Practice Like You Race

By Scott Nixon, Quantum Sails

I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to sail with a George Gamble and his J/111 team from Pensacola, FL on My Sharona at this year's Quantum Key West Race Week. This was the first KWRW where the J/111's had a one design start; it was also the first J/111 Midwinter Championship. This event, along with the looming J/111 World Championships in Newport, RI, set the stage for a great start to 2015 for this exciting class. 

This was my first J/111 regatta so I was the rookie on board. George Gamble selected a great, fun team from the Pensacola YC including his teenage son Kyle who was our man in the middle who kept the team motivated on the rail all week. The My Sharona team has put a lot of miles on their boat the past few years including a few races along the Gulf Coast of Florida and a race all the way to Mexico. They have also done a lot of local PHRF racing and even drove the boat out to the Great Lakes the last two years for the J/111 North Americans. When George decided to get me on board we knew a weakness would be time in the boat together so we set a goal of trying to get as much quality practice time in as possible in preparation for the Worlds in early June.

Doing the Pre-Regatta Homework

Working with the great team at Quantum Sails, my pre-regatta homework was not too hard. I started with our sail designer Kerry Klingler, who has done all of our J/111 sail designs that have won the last two North Americans. We discussed the standard class inventory and suggested wind ranges for the class sails. George ordered a new light jib and A1.5 light spinnaker for the event.  

After ordering the sails, I spoke with Quantum's J/111 speed doctor Wally Cross (two-time NA Champ and European Champ in the J/111). He walked me through the rig set up, rake numbers, pre bend, mast butt locations and the full Quantum tuning guide for our class sails. We felt we had a grasp on the setup but needed a way to confirm this in KW. Who better to talk with than the winner of Key West last year!

I called Nick Turney who does tactics and helps run the great Spaceman Spiff programs. He was a wealth of information on sailing the boat. Nick discussed the importance of sailing the J/111 to targets upwind and downwind and to really keep an eye on the target TWA off the breeze. Nick runs Quantum Cleveland, a recent addition to the Quantum network, so both of us were new to the Quantum J/111 sail program and setup. We decided the best way to get up to speed was to team up and train together before racing started, and to also tune up each morning on race day to make sure we felt fast before the start.

Practicing Like You Race
This homework really paid off for our teams during the week. We trained very hard for three full days before racing started on Monday. I don't think I was too popular with our team the first few days as we spent a solid six hours on the water each practice day! We would leave the dock each morning with our training partner and do a long, downwind tune followed by a long, upwind tune. At times we would stop and chat on the VHF to make sure the slower boat could adjust settings to match the faster boat.

The teams hiked hard and practiced like we were racing. After tuning, Spaceman's coach boat would run some practice starts and shore races where other J/111's would jump on with us. This gave us great, real-time racing situations to work on together as a team. Starting, close leebows, ducks and layline positioning were just some of the maneuvers we were forced to perfect. All of the J/111's would head in for a late afternoon cocktail after the short races but I made the unpopular decision to stay on the water "just a little while longer!"

Perfecting Maneuvers with Hot Laps
I introduced our team to hot laps, which are simple windward leeward laps where the marks are very close together so you just have time to set the spinnaker, gybe and then take it down before the leeward rounding sends you back around again. Our first few laps did not go very well as they rarely do! Everyone was tired and struggling to find their role individually for all these quick maneuvers. But after pushing hard and digging deep our team started to gel. We did three days of hard training, but the sweat and bruises were all worth it. After the training sessions we headed into the regatta with the confidence to pull off any maneuver required. The credit has to go to the team on board as everyone embraced the long, hard practice sessions and improved a massive amount in a very short time.

Heading out for race day one, our goals were to be safe and stay in the top four of each race. George and our bowman Derrick Riddle did a fantastic job of getting us off the line and we were able to sail each race the way we wanted. The week was fairly light so we were extremely fast with our new Quantum class light jib that we used all but the last day, which was over 15 knots.

Using Crew Weight to Help Steer the Boat
We also had great speed off the wind with the new A1.5 class spinnaker that we used in 11 knots and under. With clean starts and good speed, we were able to just stay ahead of the clumps of boats to make good decisions on which side to protect upwind. George focused solely on driving the boat at target speed and angle and the crew constantly moved their weight to keep us at the target heel angle upwind and downwind. This made my job easier as we tried to sail by ourselves in clear air and toward the next expected shift. This strategy worked well all week as we only had two races out of the top two and were able to win five of the ten races. The class was tight at each rounding, so having good sets, gybes and spinnaker drops perfected by our team during training really helped us stay out of trouble all week and kept the pressure on the boats around us. 

As a team, we worked really hard all week to focus on our own individual jobs and come together as a group. It was great to see the team get better each day and come away from this regatta with a ton of knowledge to build on as we head to the next events in preparation for the Worlds this summer. I was very impressed with our team all week as they used two GoPros to record our races. They religiously watched them each night at our dinner/ debriefs to implement ways on improving their onboard roles.

Top Lessons Learned
Here are the top five things we learned in Key West about sailing the J/111 in a tight, one design fleet:

1. The boats take a while to build speed, so hitting the line at full speed and target angle are key.

2. Don't be afraid to inhaul the jib off the line to hold a lane or sail in a slightly higher mode, especially in light winds under 15 TWS with the light jib. On the flip side, don't hesitate to ease the inhauler when you want to sail fast or in bow-down mode for tactical reasons.

3. Having the crew hike hard upwind on the rail allows the trimmers to keep the leeches tight and keep power in the boat longer. Hike hard out of tacks and off the starting line to hit target speed faster. 

4. Downwind, the stock class polars published by J/Boats are very good! We sailed to them all week with regards to target boat speed and target true wind angle.

5. Off the wind, use crew weight to help steer the boat, especially in over 11 knots with the Quantum A2 runner up. Hike the boat to windward to bear off and weight to leeward the helmsman head up. This helps minimize rudder movement so you can remain fast.

Thanks again to George and the My Sharona team for an outstanding attitude and effort in Key West. Also special thanks to Nick Turney on Spaceman Spiff and Wally Cross on Utah for sharing J/111 tips and tuning with us on the water. The Quantum sails and set up were very fast and easy to do. Q teams were 1,2,3 and 4! We all improved each day and had fun on shore sharing war stories at the tent and on Duvall Street. We are really looking forward to the next J/111 one design start this spring at Charleston Race Week. Hope to see you on the water soon.–Scott Nixon

Scott Nixon
Quantum Atlantic
W: (410) 268-1161 ext.205
M:  (410) 703-2578
snixon@quantumsails.com

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The Winner’s Edge: Interview with Carlo Alberini

By Allan Terhune, Quantum One Design Director

Quantum Key West was the host of the J/70 Midwinter Championship, which provided the class with an awesome venue for a top-rate event. We were so fortunate this year to have some of the best weather I have ever experienced, as well as some top-notch racing in a variety of conditions.

The winner this year was Carlo Alberini and his team from Italy on the Calvi Network. They are the reigning European Champs and I was able to catch up with Carlo to get some of his impressions on Key West and the J/70 class.

Carlo, Congrats on your win! How long have you been racing the J70? Thanks for the compliments but the big credit goes to Branko and crew. We started sailing in March 2014.

How did you approach training for this event? Our approach was to study the difference with the USA fleet, we especially concentrated on studying the different rig.

What are the differences in racing fleets in the US from racing fleets in Europe? The level of the USA fleet is higher than Europeans because they started sailing two-three years ago.

What was your daily plan once you left the dock? We start every day with zero tuning and before arriving on the race field, we sail with the other competitors, changing the tuning according the sea and wind conditions.

The fleet sets up very close to the line, making starting difficult. How did you approach the starts? Branko (Brcin, Tactician) placed us in a perfect area of the start line every time and as you know, is not easy to stay there perfectly any time because the other competitors are very good. On average, we went where we wanted.

With so many races in a regatta, it is difficult to be consistent. Did you make any decisions on regatta/race management to reduce risk for the entire event? For me, is more important to do a lot of good placing rather than win a single race; it is the final result that matters.

Downwind – how do you decide when to plane and when to sail low? The edge is around 15th knots.

What weight are you sailing at? Too heavy right now (350kg); we are more heavy than last year by 20 kilos; it’s obligatory to reduce it to around 325kgs.

What did you think of Key West?  It was a great venue, with great competition; we cannot wait to sail again in Miami.

J70-Calvi Network-KW15-7897timwilkes-rs

One of the highlights of the week was the panel discussion on Tuesday Night. One of the strong things about the J/70 class is that everyone is willing to share and help each other out and grow the sport. There were also many opportunities to learn from class experts as well as great coaches Ed Adams and Ed Baird who shared their knowledge throughout the week.

I was fortunate to sail with Bob Hughes on Heartbreaker for the week. Looking back, here are a few things that I took away from the event.

  • We started out the week with light to moderate air. This put a premium on weight placement in the boat and sail trim. As the breeze went up and down it was critical to adjust the sheets to keep the boat tracking through the chop and to keep the boat at the proper heel angle to stay powered up. If you got too flat, the boat would stall; if you were too heeled, you would slide. It took a lot of effort to keep it constant, but if you did, there were high rewards.
  • Windy upwind: It felt much faster to sit with the weight a little bit aft to get the bow up over the waves.
  • Downwind the last day, there were big gains to be made in the big breeze if you had space to let the boat rip. If you got caught in traffic and didn’t have the ability to steer where you wanted and keep the boat on a plane, you would lose out to the boats that had their own water.

Lastly, it was easy to see some boats had good days and some bad; the key to long events is being able to stay even and always keep working for points. The boats that were good at treating the event like the marathon that KWRW is, did the best.

Allan Terhune, Jr.
Quantum One Design Director
O:410.268.1161
M:732.644.1051
aterhune@quantumsails.com

 

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A Personal Touch to Quantum Key West Race Week

By Kerry Klingler

As head of the J/Boat Division for Quantum Sails, my perspective and role at Quantum Key West Race Week was not only that of tactician and trimmer on the J/88 Deviation, but also making sure all our customers and sails in the J/111 and J/88 classes performed well. My goal at regattas is always to help our clients get up to speed in any way possible and facilitate the flow of information between successful boats. J/Boats are in a performance class all their own and in the J/Boat Division our focus is on the requirements of these boats while providing owners with all the support and information they need for success.

This concentration is evident in the J/111 where our customers have had great success since the inception of the boat. I want to acknowledge Gary Leduc and Wally Cross who have both contributed a lot over the years to the development of the J/111 sails and the tuning guide. It is very rewarding to work with these professionals who are key in evaluating sails, learning the nuances of the boat, and striving to make the best sails possible. This team approach to sail development has led to some very fast sail inventories.

For the J/88 class, Key West is the second largest regional regatta for a new boat. This makes for some unknowns in regards to how fast your sails and boat are compared to the competition. For our crew on Deviation the goals were simple. First, get to the regatta early, set up the boat, work on slight boat improvements, and go sailing. Second, practice, try to line up with the competition, and see how fast we were.

One of our advantages on Deviation was the season of sailing we had under our belt. The disadvantage was the fact our sails were one season old. Last year, I raced with owner Iris Vogel at Block Island Race Week and as a result, instituted some sail development improvements now part of our current products.  Rob Butler on Touch2Play benefited from these improvements in his newly purchased sails.  To overcome this, Deviation’s sails were brought into the loft for service and were adjusted to current designs wherever possible. The biggest change was made to the A2 Asymmetrical, where the head of the sail was replaced. This adjustment was made to increase twist in the sail and make the head slightly deeper.

J88_Nose2Nose_QSDG-DSC07166-rsDuring the week, Touch2Play and Deviation proved to be the fastest J/88s out there. We worked with daily debriefs on what we thought were fast combinations. Details were exchanged on rig settings, inhaul amount, and sheet tension. Overall, the boats proved to be very close in speed. An important thing we learned was that the main could be sheeted with the boom above centerline in the lighter winds. Our tuning guide (available here) is pretty accurate, and the headstay length seemed to work well.  

In light winds we were between 1.5 and 2 steps below base setting. In the windy conditions we were two steps up. In the last few races we did not realize that our shims fell out of the rudder pintles and two bolts backed out, causing trouble after the last race. I am sure we were slowed down the last day because of this. Other owners should check their pintles and bolts to insure they are properly installed and working well.

In the end, Touch2Play and Deviation tied with 19 points, with Touch2Play winning on the tie-breaker. The next closest boat had 34 points. Between the two boats, they won 9 of the 10 races. From where I sit, that’s nearly a perfect ending!

Kerry Klingler
Quantum J/Boat Team Leader
M: 914.924.3466
kklingler@quantumsails.com

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