Making Every Race Matter: Campaigning to the J/24 Worlds

Quantum's Travis Odenbach and his crew reflect on their recent participation in the J/24 North American Championship and how they made the most of every race (even when things don’t go their way) to elevate their game and their campaign to the Worlds.

Always be learning - Quantum's Travis Odenbach and the HoneyBadger team at the J/24 North American Championship. Photo by Chris Howell.

World class racing takes world class preparation. It is critical to get a team together six months to a year prior to participating in a world class race. The goal is to build your team’s instincts, learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, continue to improve the team’s communication methods, and develop camaraderie.

In addition to practice, it is important to enter as many local races as possible and at least two regional or national level races in your campaign to a world championship. Of course when you enter a race, you are always trying to win, but the real value in participation is the lessons you take away from competing against the best in the class.

Travis Odenbach and his crew are working toward competing in the 2017 J/24 World Championship in September in Toronto. Recently they competed in the J/24 North American Championship hosted by the Houston Yacht Club. Teams gathered from all over the country including a team from Japan and a few teams from Canada. The host club did an outstanding job with the event providing a pre-race weather debrief and after racing dock talks. Here are the lessons Travis and his crew learned from this event that will help them in their campaign to the Worlds.

Focus on the Start

Everybody knows races can be won or lost on the starting line. Make sure your team is well versed in their roles and are working in unison to get the best position possible. Different conditions require different methods. In Houston, the waves were choppy and the team learned not to sacrifice boat speed for pinch off the line.

Don’t Make Assumptions

There were only 30 boats in this event which usually means some nice holes to start with, but due to the conditions, this was not as easy as they thought it would be. They struggled a bit on the start and learned some valuable lessons going forward.

Test New Technology

Travis and his crew used the new Velocitek ProStart. They found they can ping the lines and understand how far the line is at all times. It is a great tool if used properly, but it is a lot like a calculator in the way that the user must be smarter than the machine. It is important to make sure your technology is functioning properly and all crew are well versed in how best to use it to their advantage to win (here are some more great tips for using sailing technology).

Fine Tune Your Team Communication

Inter-team communication is a vastly underestimated part of a race crew’s success. Tactically, Travis and his team were great. Tactician Geoff Becker was amazing and very calm which brought a good vibe to the boat, but each team member plays a part in helping paint a picture for both driver and tactician. From trimmer to bow man, there should be constant dialogue. Train your crew how important race dialogue is, when it is needed, what you need from them and how important it is to the final outcome. Use examples and work toward maintaining intensity from start to finish.

The Importance of your Bowman

The bowman is your eyes and ears. Visibility is challenging on a J/24 with the genoa raised so it is up to the bowman to be checking constantly (every 10 seconds!) and relaying what he sees back to the cockpit. They are your best chance to understand how much of the fleet is coming, the angles of the other boats, and the proximity of other boats to your position.

Never Stop Learning

Travis and his crew are outstanding sailors who are dedicated to their craft. They are smart to know that adjustments can always be made and to take advantage of every opportunity to learn.

Use every race to fine tune your approach and bring your team closer together. Raise the bar you set for yourself and there is no doubt your results will improve right along with your performance.

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