by Mary-Ann Ward on M&M Racing.
An ecstatic Mary-Ann Ward!
This is a testament to the great nature of the Melges 20 class. Everybody has improved their game since we last won the Nationals in August and we are having to work harder and harder to stay ahead or at least stay even with the other teams.
When Michael Kiss got me on board his Audi Melges 20 Bacio back in Charleston last year, we immediately got along. We are both quite technically inclined and enjoy bouncing ideas back and forth.
I consider the AM 20 one of the best sailing training platforms out there. Apart from offering great racing on the water, the owners are a pretty tight knit group that enjoy the social aspects of the class as much as the racing.
For me as a pro-sailor my main objective is to help my owner improve his own personal sailing game. I believe it is way more satisfying for the owner to keep taking more and more responsibility on the boat than having a Pro-Sailor baby him around the course. With this in mind Michael and I set up a pretty intense schedule that would allow us to do exactly that. For every regatta we set attainable goals which aren't based on results but primarily on certain parts of racing. I keep pushing responsibility back in the boat (I do bow) and we talk about our mistakes openly after each race.
At times this can be frustrating but long-term I'm convinced its the way to go.
Enjoying having the fleet behind us
Bacio is now off to Europe where we will see how we face off against the top Italian crews. The Italians will certainly push us and make us work harder at improving our game once again.
Last but not least we would like to thank our teamgear suppliers Point Loma Outfitting and SLAM for their continued support.

Chris out

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In the mean time...

A lot has happened since my last entry:
  • Finished the Moth Worlds in Belmont, Australia
  • Flew straight from Sydney to Key West for Key West Race Week on the Melges 32 Heartbreaker with Bob Hughes
  • Up to  Miami to coach Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha (470 Womens) at Miami OCR
  • Back to San Diego for one week of picking up my life, surfing, paying bills
  • Returned to Miami for the 2nd Melges 20 Winter Series Regatta
  • Crossed the State over to St. Pete for the St. Pete NOOD on "Matros"
  • Back to Miami to coach 49ers
  • Blew out my back on the coach boat
  • Raced the Melges 32 "Delta" with Terry Hutchinson at the Miami  Championship (more great pictures can be found here!)

  • Finally took a deep breath
Currently I'm still in Miami, getting ready for the Bacardi Race Week where once again I'll be sailing on board Michael Kiss' Melges 20 "Bacio. After our 5th place at the last Winter series regatta we are keen on getting back on top of the pack. The whole fleet has stepped it up and racing has gotten a lot tougher. Good, because it wouldn't be fun if it were easy!
In the mean time Dani Gamache and I wrote a cool article about upwind sailing for the Melges 20 website.

Chris out

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Bombing down wind...

In total the US Airforce Team reported seven DNFs yesterday, which gives you a flavor of how the conditions were. Again it was overcast and not necessarily super windy when we launched, but by the time we started the first race everybody knew they were in for a beating. This was some of the most gusty conditions I've sailed in for a while.
My results: 11th, 25th and a 23rd aren't great and I knew something was wrong by the start of the second race. In race one I flunked the start, found 5th gear and solid boat handling to capitalize on some shifts to eventually pass the line in 11th. Looked like it was going to be a great day!
But as the racing went on I seemed to loose my upwind Mojo more and more and I just couldn't figure out what was wrong. I was hardly capsizing, but the boat was feeling "sluggish". By the time I made it back to shore I barely could get the boat foiling. We needed 4 guys to carry my boat out of the water! Somehow she had taken on a lot of water, the exact quantities are up for speculation, but it seemed to be half of the lake from my perspective. Good to know why I wasn't going fast, but I havent been able to pinpoint where the water entered the hull yet. I didn't exactly do a thorough examination yesterday after draining it for 30 minutes, as the smell of the BBQ and and the taste of beer were far more inviting.
So today we'll bring out the stethoscope and find ourselves the leaks. There haven't been a lot of days that I'm happy not having to go sailing, but my body is really enjoying a day off.
Looking at the score board, Nathan continues to dominate, but got a minuscule chip in his armor yesterday when he eventually showed his second "none-bullet" by finishing 4th in the last race. Out of twelve races he has won 10 so far.... yeah, hmmmmmm
Bora had a very decent day with a 4, 3, 7 and now sits in 5th overall. I'm currently third American sitting in 18th, but that is largely due to the fact that Dalton had to score two DNFs. One because of breaking a mast and a second one after loosing his rudder horizontal. Also Brad Funk had some issues in the first two races and then had to abandon when his rudder gantry ripped apart. George Peet sailed consistently in the teens and now has climbed to 15th, nice effort on his part.
In the wing department we had some disaster hit, Charlie ended up breaking two wings in these crazy conditions. It seemed like both wings should reparable and I'm sure Rob Patterson was working over time last night to get them up and running again. Charlie has shown great promise with the wing, duking it out in the front pack yesterday. It just seems we should have added some more carbon!

The day ended with the Moth AGM which showed a bit of tension as the future of the wings was discussed. There are a couple of sailors (and mast makers) that want to down right ban any development of wings, which I find absolutely absurd in a development class. We haven't even yet really started and they already want to ban it? I can just see the headlines on the sailing websites: Moth Class bans Wings! Right next to the other headline: The next AC to be sailed with wings!

On a positive note: The USA gets to host the 2013 Worlds (we had to beat a bid from Hayling Island in the UK)!

US Airforce Team out

Me telling Nathan that his expiry date is about to kick in...and him thinking: dream on!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Crunch Time...

Today was the last day of qualification, before the fleet gets split up into Gold and Silver fleet. Conditions were again mostly breeze on but with a bit more overcast, which kept the windspeeds down when the clouds were in. As soon as the sun would pop out the breeze would increase a couple of knots. Being in the blue fleet I got to race twice on the outer loop, which had some flatter water and big gusts off of the shoreline. My main goal of the day was to improve my boathandling. And I did! No capsizes or pitchpoles resulted in three top ten finishes, albeit I might have been OCS in the last start. I pulled the trigger a second too early, realized my mistake, tried to slow down and almost capsized in the process. It was a good races nevertheless, battling back into the top ten and eventually finishing ahead of Simon Payne. Sailing around in the back end of the fleet on the first beat (after that lousy start), I noticed how my confidence level dramatically improved. I knew that I was going faster than everyone around me and that my boat handling was going to be better. That all led to a lot smoother sailing, than when I was duking  it out with the top guys at the front. Now I just need to do the same when I'm ahead of those guys.
Bora had a good day with two 2nds and a forth. He's going faster now after having replaced his rudder vertical which was splitting down the middle! Nathan Outteridge had another 3 bullet day, so he will start off the final racing with a 1st on his scoreboard. Pretty impressive on his part!
At the BBQ after racing everybody was more or less complaining about beat up bodies and sore hands. We all need a day off, but Gold Fleet racing commences tomorrow! Hopefully on Wednesday we get to relax a bit and lick our wounds.
Have a look a Thierry Martinez' website for some cool pics and of course the official Moth Worlds website has some cool videos as well!.

I leave you with a short on the water interview which was taken between race 2 and 3 today.
Chris out

you win some .... you lose some...

 Lets start off with some humor to lighten up the day a bit!

 The name of my boat is a play on "Lorenzo Van Matterhorn" which was a scene in the Series: How I met your mother. Check out the youtube clip...We have been watches the complete series on Bora's MacBook and it definitely is funny!

 Back to reality.....
Tough day on the race course for me today. The conditions were challenging with breeze in the low 20 knot range and some nasty chop at the bottom of the course. Again we sailed three races and the top guys had big smiles on their faces even before the race started! They knew it  was going to be a boat handling day that would separate the boys from the men. Unfortunately I'll have to count myself to the "boys" group , still. But I'm determined to change that! I'd be looking real good up the first beat, showing great speed of the line. But then the dreaded moment would arrive: I would have to tack! and in the process lose all those hard fought meters, hiking my butt off, keeping the boat at the perfect angle, keeping an eye out for those big puffs rolling down. All of it would be obliterated within two seconds. It kinda reminds me of that movie : Anger Management with Adam Sandler. It's not really THAT bad, but I might start singing "I'm pretty, so pretty, la la la la" soon if I don't sort out some more consistent tacks.
Needlessly to say my results weren't anything worth writing home to about. After a day like today I usually force myself to find all the positive aspects of my racing, so here we go:
Good placement on the starting line, great upwind speed, good laylines, Never-give-up attitude, nothing broke, finished all races, beat the current world champion in a race, sailing upwind at 16 knots, beautiful weather, nice temperatures, great team mates that are happy to help you.
Now, how is that for some self coaching!!! OK, I'm pumped up again for some more racing tomorrow, bring it on!
For me, you must understand, it can be quite frustrating having to deal with sub-par boat handling. In the 49er with Tim, we had put a serious priority on boat handling. We had set ourselves the goal that no one could "out-boat handle" us. We were a light-weight team, so every move had to sit perfectly. Good boat handling is the basis for your confidence and confidence is needed for good decision making. Good boat handling leads to good speed, good speed leads to good tactics and good tactics result in good finishes. Pretty simple, huh?
Any ways, I leave you with two short videos. The first one introduces the team members of our Moth Air Force Team and the second one is a compilation of some interviews.

Beat up team member of the US Airforce Team out

and some interviews:

Friday, January 7, 2011

1st day at Moth World Championships in Belmont, Australia

The first day of racing is over and everybody is enjoying the BBQ and some beer.... just the way it's supposed to be! The forecast called for lighter breeze today and it was actually pretty spot on. I opted to use my second sail, the MSL 13C which is a bit more powerful and I think it was the right choice. My speed was decent around the course, except when I hit the occasional patch of weed, which was a test of dealing with frustration. I believe I finished 4th, high teens and 6th, so obviously I'm fairly pleased. Bora had all single digits and is getting his Mojo back. All the other top players had decent results so no big surprises there... Except that Brad Funk sailed in the wrong group in the first race... Aaaarrrrgggh! Anyways, he bounced back nicely for the other two. Results aren't up yet, but you should be able to find them here, once they are posted.
We have six more qualification races and then hopefully a day off before the finals start.
Instead of pictures I have posted some more video.

US Airforce Team out
Interview after the race

Interview with Arnaud (SUI) and Simon (GBR) and an interview with Charlie Mckee about sailing with the wing

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Breaking" news...

"I was doing 24 knots downwind when I stuffed the bow and stopped radically. The leading edge buckled and the rest, well the rest you can see..." was Charlie's recap of what happened.
About an hour after Charlie had given an interview to media guys at the event and launched for another sail with  wing #2, we saw Rob Patterson towing Charlie back into shore with the wing folded in half on top of the coachboat. "That doesn't look good.." said Bora. We retrieved all pieces and brought them back to the container for further inspection. (We believe the FAA is coming by tomorrow for a more thorough analysis.) This was wing #2 which had shown some buckling early on and we had fixed it... or so we thought. The leading edge buckled again a couple of inches below our repair. Charlie opted to sail again with it today in order to validate it and pushed it pretty hard. As far as we can tell the failure is due to inconsistent bonding with the core. The 75 gsm prepreg that we used is extremly "dry" with minimum resin content. While building the elements we did our best to maximise pressure in the molds in order to ensure proper bonding, but in the end obviously an autoclave would have been best. Lets make this clear, there is not a problem with the pre-preg. This TPT stuff is awesome, we just didn't quite give it the proper attention it needs.
Yes, this is a set back for us but we will take some valuable lessons away from it and we are confident that we are on the right track. Charlie will continue sailing with wing #1 and #3 for the worlds.

Charlie getting interviewed before his sail
Bear inspecting the damage

On the bright side Bear noted: "Well this is going to make the loading of the container easier..." :-)

US Airforce Team out


Hmmmm, seems like there is pretty good competition out there! That Nathan pulled off 5 bullets is nothing less than frightening from our perspective. The conditions for the Aussie Nationals were  extremely difficult. Shifty, light to medium breeze, tons of kelp and an unpredictable Race Committee. There are a couple of other guys missing in the top ten (who mostly didnt sail all races) including Simon Payne, Brad Funk and Tom Slingsby. They will definitely also be up there once the Worlds kick off.  The format of the Worlds is based on a qualification (4 days) and final phase (2 days). Interesting is that we will carry the finishing position of the qualification phase forward as a single, not-discardable race. That means it will be another open wide ball game once the Final phase starts. Good for me as I'm still kinda struggling with some boathandling and speed issues, which I hope to have sorted out by the time the finals come around.
As you all know by now Bora, Bear and myself have opted not to sail with the wings at this event. A lot of time and effort was spent getting them to point where they are now, but we are still missing some down wind speed. Having to go back to the "soft" sail was tough, but the right thing to do if you are serious about winning the Worlds. And that's Bora's main objective here. It's going to be tough to pull off another win for Bora as he did at the Worlds in the Gorge two years ago. Then he was simply faster, had better boathandling  and felt at "home". This time there are more serious contenders for the title and the speed differences are smaller. Bora can definitely pull it off, he has all the skill needed to do so. Key will be to focus on tactical issues, not trying to inch out another half a knot of boatspeed.
The forecast calls mostly for good breeze out of the East / North-East (less weed, hurray), so this will mix up the results as well and be in favor of Bora's skills.

I will leave you with some pictures from the boat park where you can see why this class is sooo cool. Some of these Moths are works of art!
US Airforce team out

Wooden Moth with wing mast!

Over the years this moth has seen its fair share of fairing!

Brad Funk shows us how to drain water from a Moth

Check out all the weed on the Headstay

Double Wand action

One of the more radical designs...

Another wooden Moth

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How to rig the wing....

So finally racing has begun here in Belmont. It's about time! Racing is actually still underway as I'm writing this. I opted to  give my body a break as my hands are killing me right now (a little remainder from the thin lines during my 49er times, thanks Tim! ;-)  )
For the next two days the Australian Nationals are on and everybody is checking in to see how well their boats and crazy designs actually work. Obviously one of the big questions is: Will we actually race with the Wing? Answer: Yes and No. Our testing phase was too short to really validate all points and get comfortable to race with the wing. Nevertheless Charlie McKee is biting the bullet and is committed to sail the Australian Nationals and the Worlds with the wing. Together with Rob Patterson they have worked hard to get all systems working well and finding better downwind speed. Successfully so far actually! Ever day Charlie has been going better...

To give you guys a better idea of what it takes to rig a wing on to the moth I have attached a little video explaining the process.

US Airforce Team out