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From Mid-Fleet to Podium

Quantum Seabrook's Alan Woodyard outlines goals for his J/22 team in the coming season and makes recommendations to take your team from mid-fleet to podium finishes.

2022 promises to be an exciting year for the J/22 Class. With Midwinters coming up in Texas, North Americans in Michigan, a competitive Texas/Southwest Circuit, and East Coast Championships in Annapolis, the year is filling up quickly.

My goal for 2022 is to focus on roles and specialization with the teams I compete with. My teams have the mechanics of sailing down: the driver is good, the tactics are solid, and there are few major changes that need to be made. Instead, we’ll be focusing on making small, incremental adjustments to fine-tune our processes − the things that make the difference between finishes in the middle of the pack and finishes on the podium – and putting all our solid foundation pieces together to create better, more consistent results. This is where specialization comes in.

This year, the teams I sail with will be working on specific “plays” and situational practices, emphasizing both routine and oddball mark roundings and course situations to avoid the little snags and hiccups that can pull a crew member off their primary job to sort out an issue. Even when chaos is breaking out on the racecourse, a confident crew stays focused on their role and their current most-important task at hand, whether that’s trimming the jib after a spinnaker douse or driving the boat around the mark in a tactical and efficient manner. When these maneuvers or situational calls can be made almost instinctively, there is less distraction onboard and less need for troubleshooting. 

Another example is practicing penalty turns. It’s much easier and less stressful to practice penalty turns in advance, so we’ll also be focusing on turns this year. It’s far better for you and your team to seamlessly roll into a turn if you foul on the racecourse, and the practice takes a lot of frustration out of doing turns on the course as well. Even the best teams will find themselves in protests from time to time; executing a penalty turn with the same confidence and calm demeanor you would round the weather mark can go a long way toward that podium finish.

Finally, learn from each other. Chat with sailors in your local fleet and find some tuning and practice partners. Play off each other’s strengths and debrief as a group. Maybe someone in your fleet nailed a douse that your team is struggling with. Ask them to talk through the maneuver with your team onshore, and then find some sparring time on the water.

So J/22 sailors, get your local fleet together and create concrete goals for the 2022 season. What’s going to take you from your mid-fleet finishes to the podium? We all have areas that need improvement. And last but not least, don’t forget to have a blast on the water with old and new friends while participating in one of the best and most enduring one-design classes in the world!

Get in touch with Alan Woodyard or one of Quantum’s J/22 Class Experts to talk all things J/22.

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