Lessons Along the Way

A week long regatta with incredible competition and trying conditions, there’s no denying Quantum Key West Race Week is a tough event for any team. Gary Leduc, of Quantum Sails Bristol, sailed the 2016 Quantum Key West Race Week with Doug Curtiss and crew aboard Curtiss’ J/111, Wicked 2.0. Leduc talks about the team’s season and what they’re learning along the way.

J/111s Race at the 2016 Quantum Key West Race Week. Photo by Sara Proctor.

I have to start off by saying thanks to Doug Curtiss, skipper and owner of Wicked 2.0, for his great attitude and generosity. Team Wicked 2.0 would simply not exist without Doug.

The 2016 Quantum Key West Race Week was the fourth Key West I have sailed with Doug, and the third on the J/111. Doug’s first time behind the helm was at the 2015 Charleston Race Week and this year’s Quantum Key West Race Week was his fourth regatta. It’s easy to say he is in his rookie season and the conditions at Key West are not rookie friendly!

The close steep chop we saw on the Division One circle was difficult to steer through, even for the more experienced helmsman. That being said, Doug never gave up and learned something each day of the event. At the end of the week Doug was still smiling and we had all learned a lot – that’s what really counts!


Double Check Every Detail on Rig Setup

Make sure to check every detail on the rig setup and then go back and check it again. We found that we were way off the pace on Monday, with the mast over bending and the headstay sagging way too much. The boat had zero speed, no point, an overly flat main, and the jib was too full – this combo made for a very ugly day on the water!

In our case, the Monday slows were caused mostly by the backstay batten gauge having slid down the hydraulic cylinder. The batten is supposed to be a quick reference for the main trimmer. Our mainsail trimmer was tensioning the backstay to a given number, but that number was producing much more mast bend then it should have.

Once we discovered the batten had moved, we reset it so 0 equaled 0 and on Wednesday we at least had our speed back.

Practice with a Partner

Monday’s issues could easily have been rectified with a couple of days of practice alongside a friendly competitor. Find a team to practice with and spend some time tuning with them out on the water. Commit to getting out to the race area early and spend some time speed testing to get dialed in for each day.

We were unlucky in not being able to go out Sunday to practice due to high winds that rolled through Key West. They left us, as well as several other teams, going into the first day of racing without any practice time. When we got out to our sailing area on Monday, we were out of sync with the other J/111s and weren’t able to match up to tune with any of them before the first start – an easy problem to avoid if you already planned on practicing together before you left the dock.

Trust the Tuning Guide

Trust the tuning Guide. There is a very good reason each sailmaker supplies a tuning guide. Trust it! Use it! And tweak it slightly for your boat, crew and driver. Never throw the tuning guide over the side and go rouge – it simply doesn’t work.

Ask for Help

When things are not going well, ask for help! There are plenty of people around these events that are willing to help and answer questions.

Key West is a great venue with top talent. If your team and boat are not ready you may be disappointed in your results. Keep plugging away and put the best team together and have a good time no matter what the score board says. The results will get better.

Gary Leduc
Quantum Sails Bristol

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