The Good, the Bad, and the Lessons: J/24 Expert Travis Odenbach Prepares for This Year’s Nationals

Not every race goes according to plan. Whether it’s a change in crew, conditions, or any number of unexpected events, every sailor – new and experienced – eventually faces a tough race. Quantum rep and J/24 expert Travis Odenbach recently finished two races with very different results. He’s using those experiences to help him prepare for the rest of the J/24 season.

Honey Badger at the J/24 Midwinters - Photo by Chris Howell

Quantum: Mid-February, you competed at the Helly Hansen St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta in St. Petersburg, Florida (Feb. 12-14). How were the racing conditions?

Travis Odenbach: Conditions at the NOODS were pretty nice. It was anywhere from 8-15 knots from the north/northeast, very shifty with flat water. There were only ten boats there, which made for a nice, easy warm-up for Midwinters.

Q: Did you have similar conditions at the J/24 Midwinter Championship in Miami, Florida (Feb. 19-21)?

TO: The first day was nice, with 8-10 knots north/northeast. On Saturday it was only 3-7 knots from the east, and at times the breeze would die completely. There was no race Sunday.

Q: You finished second at the NOOD behind another Quantum-powered boat. What worked well for you that weekend?

TO: We knew who our competition was, and we started near them most of the time. We learned that in a small fleet, if there are only one or two guys you’re racing against, you need to stay with them. Don’t give them any leverage or they’ll pass you. Staying on the lifted tack was key. So was not missing the shifts, especially when you’re really close to shore.

Q: Why do you think you finished so well at the NOOD?

TO: The approach we had was different than normal. We were going into this event to have fun. There weren’t as many boats, so we knew we wanted to make this a learning experience. We made it a fun weekend, and everyone was pretty calm on the boat. We weren’t over-thinking it.

Q: You followed the NOOD with a seventh place finish at the J/24 Midwinters. What was your biggest challenge there?

TO: Starting. With the breeze being so light, if you didn’t have a first row start, you were flushed out the wrong way and had to dig back in bad air, which really hurts your ability to fight. We were always fighting to get back in, and that was a challenge.

Q: If you could re-do the Midwinters, what would you do differently?

TO: I set up too early on the line for starts. I would have been more patient in tacking on starboard so I didn’t have to start from a stop. We also started near the boat end, and it seemed like the winners came out of the pin, but we never took notice of that at the time.

Q: Do you think you could have placed higher if you had raced on Sunday?

TO: I do. Friday we had a pretty bad day, but Saturday was good, except for one fleet inversion that bumped us out of the top five. If we had raced on Sunday, I think we could have been in the top five. Missing the third day of sailing really hurts in a 3-day regatta.

Q: The J/24 class has the Easter Regatta, Charleston Race Week, the J-Days Regatta, and Nationals coming up between now and mid-May. How are you preparing for those events?

TO: Right now I’m trying to get our normal team back together. The J/24 is a very team-oriented boat. On other boats, 1-2 people can get it around the course, but the J/24 is demanding on the whole team. If you’re not all firing on all cylinders, it’s going to be a tough regatta, so sailing with the same team is key to being successful, but it’s hard to do.

For J-Days and Nationals, I’ll go back to the team I sailed with for the past year. We’re going to focus on J-Days as a tune-up regatta. Then it’s two weeks until nationals, so we’ll probably be sailing straight through those two weeks.

Q: What advice would you give to other J/24 sailors who are gearing up for this year’s Nationals?

TO: Ask as many questions as you can of the experts at the events you go to between now and Nationals. Also, throw some practice days in between events. Whether you’re working on time on distance for starting or two-boat testing for speed, practice.

If you have questions about how to prepare your team and boat for this year’s J/24 racing season, contact your local Quantum representative!

Click here for full results from the Helly Hansen St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta!

Click here for full results from the J/24 Midwinter Championship!

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